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    New lows in parliamentary practice: Ask no questions!

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    Last Update: Tuesday, December 7, 2004. 7:20pm (AEDT)
    David Hawker faced a second dissent motion today. (File photo)

    David Hawker faced a second dissent motion today. (File photo)

    ALP targets Minister over regional grant

    The Federal Opposition moved a motion of dissent against Speaker David Hawker today, after he prevented Labor from questioning a Minister over a regional grants program.

    Opposition Leader Mark Latham moved the motion after a heated debate over whether Veterans Affairs Minister De-Anne Kelly should answer a question relating to the Federal Government's Regional Partnerships Program.

    The Opposition has accused Mrs Kelly of exceeding her authority by sending a letter relating to a regional grant after she had moved to her new portfolio of veterans affairs.

    Mr Hawker ruled that Mrs Kelly should not have to answer the question, so Mr Latham moved Labor's second dissent motion against the Speaker within a week.

    "What is going on with the Howard Government," Mr Latham said. "What's going to be the next practise? We'll have the Minister for Education purchasing aircraft carriers."

    But Mrs Kelly denies she exceeded her authority.

    She has told the House that she signed the letter in August when she was still the parliamentary secretary for regional development but it was later misplaced.

    "This letter was mislaid and a departmental liaison officer found it last week, date-stamped it and posted it last Thursday," she said.

    Mr Latham lambasted the Speaker for ruling that Mrs Kelly did not have to answer questions about the letter.

    "If we allow this precedent to pass and the Government knocks off the dissent motion, it will be a black day in this Parliament," Mr Latham said.

    Government frontbencher Tony Abbott says Labor's attack on Mr Hawker smacked of desperation.

    "This dissent motion is a desperate Opposition lashing out at you in the hope that it will stop them lashing out at each other," Mr Abbott said.

    The Government used its numbers to defeat the dissent motion.
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