Manner and right of speech
When Members may speak
A Member may speak to any question before the Chair which is open to debate, when moving a motion which will be open to debate, and when moving an amendment.
A Member may speak during a discussion of a matter of public importance; he or she may make a statement to the House on the presentation of a committee or delegation report, and during the periods for Members’ 90 second statements and three minute constituency statements.
A Member may also speak when asking or answering a question, when raising a point of order or on a matter of privilege, to explain matters of a personal nature, to explain some material part of his or her speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood, when granted leave of the House to make a statement, and by indulgence of the Chair.
Matters not open to debate
Pursuant to standing order 78, the following questions and motions are not open to debate, must be moved without comment and must be put immediately and resolved without amendment:
motion that a Member’s time be extended (S.O. 1);
motion that the business of the day be called on (S.O. 46(e));
motion that a Member be heard now (S.O. 65(c));
motion that a Member be further heard (S.O. 75(b));
motion that debate be adjourned (S.O. 79);
motion that a Member be no longer heard (S.O. 80);
motion that the question be now put (S.O. 81);
question that the bill or motion be considered urgent, following a declaration of urgency (S.O.s 82–83);
motion that a Member be suspended (S.O. 94);
question that amendments made by the Federation Chamber be agreed to (S.O. 153);
question that a bill reported from the Federation Chamber be agreed to (S.O. 153);
motion that further proceedings on a bill be conducted in the House (S.O. 197); and
question in the Federation Chamber that a bill be reported to the House (S.O. 198).
if required by a Minister, the question for the adjournment of the House under the automatic adjournment provisions must be put immediately and without debate (S.O. 31(c)); and
if required by a Member, the question for the adjournment of the Federation Chamber must be put immediately and without debate (S.O. 191(b)).
General rule—a Member may speak once to each question
Generally, each Member is entitled to speak once to each question before the House. However a Member is permitted to speak a second or further time:
during consideration in detail of a bill;
during consideration of amendments to a bill made or requested by the Senate;
having moved a substantive motion or the second or third reading of a bill, the Member is allowed a reply confined to matters raised during the debate;
having moved and spoken to the second reading of a private Member’s bill, the Member may speak for 5 minutes in continuation on the resumption of debate;
during an adjournment debate, if no other Member rises; or
to explain some material part of his or her speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood. In making this explanation the Member may not interrupt another Member addressing the House, debate the matter, or introduce any new matter.
Members may speak for an unlimited number of periods during consideration in detail of a bill or consideration of Senate amendments and requests. In special circumstances, a Member may speak again by leave—see ‘Leave to speak again’ at page 496.
Moving and seconding motions
The moving of a motion is regarded as speaking to the question (that is about to be proposed). Consequently, having moved a motion which is open to debate, a Member may speak to the motion but loses the right to speak to it, except in reply, if he or she does not speak immediately.
A Member who seconds a motion (or amendment) before the House may speak to it immediately or at a later period during the debate. It is common practice for seconders not wishing to speak immediately to state that they reserve the right to speak later. However, such action does not ensure that a Member will be able to speak later in the debate (if, for example, the debate is limited by time, or curtailed by the closure).
Moving and speaking to amendments
The general rule that each Member may speak only once to each question places the following restrictions on Members moving and speaking to amendments (other than during consideration in detail or consideration of Senate amendments and requests):
A Member who moves an amendment must speak to it immediately, if wishing to speak to it at all.
A Member who speaks to a question and then sits without moving an amendment that he or she intended to propose cannot subsequently move the amendment, having already spoken to the question before the House.
If a Member has already spoken to a question, or has moved an amendment to it, the Member may not be called to move a further amendment or the adjournment of the debate, but may speak to any further amendment which is proposed by another Member.
A Member who moves or seconds an amendment cannot speak again on the original question after the amendment has been disposed of, because he or she has already spoken while the original question was before the Chair and before the question on the amendment has been proposed.
When an amendment has been moved, and the question on the amendment proposed by the Chair, any Member speaking subsequently is considered to be speaking to both the original question and the amendment and cannot speak again to the original question after the amendment has been disposed of.
A Member who has already spoken to the original question prior to the moving of an amendment may speak to the question on the amendment, but the remarks must be confined to the amendment.
A Member who has spoken to neither the motion nor the amendment may speak to the original question after the amendment has been disposed of.
A Member who has spoken to the original question and the amendment may speak to the question on a further amendment, but must confine any remarks to the further amendment.
Leave to speak again
In special circumstances, a Member may be granted leave to speak again. This most frequently occurs in a situation where a Member has moved but not spoken to a motion, but wishes to speak at a later time without closing the debate. A similar situation sometimes occurs when a Member’s earlier speech has been interrupted and he or she has not been present to continue the speech when the debate has been resumed. Leave to speak again in such cases in effect restores a lost opportunity rather than provides an additional one. The granting of leave to speak again in other circumstances is highly unusual. (See also ‘Leave to continue remarks’ at page 531.)
Speaking in reply
The mover of a substantive motion or the second or third reading of a bill may speak on a second occasion in reply, but must confine any remarks to matters raised during the debate. The mover of an amendment has no right of reply as an amendment is not a substantive motion. The reply of the mover of the original question closes the debate. However, the mover of the original question may speak to any amendment without closing the debate, but these remarks must be confined to the amendment. A Member closing the debate by reply cannot propose an amendment. An amendment should be moved before the mover of the motion replies. The right of reply of the mover has been exercised even though the original question has been rendered meaningless by the omission of words and the rejection of proposed insertions. The Chair has ruled that a reply is permitted to the mover of a motion of dissent from a ruling of the Chair.
The mover of a motion is not entitled to the call to close the debate while any other Member is seeking the call. When a mover received the call and stated that he was not speaking to an amendment before the House but to the motion generally and wished to close debate, he was directed by the Chair to speak to the amendment only, in order that the rights of others to be heard were not interfered with. In the absence of such circumstances a Minister speaking after an amendment has been proposed closes the debate.
The speech of a Minister acting on behalf of the mover of the original motion does not close the debate. The mover of a motion may speak a second time but avoid closing the debate by seeking ‘leave to speak again without closing the debate’ (see above ‘Leave to speak again’). Such action is most appropriate in relation to a motion to take note of a document, which is moved as a vehicle to enable debate rather than with the intention of putting a matter to the House for decision.
Misrepresentation of a speech
A Member may speak again to explain some material part of his or her speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood. In making this explanation the Member may not interrupt another Member addressing the House, debate the matter, or introduce any new matter. No debate may arise following such an explanation. The correct procedure to be followed by a Member is to rise after the Member speaking has concluded and to inform the Chair that he or she has been misrepresented. The Chair will then permit the Member to proceed with the explanation. It helps in the conduct of the proceedings if Members notify the Chair in advance that they intend to rise to make an explanation. The Chair will seek to ensure that the Member confines himself or herself to correcting any misrepresentation and will not allow wider matters to be canvassed.
Pursuant to standing order 68, a Member may explain how he or she has been misrepresented or explain another matter of a personal nature whether or not there is a question before the House. The Member seeking to make an explanation must rise and seek permission from the Speaker, must not interrupt another Member who is addressing the House, and the matter must not be debated.
Although in practice the Speaker’s permission is freely given, Members have no right to expect it to be granted automatically. It is the practice of the House that any Member wishing to make a personal explanation should inform the Speaker beforehand. The Speaker has refused to allow a Member to make a personal explanation when prior notice has not been given.
Personal explanations may be made at any time with the permission of the Chair, provided that no other Member is addressing the House. However, recent practice has been for them to be made soon after Question Time. Personal explanations claiming misrepresentation may arise from reports in the media, Senate debates, the preceding Question Time, and so on. A Minister has presented a list correcting statements made about him in the Senate, rather than go through all the details orally. One of the reasons for personal explanations being sought soon after Question Time is that, when a personal explanation is made in rebuttal of a statement made in a question or answer, the question and answer are excluded from any rebroadcast of Question Time.
The fact that a Member has made a personal explanation about a matter has not in the past prevented another Member from referring to the matter even if, for example, the Member had refuted views attributed to him or her. However, standing order 68 now provides that if a Member has given a personal explanation to correct a misrepresentation and another Member subsequently repeats the matter complained of, the Speaker may intervene.
In making a personal explanation, a Member must not debate the matter, and may not deal with matters affecting his or her party or, in the case of a Minister, the affairs of the Minister’s department—the explanation must be confined to matters affecting the Member personally. A Member cannot make charges or attacks upon another Member under cover of making a personal explanation.
A personal explanation may be made in the Federation Chamber, or it may be made in the House regarding events in the Federation Chamber. In making such an explanation the Member may not reflect on the Chair. The indulgence granted by the Chair for a personal explanation may be withdrawn if the Member uses that indulgence to enter into a general debate. A Member has been permitted to make a personal explanation on behalf of a Member who was absent (being overseas).
A personal explanation is not restricted to matters of misrepresentation. For example, Members have been permitted to use the procedure to explain an action or remark, apologise to the House, clarify a possible misunderstanding, state why they had voted in a particular way, and correct a statement made in debate.
If the Speaker refuses permission to a Member to make a personal explanation, or directs a Member to resume his or her seat during the course of an explanation, a motion ‘That the Member be heard now’ is not in order, nor may the Member move a motion of dissent from the Speaker’s ‘ruling’ as there is no ruling.
Other matters by indulgence of the Chair
Although the standing orders make provision for Members to speak with permission of the Chair only in respect of a matter of a personal nature (see above), the practice of the House is that, from time to time, the Speaker or Chair grants indulgence for Members to deal with a variety of other matters. The term ‘indulgence’, used to cover the concept of permission or leave from the Chair as distinct from leave of the House, is a reminder that its exercise is completely at the Chair’s discretion. It is, as the term suggests, a special concession. Indulgence has been granted, for example, to permit:
a Minister to correct or add to an earlier answer to a question without notice;
the Prime Minister to add to an answer given by another Minister to a question without notice;
the Prime Minister or another Minister to answer a question without notice ruled out of order;
Members to put their views on a ruling by the Speaker relating to the sub judice convention;
Members to comment on a privilege matter;
a Member to seek information on a matter not raised in a second reading speech;
Members to speak to a document presented by the Speaker;
a Minister to correct a figure given in an earlier speech;
a Minister or other Member to comment on or raise a matter concerning the conduct of proceedings or related matters, such as the sitting arrangements;
the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to congratulate athletes representing Australia;
the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to welcome visiting foreign dignitaries present in the gallery;
the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to pay tribute to a retiring Governor-General;
Members to extend good wishes to persons present in the gallery;
questions to and statements by the Leader of the House relating to the order of business, the Government’s legislative program, etc;
a Member to ask a question of the Speaker or raise a matter for the Speaker’s consideration;
Members to comment in the House on the operations of the Main Committee (Federation Chamber);
Members to extend good wishes to a Member about to retire, or to comment on significant achievements by colleagues;
the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to make valedictory remarks; and
the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to make statements in relation to natural or other disasters, in tribute to deceased persons, or to speak on matters of significance.
When the Prime Minister makes a statement by indulgence on an issue, the Leader of the Opposition is commonly also granted indulgence to speak on the same matter. On occasion, indulgence may be extended to a series of Members—for example, after a Member has made a statement to the House announcing his intention to resign, other Members have spoken to pay tribute to the Member or offer their best wishes for the future.
Statements by indulgence referred to Federation Chamber
After statements by indulgence have been made and it is recognised that other Members desire to speak on the same matter, the Leader of the House may move ‘That further statements on … be referred to the Federation Chamber’.
Statements by indulgence—Speech time limits
The length of time a Member may speak on a statement by indulgence is at the Speaker’s discretion. If further statements are referred to the Federation Chamber a speech time limit of 10 minutes applies.
Statements by leave
A frequently used practice is to seek the leave of the House—that is, permission without objection from any Member present—to make a statement when there is no question before the House. The standing orders provide occasions for Members to make statements on the presentation of a committee or delegation report (during the periods set aside for that purpose on Mondays), during the periods for Members’ 90 second statements and three minute constituency statements, and when introducing a private Member’s bill. Leave is required for a Member to make a statement at other times.
Members seeking leave to make statements must indicate the subject matter in order that the House can make a judgment as to whether or not to grant leave. When a Member has digressed from the subject for which leave was granted, the Chair has:
directed the Member to confine himself to the subject for which leave was granted;
directed the Member to resume his or her seat; and
expressed the opinion that a Member should not take advantage of leave granted to make a statement (in response to another) to raise matters that had no direct relationship to that statement.
If a Member does not indicate the subject matter of a proposed statement when responding to a statement just made, difficulties may arise for the Chair. Greater control over relevancy can be preserved if, when Members rise to seek leave to make further statements, the Chair asks ‘Is the honourable Member seeking leave to make a statement on the same matter?’.
A request for leave cannot be debated, nor can leave be granted conditionally, for example, on the condition that another Member is allowed to make a statement on the same subject.
If leave is not granted, a Minister or Member, on receiving the call, may move ‘That so much of the standing (and sessional) orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for … [the Member for … ] making a statement’. This motion must be agreed to by an absolute majority of Members. Alternatively, in the case of a Minister, the printed statement may be presented.
The fact that leave is granted or standing orders are suspended to enable a Member to make a statement only affords the Member an opportunity to do that which would not be ordinarily permissible under the standing orders—that is, make a statement without leave. The normal rules of debate, and the provisions of the standing orders generally, still apply so that if, for example, the automatic adjournment interrupts the Member’s speech, the speech is then terminated unless the adjournment proposal is negatived.
A Member cannot be given leave to make a statement on the next day of sitting in reply to a statement just made, but must ask for such leave on the next day of sitting. It is not in order for a motion to be moved that a Member ‘have leave to make a statement’ or, when leave to make a statement is refused, to move that the Member ‘be heard now’, as the latter motion can only be moved to challenge the call of the Chair during debate. When a statement is made by leave, there is no time limit on the speech, but a motion may be made at any time that the Member speaking ‘be no longer heard’. Once granted, leave cannot be withdrawn.
The statement by leave procedure is used, in the main, for ministerial statements, that is, for statements to the House by Ministers announcing or reporting on domestic and foreign policies and other actions or decisions of the Government. A period is provided in the order of business for ministerial statements each sitting day (following Question Time on Mondays, and following the discussion of a matter of public importance on other days). However, Ministers may make statements at other times as well—in all cases leave is required (see below). In appropriate circumstances a ministerial statement has been made by a Parliamentary Secretary.
In the case of a ministerial statement, it is accepted practice for a copy of the proposed statement to be supplied to the Leader of the Opposition or the appropriate shadow minister some minimum time before the statement is made. At the conclusion of the Minister’s speech the Leader of the Opposition or Member representing (i.e. the shadow minister) has the opportunity to speak in response to the statement for an equivalent period of time.
Leave requirement for ministerial statements
The House has always required Ministers to seek leave to make ministerial statements. In 1902 Prime Minister Barton claimed that it was the inherent right of a leader of a Government to make a statement on any public subject without leave of the House. The Speaker ruled however that no Minister had such a right under the standing orders of the House of Representatives.
The requirement for leave has the practical effect noted above, that traditionally an advance copy of a proposed ministerial statement is supplied to the Opposition, allowing its spokesperson time to prepare a considered response. Leave has been denied when this courtesy has not been complied with.
Statements on a topic following suspension of standing orders
On occasion standing orders have been suspended to provide for a structured period for Members to make statements on a particular topic in the House and/or the Federation Chamber.
Allocation of the call
The Member who moved the motion for the adjournment of a debate is entitled to speak first on the resumption of the debate. If the Member does not take up that entitlement on the resumption of the debate, this does not impair his or her right to speak later in the debate. However, when a Member is granted leave to continue his or her remarks and the debate is then adjourned, the Member must take the entitlement to pre-audience on the resumption of the debate, otherwise he or she loses the right to continue.
Although the Chair is not obliged to call any particular Member, except for a Member entitled to the first call as indicated above, it is the practice for the Chair, as a matter of courtesy, to give priority to:
the Prime Minister or a Minister over other government Members but not if he or she proposes to speak in reply; and
the leader or deputy leader of opposition parties over other non-government Members.
A Minister (or Assistant Minister/Parliamentary Secretary) in charge of business during the consideration in detail of a bill or consideration of Senate amendments (when any Member may speak as many times as he or she wishes) would usually receive priority over other government Members whenever wishing to speak. This enables the Minister to explain or comment upon details of the legislation as they arise from time to time in the debate. Speakers have also taken the view that in respect of business such as consideration of Senate messages, the call should, in the first instance, be given to the Minister expected to have responsibility for the matter.
If two or more Members rise to speak, the Speaker calls on the Member who, in the Speaker’s opinion, rose first. The Chair’s selection may be challenged by a motion that a Member who was not called ‘be heard now’, and the question must be put immediately and resolved without amendment or debate. A Member may move this motion in respect of himself or herself. It is not in order to challenge the Chair’s decision by way of moving that the Member who received the call ‘be no longer heard’. A motion of dissent from the Chair’s allocation of the call should not be accepted, as the Chair is exercising a discretion, not making a ruling.
Standing order 78 provides, among other things, that if a motion that a Member be heard now is negatived, no similar proposal shall be received if the Chair is of the opinion that it is an abuse of the orders or forms of the House or is moved for the purpose of obstructing business.
Although the allocation of the call is a matter for the discretion of the Chair, it is usual, as a principle, to call Members from each side of the House, government and non-government, alternately. Within this principle minor parties and any independents are given reasonable opportunities to express their views. Because of coalition arrangements between the Liberal and National Parties, the allocation of the call between them has varied—for example, in the 30th Parliament, with the respective party numbers 68 and 23, the call was allocated on the basis of a 3:1 ratio; in the 38th Parliament, with the party numbers 76 and 18, the ratio was 4:1; and in the 41st Parliament, with the party numbers 75 and 12, the ratio was 6:1. Independent Members have been called with regard to their numbers as a proportion of the House. The call is alternated to each side of the Chamber even when government and opposition Members are not on opposing sides of a debate, for example, in cases of a free vote.
When Members are permitted to speak more than once during a debate, the Chair generally gives priority to those who have not yet spoken over those who have already spoken.
List of speakers
Throughout the history of the House of Representatives a list of intending speakers has been maintained to assist the Chair in allocating the call. As early as 1901 the Speaker noted that, although it was not the practice for Members to send names to him and to be called in the order in which they supplied them, on several occasions when a group of Members had risen together and had then informed the Chair that they wished to speak in a certain order, they had been called in that order so that they might know when they were likely to be called on.
By the 1950s the Chair was allocating the call with the assistance of a list of speakers provided by the party whips. Speaker Cameron saw this as a perfectly logical and very convenient method of conducting debates. He added that, if they were not adhered to or Members objected to the practice, the House would revert to a system under which there was no list whatsoever and the Chair would call the Member he thought had first risen in his place. He saw this procedure as awkward as some Members were more alert than others and for that reason he thought it better that the Chair be made aware of the intentions of the parties, each party having some idea of their Members best able to deal with particular subjects. Although he welcomed lists provided by the whips as useful guides, he stressed that he was not bound by them and indicated that, if it came to his knowledge that certain Members were being precluded from speaking, he would exercise the rights he possessed as Speaker. In essence this continues to be the practice followed by the Chair.
As well as assisting the Chair, speakers lists assist Members in managing their various commitments in the House, Federation Chamber and committees. It is the responsibility of Members listed to speak to follow proceedings in order to ensure that they will be available at the appropriate time. It is discourteous to the Member speaking, and to the Chair and other participants in the debate, for the next speaker to leave his or her entry to the Chamber to the last minute. If no Member rises to speak there can be no pause in proceedings, and the Chair is obliged to put the question before the House to a vote. In practice, the whips or the duty Minister or shadow minister at the Table assume responsibility for following up errant speakers from their respective parties, and alert the Chair to any changes to the list.
Manner of speech
Remarks to be addressed to Chair
A Member wishing to speak rises and, when recognised by the Speaker, addresses the Speaker. If a Member is unable to rise, he or she is permitted to speak while seated.
As remarks must be addressed to the Chair, Members refer to each other in their speeches in the third person—that is, use ‘he’, ‘she’, and ‘they’, rather than ‘you’. It is regarded as disorderly for a Member to address the House in the second person and Members have often been admonished when they have lapsed into this form of address. (See also ‘References to Members’ at page 514.)
It is not in order for a Member to turn his or her back to the Chair and address party colleagues. A Member should not address the listening public while the proceedings of the House are being broadcast.
Place of speaking
Standing order 65(c) provides that when two or more Members rise to speak the Speaker shall call upon the Member who, in the Speaker’s opinion, rose first, and standing order 62(a) requires every Member, when in the Chamber, to ‘take his or her seat’. The implication is that Members should address the House from their own places. Ministers and shadow ministers speak from the Table. Assistant Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries are allowed to speak from the Table when in charge of the business before the House but at other times should speak from their allocated places, although there has been a trend for them to speak from the Table on a wider range of matters. The same practice applies in respect of shadow parliamentary secretaries. An opposition Member who is not a member of the opposition shadow ministry but who is leading for the Opposition in a particular debate, is permitted to speak either from his or her allotted seat or from the Table.
Reading of speeches
There is no longer a prohibition on Members reading their speeches. Until 1965 the standing orders provided that ‘A Member shall not read his speech’. In 1964, the Standing Orders Committee recommended that:
As Parliamentary practice recognizes and accepts that, whenever there is reason for precision of statement such as on the second reading of a bill, particularly those of a complex or technical nature, or in ministerial or other statements, it is reasonable to allow the reading of speeches and, as the difficulty of applying the rule against the reading of speeches is obvious, e.g. 'reference to copious notes', it is proposed to omit the standing order.
The recommendation of the committee was subsequently adopted by the House.
Language of debate
Although there is no specific rule set down by standing order, the House follows the practice of requiring Members’ speeches to be in English. Other Members and those listening to proceedings are entitled to be able to follow the course of a debate, and it is unlikely that the Chair would know whether a speech was in order unless it was delivered in English. It is in order, however, for a Member to use or quote phrases or words in another language during the course of a speech. When a part of a speech has been delivered in another language, Members have also given an English translation.
In 2003 a meeting of the two Houses in the House of Representatives Chamber was addressed by the President of China in Chinese. Members and Senators used headphones to hear the simultaneous translation into English. On a similar occasion in 2007 the Prime Minister of Canada spoke in French during some parts of his address.
There is no requirement that documents tabled in the House be in English.
Incorporation of unread material into Hansard
In one form or another the House has always had procedures for the incorporation of unread material into Hansard but there were, until recent years, considerable variations in practice and the Chair from time to time expressed unease at the fact that the practice was allowed and in respect of some of the purposes for which it was used.
Answers to questions in writing are required to be printed in Hansard and Budget tables were in the past permitted to be included unread in Hansard. The terms of petitions have been incorporated since 1972, and the terms of notices not given orally in the House were included from 1978; in later years all notices were included. The terms of amendments moved are also printed in Hansard, despite the common practice being for Members moving them to refer to previously circulated texts of proposed amendments rather than to read them out in full.
The modern practice of the House on the incorporation of other material, defined by successive Speakers in statements on the practice, is based on the premise that Hansard, as an accurate as possible a record of what is said in the House, should not incorporate unspoken material other than items such as tables which need to be available in visual form for comprehension. It is not in order for Members to hand in their speeches as is done in the Congress of the United States of America, even when they have been prevented from speaking on a question before the House, nor can they have the balance of an unfinished speech incorporated. Ministerial statements may not be incorporated, nor may Ministers’ second reading speeches or explanatory memoranda to bills. Matter irrelevant to the question before the House is not permitted to be incorporated.
Underlying the attitude of the Chair and the House over the years has been the consistent aim of keeping the Hansard record as a true record of what is said in the House. Early occupants of the Chair saw the practice of including unread matter in Hansard as fraught with danger and later Speakers have voiced more specific objections. For example, a ‘speech’ may be lengthened beyond a Member’s entitlement under the standing orders, or the incorporated material may contain irrelevant or defamatory matter or unparliamentary language; other Members will not be aware of the contents of the material until production of the daily Hansard next morning when a speech may be discovered to have matter not answered in debate and so appear more authoritative. Similarly, a succeeding Member’s speech may appear to be less relevant and informed than it would have been if he or she had known of the unspoken material before speaking. In a more recent statement the Speaker noted that the incorporation of unread speeches would not be consistent with the aims of ensuring engagement and exchange in debate, and would totally disadvantage Members who speak from notes or without notes.
Apart from offending against the principle that Hansard is a report of the spoken word, items may also be excluded on technical grounds. Thus, for example, photographs, drawings, tabulated material of excessive length and other documents of a nature or quality not acceptable for printing or which would present technical problems and unduly delay the production of the daily Hansard are not able to be incorporated. In cases where permission has been granted for such an item to be incorporated (usually with the proviso from the Chair that the incorporation would occur only if technically possible), it has been the practice for a note to appear in the Hansard text explaining that the proposed incorporation was omitted for technical reasons. However, in recent years developments in printing technology have made possible the incorporation of a wider range of material—for example, graphs, charts and maps—than was previously the case.
A Minister or Member seeking leave to incorporate material should first show the matter to the Member leading for the Opposition or to the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary at the Table, as the case may be, and leave may be refused if this courtesy is not complied with. Members must provide a copy of the material they propose to include at the time leave is sought, and copies of non-read material intended for incorporation must be lodged with Hansard as early as possible.
The general rule is not interpreted inflexibly by the Chair. For example, exceptions have been made to enable schedules showing the progress on government responses to committee reports to be incorporated. Although other exceptions may be made from time to time, this is not a frequent occurrence and it is common practice of the Chair in such circumstances to remark on, and justify, the departure from the general rule, or to stress that the action should not be regarded as a precedent. The main category of such exceptions in recent years has been in relation to documents whose incorporation has provided information from the Government to the House. Other exceptions have been made to facilitate business of the House, or to allow the incorporation of material which in other circumstances could have been incorporated as a matter of routine. The contents of a letter stick from Aboriginal peoples of the Northern Territory have been incorporated.
The House has ordered that matter be incorporated. Matter has been authorised to be incorporated by a motion moved pursuant to contingent notice, after leave for incorporation had been refused. A motion to allow incorporation has also been moved and agreed to following suspension of standing orders.
On two occasions in 1979 standing orders were suspended to enable certain documents to be incorporated in Hansard, after leave had been refused. This action was procedurally defective. The incorporation of unspoken matter in Hansard is, by practice, authorised by the House by its unanimous consent. The unanimous consent is obtained by asking for leave of the House. If leave is refused the authority of the House can only be obtained by moving a positive motion. In order to move a motion without leave it is necessary to suspend the standing orders. The suspension of standing orders opens the way to move a motion for incorporation; it does not of itself allow incorporation, as there is no standing order relating to incorporation of matter in Hansard.
The fact that the House authorises the incorporation of unread matter does not affect the rule that the final decision rests with the Speaker.
Display of articles to illustrate speeches
Members have been permitted to display articles to illustrate speeches. The Chair has been of the opinion that unless the matter in question had some relation to disloyalty or was against the standing orders the Chair was not in a position to act but hoped that Members would use some judgement and responsibility in their actions. However, the general attitude from the Chair has been that visual props are ‘tolerated but not encouraged’. An important distinction is made between Members displaying articles to illustrate a point being made in a speech and the display of articles or signs by Members who do not have the call. The former is often acceptable to the Chair; the latter is not.
The wide range of items which have been allowed to be displayed to illustrate a speech has included items as diverse as a flag, photographs and journals, plants, a gold nugget, a bionic ear, a silicon chip, a flashing marker for air/sea rescue, a synthetic quartz crystal, superconducting ceramic, hemp fibres, a heroin ‘cap’, a gynaecological instrument, a sporting trophy, ugg boots, mouse pads, a lump of coal and a solar panel.
Although newspaper headlines have been displayed for the purpose of illustrating a speech (but not if they contain unparliamentary language), more recent practice has been not to permit this, and Members, although having the call, have been ordered to put down items they have displayed. The Speaker has ordered a Member to remove two petrol cans he had brought into the Chamber for the purpose of illustrating his speech. It is not in order to display a weapon or play a tape recorder. A Minister answering a question has been cautioned ‘on the overuse of props’ (a series of photos). The Speaker has ruled the action of a Member asking a question in seeking to display a multi-page chart, which needed the assistance of other Members to hold up, to be out of order, but permitted the Member to display pages of the chart individually.
In 1980 the Chair ruled that the display of a handwritten sign containing an unparliamentary word by a seated Member was not permitted. Since then the Chair has more than once ruled that the displaying of signs was not permitted. A Member has been named when he interjected after having displayed a sign and having been ordered to leave the House. In response to the coordinated holding up of placards by Members the Speaker has warned that action would be taken against offending Members without further warning. In similar circumstances Speakers have instructed attendants to collect items that were being displayed. Scorecards held up following a Member’s speech have been ordered to be removed. Other items ordered to be removed which have been displayed by Members not having the call have included a toy chicken and a life-size cardboard cut-out of the Prime Minister. Disorder has been associated with the use of such items.
In 2015 a Member who had displayed bottles of bunker fuel in the Federation Chamber, and spilled the oil onto the desk and floor, was called on to apologise to the House for his reckless and highly disorderly actions, and after he had done so, was named and suspended.
The Procedure Committee has distinguished between legitimate visual aids and ‘stunts’:
Members may have cause to use ‘legitimate’ visual aids during speeches to provide audiences with a greater understanding of the message being conveyed. Legitimate visual aids are usually referred to incidentally in a Member’s speech.
… In other cases, articles are displayed by Members in a way that could reasonably be interpreted as being for dramatic effect or to make a political point. In contrast to legitimate visual aids, ‘stunts’ have a tendency to disrupt proceedings and may have a negative impact on the public’s perception of the House.
… There is no precise demarcation between legitimate visual aids and stunts. What might be considered perfectly legitimate in one context could be inflammatory in another.
Citation of documents not before the House
If a Minister quotes from a document relating to public affairs, a Member may ask for it to be presented to the House. The document must be presented unless the Minister states that it is of a confidential nature. This rule does not apply to private Members.
A Member may quote from documents not before the House, but the quotation must be relevant to the question before the Chair. It is not in order to quote words debarred by the rules of the House. It is not necessary for a Member to vouch for the accuracy of a statement in a document quoted from or referred to, but a Member quoting certain unestablished facts concerning another Member contained in a report has been ordered not to put those findings in terms of irrefutable facts. It is not necessary for a Member to disclose the source of a quotation or the name of the author of a letter from which he or she has quoted. The Chair has always maintained that Members themselves must accept responsibility for material they use in debate, and there is no need for them to vouch for its authenticity. Whether the material is true or false will be judged according to events and if a Member uses material, the origin of which he or she is unsure, the responsibility rests with the Member.
Subject to the rules applying to relevance and unparliamentary expressions, it is not within the province of the Chair to judge whether a document declared to be confidential should be restricted in its use in the House. As the matter is not governed by standing orders, it must be left to the good sense and discretion of a Member to determine whether to use material in his or her possession. However, the Chair has ruled that confidential documents submitted to Cabinet in a previous Government must, in the public interest, remain entirely confidential.