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Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 10 - Debate

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Conduct of senators

To facilitate the orderly process of debate, certain rules of conduct apply to senators in the Senate chamber.

It is the responsibility of the President to maintain order in the Senate, and for this purpose the chair ensures that the conduct of senators during proceedings in the Senate is not disruptive of those proceedings.[112]

When a question of order is raised, the senator speaking sits down and the President determines the question of order.[113] In addition to calling for order, the President may stand, in which case the senator speaking must sit down and the Senate must be silent.[114] Senators must not move about the chamber when the President is putting a question to the Senate.[115]

On entering or leaving the chamber a senator must acknowledge the chair.[116] This is done by a bow or nod to the chair. A senator may not pass between the chair and a senator who is speaking or between the chair and the table.[117] Senators must not stand in the chamber unless seeking the call to speak.[118]

It is not in order for senators to hold up newspapers or placards in the chamber or display items such as badges with slogans.[119] Senators may not have on their desks items which are objectionable to other senators.[120] It is similarly not in order to wear in the chamber T-shirts or other clothing bearing slogans.[121] The basis of these rulings is that, not only is the holding up of placards with slogans disruptive of orderly debate, but it would allow senators to intervene in debate other than by receiving the call from the chair and participating in debate in accordance with the rules of the Senate. It would be highly undesirable to have debate in the Senate reduced to the level of displaying placards with slogans. The wearing of clothing, such as T-shirts, with slogans is the same in principle as displaying placards or badges with slogans and is objectionable and disorderly on the same grounds.

The use of dictaphones in the chamber has been discountenanced by the Chair.[122] Other equipment such as portable computers and other electronic equipment (including mobile phones in "silent" mode) may be used if there is no disruption of proceedings. The camera function on mobile devices may not be used in the chamber.[123]

It is disorderly for a senator to smoke or eat in the chamber.[124]

It is considered discourteous for a senator to leave the chamber immediately after finishing a speech, in that the next speaker may comment on the senator's speech as part of the exchange of debate, and it is proper for senators to hear each other's views.

Advisers attending on senators in the places reserved for advisers in the chamber are required to behave with decorum and not disturb proceedings.[125] Subject to that requirement, senators are entitled to have whomever they choose as their advisers in their advisers' benches.[126]


112. SO 184(1).
113. SO 197(4), (5).
114. SO 184(2).
115. SO 184(3).
116. SO 185(1).
117. SO 185(2).
118. SO 185(3).
119. Rulings of President Sibraa, SD, 9/12/1992, pp. 4526-7; of President Reid, 21/10/1999, p.10177; 21/6/2001, p. 24881.
120. Ruling of President Kingsmill, SD, 24/5/1932, pp. 1231, 1239.
121. Ruling of President Calvert, SD, 19/3/2003, p. 9664.
122. SD, 17/8/1993, pp. 24-5.
123. SD, 24/3/2011, p. 2015.
124. Ruling of President Givens, SD, 24/8/1923, p. 3493.
125. Ruling of President Sibraa, 8/12/1993, J.942; statement by chair 22/2/1994, J.1289.
126. SD, 2/12/2005, p. 10.