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

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The passage of private members’ and senators’ bills through the Parliament

If, as is expected, Senator Dean Smith’s private senator’s bill, the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedom) Bill 2017, passes the House of Representatives, it will be only the 29th private senators’ or members’ bill to be passed into law by the federal Parliament since Federation. Read more...

Rotation of senators following the 2016 double dissolution

Following a double dissolution election, section 13 of the Australian Constitution states that the Senate must decide which of the senators will serve a full six-year term and which will serve a three-year half term and face election at the next federal election.  Read more...

Government losing votes on the floor of the House

On 1 September 2016 the Coalition Government lost three divisions on the floor of the House of Representatives: one motion to adjourn; one motion on closure of debate; and an amendment requiring the House to consider a message from the Senate immediately. Prior to this, the last time a majority Government lost a division in the House was in 1962. In the 43rd hung Parliament (2010-13), the minority ALP Government lost many divisions, mostly on procedural matters and private members’ motions. The votes lost by the Government in 1962 were as follows: A closure motion on 21 August 1962 A closure motion on 3 October 1962 Opposition’s dissent from... Read more...

So you’ve been prorogued – Common questions answered

On 21 March 2016 the Prime Minister wrote to the Governor-General to ask the Governor-General to prorogue Parliament on Friday 15 April and summon Parliament to sit again on Monday 18 April 2016. This Flagpost examines what proroguing means for the operation of the Parliament and the possible implications for the Senate’s consideration of certain Bills. Read more...

'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 member... Read more...

Which Minister?: Answering questions during Question Time

During Question Time on 5 December 2013, the member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, asked the Treasurer, the Hon. Joe Hockey, a question. Halfway through his response to the question, Mr Hockey invited the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Warren Truss to finish the answer. The Speaker ruled that this was in order and by doing so upheld precedence.While transferring the responsibility for the answer of a question seems highly unusual, House of Representatives Practice (6th ed., p.550) states that it is entirely in order for a Minister to transfer a question to another Minister and that it ‘is not in order to question the reason for doing so’.The Practice takes us back to 22 August 1979 to find preced... Read more...

Legislation and the financial initiative: what happened to the Opposition amendments to the Carbon Tax Repeal Bills?

The Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and other related Bills passed the House of Representatives on 21 November 2013 with no amendments. While this is not an unusual occurrence, what is notable is that Opposition amendments to the package of bills were not debated during the consideration-in-detail stage.The Speaker, the Hon. Bronwyn Bishop, made a ruling prior to the commencement of the consideration-in-detail stage of the Bills, that the amendments could contravene standing orders 179(a) and 179(b):179. Taxation proposals initiated by Minister(a) Only a Minister may initiate a proposal to impose, increase, or decrease a tax or duty, or change the scope of any charge. ... Read more...

Question Time: Questions directed to non-government members

In Question Time on 28 May 2013 the Leader of the House, the Hon. Anthony Albanese, moved a Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders (SSSO) to allow the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Tony Abbott, to address the House. The SSSO was moved to provide the Leader of the Opposition the opportunity to answer a question during Question Time – a rare and highly unusual occurrence.The member for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott, directed a question to both the Prime Minister and with the indulgence of the House, to the Leader of the Opposition, regarding the issue of man-made climate change. The Speaker, Anna Burke, ruled that the Leader of the Opposition would not be able to answer the question and would ... Read more...

Tweeting from the Chamber

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. Steve Gibbons‏@SteveGibbonsMPLooks 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 ... Read more...

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