Tweeting from the Chamber

Parliament house flag post

Tweeting from the Chamber

Posted 14/03/2013 by Sophia Fernandes

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.
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 immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament climate change elections women social security Indigenous Australians Australian Bureau of Statistics Employment taxation Sport illicit drugs people trafficking Medicare welfare reform Australian Defence Force higher education welfare policy United Nations Asia income management Middle East criminal law disability Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget gambling school education forced labour aid statistics Australian Electoral Commission WADA health financing emissions trading Australia in the Asian Century steroids detention Private health insurance OECD ASADA labour force transport Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Industrial Relations dental health National Disability Insurance Scheme slavery Senate election results Papua New Guinea Australian Public Service International Women's Day corruption Afghanistan Fair Work Act child protection people smuggling debt federal election 2013 parliamentary procedure poker machines ALP New Zealand Australian Crime Commission Newstart Parenting Payment 43rd Parliament political parties Census constitution High Court skilled migration voting Federal Court terrorist groups Higher Education Loan Program HECS youth paid parental leave Aviation environment foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability customs doping health crime health risks multiculturalism aged care Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery sea farers Special Rapporteur leadership United Kingdom UK Parliament Electoral reform politics banking firearms public policy violence against women domestic violence mental health China ADRV terrorism social media pensions welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation governance public service reform Carbon Pricing Mechanism carbon tax mining military history employer employee fishing by-election European Union same sex relationships international relations coal seam gas family assistance planning United Nations Security Council Australian economy food vocational education and training Drugs Indonesia children codes of conduct terrorist financing Productivity asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Population Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity science research and development Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse federal state relations World Trade Organization Australia accountability housing affordability bulk billing water renewable energy children's health health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation expertise Senators and Members climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry food labelling Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets health reform Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government local government consumer laws PISA royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition Parliamentary remuneration health system Australia Greens money laundering servitude Trafficking Protocol energy forced marriage rural and regional Northern Territory Emergency Response ministries social citizenship human rights housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament citizenship Defence High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories workers Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery transparency corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation standards NATO Members of Parliament Scottish referendum 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 public health 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 regional unemployment asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies trade unions same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders public housing prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines Somalia GDP forestry world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission regulation limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders animal health live exports welfare systems infant mortality middle class welfare 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 Constitutional reform referendum Rent Assistance competition policy pharmaceutical benefits scheme 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 homelessness regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Youth Allowance Members suspension citizen engagement policymaking federal election 2010 workplace health and safety Trafficking in Persons Report marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament alcohol Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act entitlements political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing Hung Parliament political education social inclusion Social Inclusion Board maritime early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin Iran sanctions Norway

Show all
Show less
Back to top