Senate debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Committees

Procedure Committee; Report

5:17 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I present the Procedure Committee's third report of 2018 on disorder outside formal proceedings and I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

This report flows from the statement made by the President on 13 August which dealt with an exchange between two senators on last sitting day in June. From a technical perspective, although the exchange occurred in the Senate while it was sitting, it occurred outside formal proceedings. The President asked the committee to consider the adequacy of the Senate's orders and practices to deal with allegations of disorder in these circumstances. The committee endorsed the approach signalled in the President's statement; in particular, the committee strongly endorsed the President's observations that this is rightly a place of vigorous debate, but personal abuse has no place in this chamber, particularly if it targets personal attributes such as race or gender; nor does the abuse of epithets or labels have a place. The use of such language does nothing to facilitate the operation of a chamber and free debate within it. We are all capable of vigorously arguing our case without resorting to it.

The technicality that conduct alleged to be disorderly occurs alongside but not as part of formal proceedings does not prevent the chair dealing with it in accordance with the standing orders. This is no different than the ability of the chair to deal with points of order about disorderly interjections that are not heard by the chair but are reported by other senators. However, the committee agreed it was generally undesirable to change the basis for dealing with disorder, which requires senators to raise points of order at the time of the incident to which they relate. This ensures those involved are in the Senate when the matter is addressed.

The committee agreed to draw senators' attention to this requirement but also recognised that a senator may not be in a position to draw interjections or other disorderly conduct to the attention of the chair at the time in all circumstances. The committee, therefore, also reminds senators that they have the capacity to make personal explanations by leave under standing order 190. This presents an opportunity to raise such matters outside the strictures of the process for determining points of order. I commend the report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

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