Thursday 28 November 2019
Hansard of the Legislative Council

Question Upon Notice – Delay

[5.32 p.m.]
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, it is unfortunate to bring a negative into what have been terrific contributions from you and the Leader. 

I want to reflect on something that occurred today.  At the notice of question there was some confusion regarding the availability of the answer to a particular question the member for Murchison asked.  It was question upon notion No. 5 on the Notice Paper and it was asked in August.

I wondered why it has taken so long.  That was 114 days ago.  By the time we come back to parliament, that will be another 90 days and it will be 204 days without the question being answered.  Member for Murchison, have you received a courtesy call to say there has been a delay?  It is a complicated question.  If it is difficult, why would the Government not contact the member for Murchison and inform her they are finding it very difficult and will need more time to get an answer?

I will give you the number of days within which the Houses of parliament throughout Australia are required to provide an answer back to that particular House - House of Representatives, 60 days; Senate, 30 days; New South Wales Legislative Assembly, 35 days; New South Wales Legislative Council, 21 days; Victorian Legislative Assembly, 30 days; Legislative Council of Victoria, 30 days; Queensland Legislative Assembly, 30 days; South Australian House of Assembly, 30 days; Legislative Council of South Australia, 30 days; Western Australian Legislative Assembly, one calendar month; Western Australia Legislative Council, nine sitting days; ACT Legislative Assembly, 30 days; Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, 30 days; Tasmanian House of Assembly and Tasmanian Legislative Council, no time specified.

The only two Houses in Australia that do not have a specified time are in Tasmania.  I suggest that when the Standing Orders Committee next sits, it might just review that circumstance.  The gold standard would be the New South Wales Legislative Council, which requires an answer back within 21 days.  I will read the detail.

This is the procedure when questions upon notice are not answered within the specified number of days -

If an answer to a question on notice is not received within 21 calendar days, the President is to inform the House on the next sitting day the details of any question not answered.  The relevant Minister must immediately explain to the House the reason for the non-compliance. 

If, after the explanation in the House, the Minister has not submitted an answer within three sitting days, the President is to again inform the House and the Minister will again be called to explain. This procedure is to continue until a written answer is submitted.

That is the gold standard.  That is the importance of the process.  That is the courtesy.  That is the legitimacy in the Westminster system of being able to ask questions upon notice.  In Canada there is an inquiry into the non-answer of questions or if they are delayed for too long.  I was aghast that the question was asked in August and we are finishing up this year without even the courtesy of an apology about the delay.