Chapter 29 - Visitors

175  Conduct of visitors

  1. Visitors may attend, in the galleries provided, a sitting of the Senate.
  2. A person other than a senator, a clerk at the table or an officer attending on the Senate may not:
    1. attend a meeting of the Senate in private session; or
    2. enter any part of the Senate chamber reserved for senators while the Senate is sitting.
  3. Paragraph (2) does not apply in respect of a senator breastfeeding an infant.
  4. The Usher of the Black Rod shall, subject to any direction by the Senate or the President, take into custody any person who enters any part of the chamber reserved for senators while the Senate is sitting, or causes a disturbance in or near the chamber, and a person so taken into custody shall be discharged out of custody in accordance with an order of the Senate.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SOs 369, 370 and 371 (corresponding to paragraph (2)) and 435 (corresponding to paragraph (4)) but renumbered as SOs 365, 366, 367 and 430, respectively, for first printed edition

Amended: 13 May 2003, J.1774 (addition of paragraph (3) relating to senators breastfeeding infants)

1989 revision: Old SOs 379, 380 and 381 combined into one and rewritten as paragraph (2); old SO 445 relocated from chapter XXXIV (Conduct of senators and rules of debate); renumbered as SO 175; paragraph (1) added to make existing practice explicit; language modernised and expression streamlined)


Advisers assisting senators

Advisers assisting senators, for example, with bills, sit in designated areas outside the area of the chamber reserved for senators (Photo courtesy of AUSPIC)

The 1989 revision recast a confusing and overlapping group of standing orders into the simple rules contained in paragraph (2). Paragraph (1) was not in the first draft of the revision, tabled in May 1988, but appeared in the second draft, tabled in November 1989. Although it is not referred to in the explanatory notes tabled with the revised draft, its purpose was clearly to make explicit the longstanding practice of the Senate and to complement the prohibitions in paragraph (2).

On 19 March 2003, Senator Stott Despoja (AD, SA) gave a notice of motion relating to the recently changed rules of the Victorian and ACT Legislative Assemblies which allowed breastfeeding of infants in the chamber.[1] Senator Stott Despoja’s notice of motion also recommended that the relevant paragraphs of SO 175 (then (2) and (3)) not apply in respect of a senator breastfeeding an infant.

The Procedure Committee, in its First Report of 2003,[2] indicated that SO 175(2) prohibited a senator holding a breastfeeding infant in the chamber. It was concluded that occasion for this could well arise now that there were young women senators. The Procedure Committee therefore recommended an amendment to SO 175 to overcome the problem by inserting a new paragraph (3).

Visitors may sit in the upper galleries on three sides of the chamber

Visitors may sit in the upper galleries on three sides of the chamber. The fourth side, behind the chair, is reserved for the press (Photo courtesy of AUSPIC)

On 13 May 2003[3] the recommendation of the Procedure Committee was adopted without debate and SO 175 was amended accordingly.

Senator Stott Despoja withdrew her notice of motion on 14 May 2003.[4]

In 2009, the Procedure Committee re-examined the amendment after the President requested that a senator take her young child out of the chamber during a division on 18 June. A majority of the committee was of the view that it would be undesirable to extend the existing exemption to senators caring for infants because of the uncertainty of the scope of the proposed amendment and the inroad it would make to the principle that the floor of the Senate is reserved for senators and officers in immediate attendance on the Senate. [5]