Tuesday 25 November 2014

Hansard of the Legislative Council


Introduction of Time Limits on Some Chamber Processes

Mr Finch (Rosevears)- Mr President, most of the points I would make in a discussion like this have been well and truly repeated. I thank the member for Launceston for bringing the discussion up, because it is good for us to be self-analytical - to think about what we do and whether it is appropriate. It is a good discussion to have. It is a discussion I have had quite often in the dining room, when I talk to members of the lower House, particularly new members, who are quite surprised that there are no time limits here. There is an element of envy in respect of the way we conduct our business here, because we do not have a sword of Damocles waiting to cut us off, perhaps when we have not finished saying what we need to say.

I do not know if other people listen to Federal Parliament, where they have time limits of five minutes. At the end of five minutes they are guillotined - cut off by the Speaker or the President, often mid-sentence.

Mr Valentine - That would be no good for you.

Mr FINCH - No, no. But from a listener's perspective, they could be thinking, 'That was rude, I was enjoying what they were saying'. I would suggest a little bell signalling 20 seconds to go, to allow the speaker to wrap up. That is a silly time limit, and I found myself, interestingly enough, agreeing with most of what the member for Windermere said, which surprised me greatly.

I was in the Chair for a number of hours during the forestry debate. I know the member disagreed with the thrust of the TFA, and when we got into the Committee stage, he wanted to prosecute every piece of minutiae, down to the nth degree. He had the opportunity to prosecute his case at length - ad nauseam, some would say. But he was able to do what he thought was the right thing by himself, by his constituents and by the issue we had at hand. Some could say he just went on and on and on, but he had the opportunity, the time, the speaks, to enable him to prosecute the case as he saw fit.

I have been here 13 years, and I understand the envy of the opportunities we have to speak, but I have not seen anyone abuse those opportunities. You are right, there have been some circumstances. The member for Murchison - some of her earlier speeches, two hours and 20 minutes - but when you listen you get a sense that she was putting all the facts of the relevant matter forward.

Ms Forrest - It was not repetitious either.

Mr FINCH - Absolutely right. If I were a constituent of hers and wanted to know what the debate was all about, from beginning to end, that is what I would get from reading the Hansard. The Hansard is important in this discussion, because if I want to deal with a constituent on an issue and I want to present the facts of the matter, I will repeat some of the things that others said. I know the constituent is not going to read what other members have said. But generally, I encourage my people to read the whole discussion, the whole debate, and what everyone has said. This means that in a lot of cases I either do not have to speak, or I can be very short in what I have to say.

Mrs Taylor - Because it has already been said.

Mr FINCH - It has already been said and it is there in Hansard. Also, as others have noted, the Chair can oversee our contributions and our discussion and pull us into line if we are talking too long, or if we are being repetitious, or if we are straying off the subject. The Chair can break up a discussion that might be going round and round in circles. The Chair can do the same in the Committee stage - make assessments of the contributions we are making, and take advice from the Clerk and the Deputy Clerk.

Fifteen members - we are the smallest Legislative Council in the country. I do not have an issue with the contributions we make on a lot of subjects. Some people do not speak and I do not bother wasting other people's time if a matter has already been broached and mentioned.

If someone goes on and is boring and repetitious and repeats themselves and is not sure where they are going, be it on their head. They will be judged accordingly by members in the Chamber, and by the people who are listening - the advisers, the media, and their constituents. If they are not expressing themselves clearly and in a positive way, and getting the job done, they will be judged on that. So, be it on the member's head if they want to go on and ramble and take up too much time.

Ms Forrest - And they are in front of the cameras now. There are other people who have sad lives, who watch this place.

Mr FINCH - Yes, do you get feedback? I do. I have made the points I wanted to make and I move that the speaker no longer be heard