Legislative Council: Wednesday, June 01, 2022


Questions on Notice

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. N.J. Centofanti:

That, during the present session, once a notice of question has been given and placed on the Notice Paper pursuant to standing order 98b, an answer to the question shall be delivered to the Clerk, pursuant to standing order 98c, not more than 30 days after the date on which it had been first printed on the Notice Paper.

(Continued from 18 May 2022.)

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:33): This motion relates to the timely production of documents and responses to questions. The Greens are certainly supportive of this. It is something that we have advocated for governments of both persuasions to do. It is not onerous to require a government to produce this information within a set time frame. Indeed, it is this standard that the Labor Party requested of the Liberals when they were in government and it is only right that they should apply the same standards to themselves.

The Hon. R.B. Martin: Times have changed.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I hear the Hon. Reggie Martin say, 'Times have changed.' Well, there is a change of government, but the same level of transparency and accountability that the Labor Party urged of others when they were in opposition should also apply to them. That is only appropriate, and I would be very interested to hear what argument the new government can possibly have against supporting this simple change.

The Greens are certainly supportive of it. We supported it when the Liberal Party were in government and Labor were in opposition, and we are supportive of it now that the chairs have changed. As I say, I will be very interested to hear what arguments the government has against this. One can only assume when governments do not want to provide this sort of information in a timely way that they are trying to dodge accountability in some way.

That is not a welcome development in this parliament, particularly in the early days of a new government. I hope that they reconsider and that they support this reform. I hope that they will undertake to get this information to members in a timely way, because that is entirely appropriate and that is what the community expects of their elected representatives, in particular those who are fortunate enough to occupy the government benches.

The Hon. C. BONAROS (16:36): I rise to support the motion and to echo the sentiments just expressed by the Hon. Robert Simms. The Hon. Mr Martin interjected previously that times have changed. My, my, have they changed. My, my, do they change when we are on the opposite side of the chamber. That is generally what happens when you go from opposition to government.

You become accountable for your decisions and there is an expectation that you will provide answers, as you demanded and insisted you would get in opposition, in a timely manner, because that is in the public interest. We ask those questions in here. It is only reasonable that we expect, that the public expects, that when we raise issues on behalf of our communities and our stakeholders and people we represent, we are going to get an answer from the government, not when it suits them politically—

The Hon. R.A. Simms: Not in the never-never.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: —not in the never-never, but in a reasonable time frame. That precedent was set in the last parliament. We all deemed 30 days to be a pretty reasonable period. Anything above that stinks of politics. It absolutely stinks of this government doing what it can to keep people in the dark about the decisions it is making. Times might have changed in terms of where you sit in this place, but the expectation in terms of the information being provided to members in this place in a reasonable manner and time frame certainly have not changed, and we are wholeheartedly supporting this motion.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (16:38): The Labor government will be opposing this motion.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! No bullying and harassing the Attorney-General, thanks.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: We note the desire to change sessional orders in a non-bipartisan way. That will be a precedent that the opposition chooses to set. I know the Hon. Rob Lucas had views on these sorts of things, but if that is the precedent that the opposition chooses to set that is up to them. There were many questions that went unanswered by the last government, and we will be able to provide statistics in due course on those, and then some of the answers that were given in an attempt to comply with that 30-day rule were one-sentence answers—single-sentence answers along the lines of saying, 'We are working on this,' full stop.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I inform the chamber that we will not be dividing on this, but we do note what a mockery the former Liberal government made of trying to keep to their own rule with one-sentence answers. I assume the current Liberal opposition will expect similar answers to what was given by them in government.

The Hon. R.A. Simms: What about the crossbench? We want good answers.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: They are very special.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (16:40): I would like to thank members for their contributions to this debate. I would like to in particular thank the Hon. Connie Bonaros and the Hon. Robert Simms for their support on this very important matter. I think it is extremely telling that the Labor government are again refusing to be transparent to the people of South Australia by opposing this motion. They say that transparency is the antidote to hypocrisy, and clearly this government do not want this motion. I wonder whether that is because they are simply afraid that the South Australian public will find out that they live by the motto: do as I say, not as I do.

Again, it was not my intention to move this motion. I went to the Leader of the Government and asked him to move this motion himself on behalf of his government, but he and his Premier and his colleagues refused, so it is up to us, the opposition and the crossbench, in moving and supporting this motion to ensure that the Malinauskas government is held to account and that questions on notice are answered within a reasonable time frame of 30 days. We could do it when we were in government, and I am not sure why they cannot. With that, I commend the motion to the house.

Motion carried.