Picture this, you are the President of the Legislative Council during Question Time.
A Government member rises to ask a question and instead of addressing a Government Minister to ask a Dorothy Dixer, asks a Shadow Minister from the Opposition to provide details about an existing Opposition policy.
Another Opposition member swiftly rises to their feet stating:
“Point of order Mr President! The purpose of Question Time is for members to ask questions of Government Ministers. A member of the Opposition should not be asked a question, particularly one about Opposition policy. I ask that you rule the question out of order.”*
What would you say? Is the member allowed to ask a question to a member who is not a Government Minister?
Well thankfully our President, the Honourable John Ajaka, has a wealth of knowledge and resources to assist him in ruling on points of order.
The role of the President in maintaining order
The President is the independent and impartial representative that presides over the Legislative Council and is responsible for maintaining order when the House is sitting and applying and interpreting its practices and procedures.
The President rules on points of order, relying on the rules of the House, known as the Standing Orders, as well as precedents, various procedural authorities, including advice from the Clerk of the Parliaments and rulings by past Presidents.
In recent weeks the President has been responsible for interpreting the many new sessional orders that were adopted by the Council in early May, including:
- Ministers being ‘directly relevant’ when answering questions in Question Time
- the content and process of supplementary questions
- the content of questions to parliamentary secretaries
- the latitude of debate afforded to members during debate on answers to questions.
During this time the President has laid the foundation for a whole set of new rulings and precedents in the Council drawing precedents from other jurisdictions such as the Australian Senate and the New Zealand Parliament.
How should the President rule?
So, back to the original question. How should the President rule on the members’ point of order about a question to an Opposition member?
Why don’t you be the detective and let us know on Facebook or Twitter what the correct ruling is by reading standing orders 64 and 65 and using our ‘Concise Guide to Rulings of the President and the Chair of Committees’ – the same documents the President would use to determine his ruling in the Chamber.
* Disclaimer: this is not a real scenario and no members were harmed in the writing of this post.