'That's it, you're out': disorderly conduct in the House of Representatives

On Wednesday 11 December 2013, 10 Labor MPs were ordered to withdraw from the House of Representatives for one hour ('sin binned') by the Speaker, the Hon Bronwyn Bishop. Seven of these were during Question Time, two during a motion to suspend standing orders which occurred at the end of this period and one during a ministerial statement later in the evening. Each 'sin binning' occurred during questions and debate about the automotive industry.

As many as this may seem, it is not the most number of ejections in a single day nor during Question Time. The greatest number of members ‘sin binned’ on a single day (11) occurred on 2 November 2005. Speaker David Hawker ordered out eight Labor members during Question Time and Deputy Speaker Ian Causley ordered out three Labor members during a Matter of Public Importance (MPI) debate. The greatest number of ‘sin binnings’ from Question Time occurred on 21 March 2012 when nine members were ‘sin binned’.

A recent study by the Parliamentary Library, 'That's it, you're out': disorderly conduct in the House of Representatives from 1901 to 2013, found that of the 1,093 members who served during this period, 300 (27.4%) were disciplined for disorderly behaviour, such as interjecting, refusing to withdraw a remark, disregarding the authority of the Chair, by being named, named and suspended or sin binned.

Of the 1,352 instances of disorderly behaviour analysed, most (90%) occurred during Question Time and in the parliamentary proceedings which often take place during or just after it. Such behaviour also tended to increase daily as the sitting week progresses.

Front benchers and parliamentary office holders accounted for about 57% of instances of disorderly behaviour. Opposition members were sanctioned 90% of the time no matter which party occupied that role. No prime minister was sanctioned for disorderly behaviour but two deputy prime ministers and seven opposition leaders were, although not all were ordered from the House. Christopher Pyne (Liberal, Sturt, SA) leads the list of members most disciplined on 45 followed by Anthony Albanese (ALP, Grayndler, NSW) on 34. Women members accounted for 15% of disciplinary actions since they first entered Parliament in 1943.  

On four measures of disorderly behaviour (number of disciplinary actions, number of sitting weeks in which a member was disciplined, number of days when four or more members were disciplined, number of different members disciplined), the Rudd/Gillard Parliaments (42nd and 43rd, 2008–2013) were more disorderly than the Howard Parliaments (38th to 41st, 1996–2007). The most disorderly Parliament was the 43rd. 


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

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