Opposition Leaders suspended from the House of Representatives

On 20 August 2012 Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, was ejected from the House of Representatives. Since Federation no Prime Minister has been suspended or ejected from the House, but Mr Abbott became the fourth Leader of the Opposition to be ordered from the chamber. Three other Opposition leaders have been ordered from the House but their suspensions did not proceed.

The circumstances of Opposition Leaders suspended or ejected from the House are summarised below. Relevant Hansard proceedings are linked to each bolded name.

Tony Abbott (Liberal, NSW)

On 20 August 2012 he was ordered to leave the chamber for one hour by the Deputy Speaker, Anna Burke, for disorderly behaviour. He had failed to withdraw an unparliamentary remark without qualification when asked to do so. He was the first Leader of the Opposition sent from the House under Standing Order 94(a) which allows for a member to be ordered from the Chamber for one hour without requiring a vote of the House.

John Howard (Liberal, NSW)

On 24 September 1986 he was suspended from the service of the House for 24 hours under Standing Order 305 for disregarding the authority of the Chair. He had refused to withdraw an allegation against the Treasurer that he had uttered a 'parliamentary lie'.

Robert Menzies (Liberal, Vic)

On 1 June 1949 he was suspended from the service of the House for the remainder of the day’s sitting under Standing Order 59 for persistently interjecting during a speech by Arthur Calwell. Despite intercessions from Mr Calwell, the Speaker insisted Mr Menzies be suspended.

Joseph Cook (Liberal, NSW)

In the early hours of 18 December 1914 he was suspended from the service of the House ‘until he returns with Mr Speaker’s consent and apologises to Mr Speaker (Charles McDonald)’ under Standing Order 59 for ‘rising and continuing his address to the House though called to order by Mr Speaker, and using language which Mr Speaker considered an insult to the Chair’. Later that day he sent a letter of apology to the Speaker and was permitted to return to the chamber.

Three other Opposition Leaders have been named or ordered from the chamber but their suspension/ejection did not proceed. Summaries of their circumstances are as follows:

Kim Beazley (ALP, WA)

On 24 June 1999 he was ordered from the chamber by the Speaker, Neil Andrew for one hour under Standing Order 304A for interjecting in a disorderly manner. The Speaker had previously issued a general warning and ejected three members. Michael Lee asked the Speaker to reconsider his ruling which he agreed to do if Mr Beazley apologised. This he did and was not required to leave the chamber.

Andrew Peacock (Liberal, Vic)

On 7 September 1984 he was named by the Speaker, Dr Harry Jenkins for defying the Chair. He had insisted on making a statement in response to Prime Minister Bob Hawke's additional answer to an earlier question without notice. Following intercession from Leader of the House, Mick Young, who was reluctant to put the motion for suspension, it was agreed that there was some misunderstanding about procedure, and so the Speaker agreed to let the matter rest.

Bert Evatt (ALP, NSW)

On 25 October 1955 he was ordered to leave the chamber under Standing Order 303 by the Deputy Speaker, Charles Adermann for having continued to interject after warnings had been given by the Chair. He immediately apologised and was not required to withdraw from the House.


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