House of Representatives Practice, 6th edition – HTML version

14 - Control and conduct of debate

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Interruptions to Members speaking

A Member may only interrupt another Member to:

  • call attention to a point of order ;
  • call attention to a matter of privilege suddenly arising;
  • call attention to the lack of a quorum;
  • call attention to the unwanted presence of visitors;
  • move that the Member be no longer heard;
  • move that the question be now put;
  • move that the business of the day be called on; or
  • make an intervention as provided in the standing orders.[332]

Also if the Speaker stands during a debate, any Member then speaking or seeking the call shall sit down and the House shall be silent, so the Speaker may be heard without interruption.[333] A Member has been directed to leave the Chamber for an hour for having interjected a second time after having been reminded that the Speaker had risen.[334] Members may also be interrupted by the Chair on matters of order and at the expiration of time allotted to debate. The Chair may withdraw the call as an action in response to disorder.[335] It is not in order to interrupt another Member to move a motion, except as outlined above.[336]

Interventions

It has not been the practice of the House for Members to ‘give way’ in debate to allow another Member to intervene.[337] However, following a Procedure Committee recommendation,[338] in September 2002 the House agreed to a trial of a new procedure which permitted Members to intervene in debate in the Main Committee (Federation Chamber) to ask brief questions of the Member speaking.[339] The standing order, later adopted permanently, provides as follows:

66A During consideration of any order of the day in the Federation Chamber a Member may rise and, if given the call, ask the Chair whether the Member speaking is willing to give way. The Member speaking will either indicate his or her:

  1. refusal and continue speaking, or
  2. acceptance and allow the other Member to ask a short question immediately relevant to the Member’s speech—

Provided that, if, in the opinion of the Chair, it is an abuse of the orders or forms of the House, the intervention may be denied or curtailed.

The intervention must be immediately relevant to the speech being made. Interventions are not appropriate during Ministers’ second reading speeches, because of their significance in terms of statutory interpretation, but could be appropriate during a Minister’s summing up.[340] The Deputy Speaker has refused to allow interventions during the budget estimates debates,[341] which already provide question and answer opportunities. Similar considerations could be seen as applying to all consideration in detail proceedings, where multiple speaking opportunities allow Members to respond to each other’s speeches.

See also ‘Questions during second reading debate’ in Chapter on ‘Legislation’.

Interjections

When a Member is speaking, no Member may converse aloud or make any noise or disturbance to interrupt the Member.[342] Should Members wish to refute statements made in debate they have the opportunity to do so when they themselves address the House on the question or, in certain circumstances, by informing the Chair that they have been misrepresented (see page 680).

In order to facilitate debate the Chair may regard it as wise not to take note of interjections.[343] Deputy Speaker Chanter commented in 1920:

I call attention to a rule which is one of the most stringent that we have for the guidance of business [now S.O. 66]. I may say that an ordinary interjection here and there is not usually taken notice of by the Chair, but a constant stream of interjections is decidedly disorderly.[344]

The Chair, although recognising all interjections as disorderly, has also been of the opinion that it should not interfere as long as they were short and did not interrupt the thread of the speech being delivered.[345] The fact that an interjection has been directly invited by the remarks of the Member speaking in no way justifies the interruption of a speech,[346] and the Chair has suggested that Members refrain from adopting an interrogatory method of speaking which provokes interjections.[347] It is not uncommon for the Chair, when ordering interjectors to desist, to urge the Member speaking to address his or her remarks through the Chair and not to invite or respond to interjections.[348] Interjections which are not replied to by the Member with the call or which do not lead to any action or warning by the Chair are not recorded in Hansard.

It may be accepted that, as the House is a place of thrust and parry, the Chair need not necessarily intervene in the ordinary course of debate when an interjection is made. Intervention would be necessary if interjections were, in the opinion of the Chair, too frequent or such as to interrupt the flow of a Member’s speech or were obviously upsetting the Member who had the call. The Chair has a duty to rebuke the person who interjects rather than chastise the Member speaking for replying to an interjection.


332. S.O. 66.
333. S.O. 61(a).
334. H.R. Deb. (16.3.2000) 14910 (the Member was then named on further interjecting).
335. E.g. H.R. Deb. (22.11.2011) 13429–30.
336. VP 1974–75/338.
337. H.R. Deb. (7.10.1908) 861.
338. Standing Committee on Procedure, The Second Chamber: enhancing the Main Committee. PP 158 (2000) 36–8.
339. Sessional order 84A, VP 2002/350–1. Statement by Deputy Speaker, H.R. Deb. (17.9.2002) 6471. First interventions, H.R. Deb. (17.9.2002) 6475, 6478, 6481.
340. H.R. Deb. (14.5.2003) 14495–6.
341. The detail stage of the main appropriation bill, H.R. Deb. (17.6.2008) 5121.
342. S.O. 65(b).
343. H.R. Deb. (14.8.1903) 3664; H.R. Deb. (16.6.1915) 4014; H.R. Deb. (18.6.1915) 4229–30.
344. H.R. Deb. (14.7.1920) 2707.
345. H.R. Deb. (12.9.1901) 4810.
346. H.R. Deb. (28.9.1905) 2986; H.R. Deb. (1.5.1996) 107.
347. H.R. Deb. (1.5.1914) 539.
348. E.g. H.R. Deb. (5.5.1983) 250; H.R. Deb. (10.11.1983) 2630–1; H.R. Deb. (1.5.1996) 107; H.R. Deb. (8.12.1998) 1589.

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