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OBA: time to stop Government budget debate filibusters

Ben Smith, the Opposition Senate Leader (File photograph)

The Opposition Senate Leader has called for a change in how the Senate handles budget debates.

Ben Smith said that while the Opposition determines what ministries are debated in the budget debate and the duration of the debates, there is not always an opportunity for questions as the Government speaker takes up almost all of the allotted time.

Mr Smith said: “Unfortunately, there is an element of filibustering, particularly within those ministries that may be deemed to be controversial and/or where the Minister does not want to address or respond to probing questions.

“This is unfair to the taxpayers – the people who must be aware of how responsibly the Government is managing the public purse.”

He suggested that Opposition senators be allowed to submit questions before the ministerial brief is given in the Senate, noting that the briefs have already been read in the House of Assembly.

Mr Smith said: “This would permit the respective Government counterparts the ability to seek the answer and replies from the technical officers early on, which is a time saving initiative in and of itself.

“The questions and corresponding answers would then form the basis of the debate while allowing time for additional questions, if needed.

“It was hoped that we could pilot test this new process during this year’s Budget session, but there was not enough time for effective implementation.”

The issue arose during the Senate’s debate on the Ministry of Education budget yesterday, in which the ministerial brief took up all but eight minutes of the two-hour debate.

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Published March 25, 2021 at 9:00 am (Updated March 25, 2021 at 7:59 am)

OBA: time to stop Government budget debate filibusters

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