Tweeting from the Chamber

Parliament house flag post

Tweeting from the Chamber

Posted 14/03/2013 by Sophia Fernandes


Image source: Wikimedia Commons
On 12 March 2013, the Manager of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne asked Speaker Anna Burke to make a ruling on a tweet by Member for Bendigo, Steve Gibbons during question time, asking for the Member to withdraw.
Looks like @tonyabbottmhr has contracted out his nasty side to interjector's in the public gallery. A new low even for the Libs!
Mr Gibbons had tweeted this after two people had been ejected from the public gallery in succession, for interjecting during Question Time.

The question about MPs' use of twitter in the chamber is one that has become increasingly common amongst legislatures around the world. The debate ranges from those opposed to the use of twitter in parliamentary chambers, who argue that it takes MPs' attention away from the debate at hand, and is disrespectful to proceedings. Those in support of tweeting from the chamber argue that it is simply yet another way in which MPs can conduct their work in their increasingly time-poor lives and an opportunity to promote ‘real-time’ engagement with their constituents.

Speaker Anna Burke responded to the Question yesterday, stating that it was outside her role and responsibilities to monitor private communications ‘or use of social media when it is thought that they have come from the chamber’. Speaker Burke added that restricting twitter usage in the chamber would mean a blanket ban on hand-held electronic devices from the chamber, which would be undesirable. She reminded Members that twitter and social media communication even if done while in the chamber, is not covered by parliamentary privilege and any reflection on the Chair would be treated as an ‘important matter of order’.

Speaker Burke’s ruling mirrors that of the Victorian Legislative Assembly and the UK House of Commons which have both considered the matter through Committee.

Victorian parliament
In 2011, Victorian Labor MP Martin Foley tweeted from the chamber during Question Time and made a reflection on the Chair. The next day Speaker Ken Smith requested Mr Foley to withdraw and apologise in the chamber. There was heated debate on the viability of the Speaker ruling on tweets and social media comments by MPs, particularly as the Standing Orders did not cover social media use. Parliamentarians were wary of Mr Smith setting a precedent by demanding an apology and withdrawal from an MP over something that was said outside the chamber. The Assembly requested the Speaker to refer the matter to the Standing Orders Committee. Despite this, Speaker Smith suspended Mr Foley from the chamber for an hour and a half for refusing to apologise.

In December 2012 the committee reported on the matter and issued guidelines on the use of social media. The committee reiterated that ‘any comments made on social media are not covered by parliamentary privilege’. They also pointed out that the tweet was in fact made while the member was in the chamber but regardless, any reflection on the Chair in or outside parliament can be considered as contempt. The committee included in their guidelines that any reflection on the Chair on social media by both MPs and members of the press gallery would be considered as contempt and treated as such.

UK House of Commons
The UK House of Commons Procedure Committee reported on the use of hand-held electronic devices from the Chamber and Committees in March 2011. Prior to this hand-held devices were banned from the Chamber and in Committees; the Committee recommended that this ban be overturned, ‘provided that they are silent, and used in a way that does not impair decorum; that Members making speeches in the Chamber or in committee may refer to electronic devices in place of paper speaking notes; and that electronic devices, including laptops, may be used silently in committee meetings, including select committees.’

On the issue of twitter, the report stated:
Tweeting about proceedings from the galleries is in our view no different in degree from presenters commenting on live broadcasts of proceedings or indeed from tweeting or blogging about proceedings when watched from outside the Chamber. Whilst tweeting from inside the Chamber is clearly a more sensitive matter, we consider that it would be inconsistent to ban this one practice whilst advocating the approach based on decorum rather than activity which we advocate in this report. We also recognise that it would be impossible for the Chair to police tweeting by Members and that the Chair should not be expected to rule on allegations that inappropriate tweeting is taking or has taken place.
Even though the committee reported in early 2011, it took until October 2012 for the House to consider the recommendations. Despite strong support for changes to the rules, 11 MPs moved an amendment to the motion adopting the recommendations so that hand-held devices would only be used ‘to receive and send urgent messages, as a substitute for paper speaking notes and to refer to documents for use in debates, but not for any other purpose.’ The amendment was defeated 206 to 63.

While other parliamentary chambers have begun to address the issue of fast-paced communication, social media and technology use in their chambers, there has been an overall lag in issuing formal guidelines for parliamentarians. It would be expected that as more and more politicians use platforms such as twitter that parliament would be called to adjudicate on these forms of communication.


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.

Add your comment

[Click to expand]

We welcome your comments, or additional information which is relevant to a post. These can be added by clicking on the ‘Add your comment’ option above. Please note that the Parliamentary Library will moderate comments, and reserves the right not to publish comments that are inconsistent with the objectives of FlagPost. This includes spam, profanity and personal abuse, as well as comments that are factually incorrect or politically partisan. We will close comments after three months.




Captcha
Generate a new image
Type characters from the image:

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print

FlagPost

Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament


Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

Refugees asylum climate change immigration Australian foreign policy parliament social security welfare policy elections welfare reform school education health financing higher education Australian Defence Force emissions trading indigenous Australians women private health insurance people trafficking illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 United Nations Employment Asia disability income management Middle East Medicare Australian Bureau of Statistics statistics sport health forced labour federal budget Afghanistan Industrial Relations Carbon Pricing Mechanism politics dental health United States aid child protection environment poker machines Australia in the Asian Century Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency steroids World Anti-Doping Agency National Disability Insurance Scheme detention aged care 43rd Parliament slavery health system Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Criminal Law Fair Work Act Australian Public Service governance labour force people smuggling transport debt taxation international relations constitution New Zealand food WADA Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme pensions public service reform children's health Aviation foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability parliamentary procedure Senate Senators and Members ALP ASADA Newstart Parenting Payment multiculturalism Youth Allowance sea farers social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations accountability Papua New Guinea youth paid parental leave same sex relationships corruption coal seam gas customs planning federal election 2013 Australian Electoral Commission doping OECD crime health risks International Women's Day Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy welfare ASIO intelligence community terrorist groups Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining High Court military history electoral reform employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing European Union Federal Court family assistance skilled migration banking United Nations Security Council Australian economy forestry food labelling vocational education and training Drugs UK Parliament welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report energy science social inclusion human rights paternalism Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse terrorism World Trade Organization Australia public health China housing affordability bulk billing political parties water productivity health policy Governor-General US economy trade unions domestic violence export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery firearms question time speaker superannuation public housing election results by-election expertise public policy climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leadership voting Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry regulation Pacific Islands reserved seats research and development new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare ADRV Census Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy royal commission US politics violence against women language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage Population rural and regional mental health alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran transparency ANZUS regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution Members of Parliament Scottish referendum early childhood education Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly national security smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid disability employment Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying asylum seekers Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct integrity retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines workers financial sector Canada Somalia United Kingdom GDP Tasmania world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea fuel rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra environmental law federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition standards conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office NATO work-life balance

Show all
Show less