Home > Current Affairs, Politics - Domestic, The EYE-BALL Opinion > EYE-BALL Opinion – The Australian Parliament – Question Time – Standing Orders – and the abuse of –

EYE-BALL Opinion – The Australian Parliament – Question Time – Standing Orders – and the abuse of –

February 17, 2013
The-EYE-BALL-Opinion-Header-2

Latest ‘EYE-BALL Opinion’ Posts:


– 7th Feb – Telstra Corp and their Bigpond service – again failing to respect their customers …


– 6th Feb – Former Attorney General Nicola Roxon and her … Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 –


– 5th Feb – Story 1: Election bets raise corruption issue again – – Story 2: Prime Minister interferes in FOI request


– 5th Feb – Obeid [Senior] Testimony – ALP doomed for years over endemic corruption issues –


– 5th Feb – ALP MP’s are divorced bedfellows – Simon Crean shows frighteningly poor judgement  –


– 4th Feb – Craig Thompson – his enemies grow – Brilliant Op Ed story by Paul Sheehan –


– 4th Feb – Government Policies in the Technology Age – Computer spend poor judgement –


– 3rd Feb – How close are we to Spain – Corruption leads to riots –


– 3rd Feb – Government a shambles – Gillard desperate – Whitlam era revisited …


– 30th Jan – Gillard clearly rattled by AWU scandal – does not want the Opposition pursuing her AWU involvement …


– 30th Jan – An AWU Scandal Review – including Alan Jones and Mike Smith Interviews –


– 28th Jan – Communications Minister Conroy  needs a POKE – one that will make him stand tall and take notice –


– 23rd Jan – A new low – Gillard buying Aboriginal Votes
– The fairness [or not] in Nova Peris’s appointment –


– 16th Jan – Claims of Climate Change Answers – Akin to Lucifer and the evil men do –


– 14th Jan – ALP Backbencher Andrew Leigh adds himself to the Idiot Brigade


– 13th Jan – 2013 Geo Political & Economic Predictions – Global uncertainty at post 9/11 high –


– 3rd Jan – Paul Howes joins the ‘idiot’ crowd  –
– He sees ‘lower interest rates’ as the answer –


– 27th Dec – Climate Change & The Human Factor  – The Silent Debate nobody wants to talk about –


– 17th Dec – American Gun Laws – will to change is just not there for Legislators


– 15th Dec – “International men of Mystery” – An Australian modern-day Bank Heist story –


– To see more EYE-BALL ‘Opinion’ posts:

click here …


Title:
– The Australian Parliament –
–  Question Time – Standing Orders – and the abuse of –
| Author: EYE-BALL Opinion | 17th Feb 2013 |
After another fortnight of frustrating Parliamentary ‘Question Time’ – there comes a time where the rules governing the conduct of the  ‘House Question Time’ needs to be reviewed with an agenda to make the conduct of MP’s, and the relevance of responses more accountable.

An Observation:

The belief is that a group and nondescript lawyers have bought their own ‘waffle’ of words into the parliamentary process.  As a result our Parliament has descended to be the most invective of debate forums anywhere in Australia.

If one chooses to watch ‘Question Time’, is has become a convention for unsuccessful lawyers who have hijacked our Parliamentary process, and used as an opportunity to stroke their own egos.

Do any of them watch replays of themselves and their behaviour, do they seek objective opinion about their performances?

A great number of these ALP MP’s are Union appointed.  They are throw aways from the private sector – failed lawyers who could not make it in the private sector.

They are now infecting our Government and its process with their ‘lawyer-squawk’. Any any Magistrate, Judge, or High Court Justice would admonish them for being – ‘in contempt of court’, ‘misconduct’, ‘out of order’, ‘abuse of privilege’, and in some cases ‘criminally negligent’.

If they’re allowed to continue to Govern, they will lead this Nation down a path that places the population as accountable and responsible for this Government’s poor management.

Some examples:

  1. The Prime Minister was a lawyer – now unable to practice Law again because of the AWU scandal and the escape route she took to avoid criminal justice.
  2. Sitting beside her in Cabinet is another partner in that crime – Nicola Roxon,  who Gillard appointed as Attorney General to replace a lawyer – Robert McClelland – who opposed Gillard’s Law firm in the AWU scandal, Roxon’s hands are all over the Slipper/Ashby intervention and cover-up, the disaster that is the ‘Human Rights and Anti Discrimination Bill 2012 – and the lawyer who took over the Gillard AWU file when her employer – Maurice Blackburn Lawyers – poached the real AWU legal business from Slater and Gordon.
  3. The Treasurer Wayne Swan’s monumental misrepresentation of the Treasury’s current financial position.  He claimed a budget surplus was still achievable as late as Nov 2012 in the mid-term update.  It has been revealed since that at the time, the budget position was well above $10 billion in deficit.   Mr Swan had to have known this then financial position, yet in his mid-year update, he only revised the projected budget surplus down from $1.5 billion, to $ 1 billion.   The budget position at the end of December ’12, now stands at a $22 billion deficit.  This collective represents gross incompetence, and Swan’s failure to update the ‘House’ about the rapid deterioration of the 2012-13 financial position relative to the May budget forecast – and if he was a public Company Director with responsibilities to the financial performance of said public listed company – his negligence and actions would have him facing securities criminal charges.

This is the caliber of our MP’s, The PM, The Treasurer, the then AG – the big three positions in the Government.   All without morals, without integrity,  without backgrounds, without the intelligence that qualify them, and without the experience or  knowledge base to allow them to Govern this Nation effectively.

The weakness of our MP’s is duplicated by the rules they have written for themselves that make their task as Leaders of our Nation easier and less accountable.   To give weight to this debate – an examination of the current ‘Standing Orders’ has concluded – see below:

House of Representatives – ‘Standing Orders’:

They’re just a few – but the ‘Standing Orders’ is a protocol outlining the conduct of the House. It is the guideline in which The Speaker must adjudicate when it comes to the conduct of wayward Members. It is important to know what those rules are when it comes to ‘Question Time’ when the House is at its rowdiest … some of the rules The Speaker has at their disposal are produce below …

Latest Version – last updated 2010 …

[97] – Daily Question Time

  1. Question Time shall begin at 2 pm on each sitting day, at which time the Speaker shall interrupt any business before the House and call on questions without notice.
  2. The business interrupted shall be dealt with in the following manner:
    1. if a division is in progress at the time, the division shall be completed and the result announced; or
    2. the Speaker shall set the time for resumption of debate.

[98] – Questions to Ministers

  1. A Member may ask a question in writing of a Minister (but not a Parliamentary Secretary), to be placed on the Notice Paper for written reply.
  2. During Question Time, a Member may orally ask a question of a Minister (but not a Parliamentary Secretary), without notice and for immediate response.
  3. A Minister can only be questioned on the following matters, for which he or she is responsible or officially connected:
    1. public affairs;
    2. administration; or
    3. proceedings pending in the House.
  4. Questioners must not ask Ministers:
    1. for an expression of opinion, including a legal opinion; or
    2. to announce government policy, but may seek an explanation about the policy and its application, and may ask the Prime Minister whether a Minister’s statement in the House represents government policy.

During Question Time, a Member may ask a question orally of another Member who is not a Minister (or Parliamentary Secretary). Questions must relate to a bill, motion, or other business of the House or of a committee, for which the Member asked is responsible.

[100] – Rules for questions – [see below for 2003 version.]

The following general rules apply to all questions:

  1. Questions must not be debated.
  2. A question fully answered must not be asked again. This clause was added to the 2003 draft of Standing Orders.
  3. For questions regarding persons:
    1. questions must not reflect on or be critical of the character or conduct of a Member, a Senator, the Queen, the Governor-General, a State Governor, or a member of the judiciary: their conduct may only be challenged on a substantive motion; and
    2. questions critical of the character or conduct of other persons must be in writing.
  4. Questions must not contain:
    1. statements of facts or names of persons, unless they can be authenticated and are strictly necessary to make the question intelligible;
    2. arguments;
    3. inferences;
    4. imputations;
    5. insults;
    6. ironical expressions; or
    7. hypothetical matter.
  5. Questions must not refer to debates in the current session, or to proceedings of a committee not reported to the House.
  6. The duration of each question is limited to 45 seconds. This clause was added to the 2003 draft of Standing Orders.

[101] – Speaker’s discretion about questions

The Speaker may:

  1. direct a Member to change the language of a question asked during Question Time if the language is inappropriate or does not otherwise conform with the standing orders;
  2. allow supplementary questions to be asked to clarify an answer to a question asked during Question Time; and
  3. change the language of a question in writing if the language is inappropriate or does not otherwise conform with the standing orders.

Replies to questions

[104] – Answers

  1. An answer must be directly relevant to the question.
  2. A point of order regarding relevance may be taken only once in respect of each answer.
  3. The duration of each answer is limited to 4 minutes.

The above rules were updated in 2010 from the version established in 2003 – the comparisons for the ‘Rules of Questions can be made using the 2003 version displayed below.

‘Rules for Questions’ – The 2003 version …

[144] The following general rules shall apply to questions:

  1. Questions cannot be debated.
  2. Questions should not contain—
    1. statements of facts or names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated;
    2. arguments;
    3. inferences;
    4. imputations;
    5. epithets;
    6. ironical expressions; or
    7. hypothetical matter.
  3. Questions should not ask Ministers—
    1. for an expression of opinion;
    2. to announce the Government’s policy, but may seek an explanation regarding the policy of the Government and its application and may ask the Prime Minister whether a Minister’s statement in the House represents government policy; or
    3. for legal opinion.
  4. Questions cannot refer to—
    1. debates in the current session; or
    2. proceedings in committee not reported to the House.
  5. Questions cannot anticipate discussion upon an order of the day or other matter.

Now we return to the ‘Answers’ section  under the current Standing Orders.

Replies to questions

[104] – Answers

  1. An answer must be directly relevant to the question.
  2. A point of order regarding relevance may be taken only once in respect of each answer.
  3. The duration of each answer is limited to 4 minutes.

[105] – Replies to written questions

  1. A Minister’s written reply to a question must be delivered to the Clerk. The Clerk shall provide a copy of the reply to the Member who asked the question, and the question and reply shall be published in Hansard.
  2. If a reply has not been received 60 days after a question first appeared on the Notice Paper, the Member who asked the question may, at the conclusion of Question Time, ask the Speaker to write to the Minister concerned, seeking reasons for the delay in answering.

Comment:

The most interesting point of these ‘Standing Order’ rules relating to answers to questions asked is the answer – ‘must be directly relevant to the question’.

What is frustrating is when you hear, Gillard, Swan. Shorten, Combet, Roxon, Emerson and other Ministers ‘waffle’ on in their own preamble until the expected ‘point of order’ is made on ‘reference’ – the next dilemma comes about because of the obvious bias The Speaker has toward the Government.  The Speakers actions and responses so often fail the House miserably.

This is where the conduct of the ‘House’ starts and stops.

The Speaker is appointed by the Government so you can expect that the Government will be given latitude in its responses. When the Coalition are in Government under the current Standing Orders – they will act the same way.

This is the ‘lawyer’ background of so many of the MP’s serving in the ‘House’ destroying our Parliamentary process.

When a Minister does not want to answer the question directly – it is a breach of the ‘Standing Orders’.  Why is the ‘point of order’ on ‘reference’ up to the Opposition to bring to the attention of the Speaker?

With the 2010 rule change – and with the new 4 minute time-limit on responses – wasting the ‘House’s’ time becomes a part of the tactics employed by the Government to avoid exposing weakness in the response to the question.

Rather then admit errors or policy failures, or give a single ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, Ministers are schooled in how to avoid admitting anything that would represent a direct response.  Again –  lawyer training is demeaning the ‘House’.

Minister’s use the podium time to ‘waffle’ into their own grandiose diatribe , often ‘blaming those opposite’, and doing everything to avoid a direct answer.

The Speaker has no right to allow this conduct and the fact that they do – diminishes ‘Question Time’ into embarrassment for all who attend and watch.

Politicians on both sides expect the same latitude when outside the Chamber and in front of the media – rarely is a media question answered with relevance or directness.  It is a failing of the media in allowing this to happen.  It is hard to measure what came first – the media going soft on MP’s and Ministers, or the Speaker allowing the same bad behaviour in the ‘House’.

An independent Speaker – i.e. not a Politician, but someone who has ‘High Court’ type credentials, and given the power to impose ‘monetary’ fines on Members who break the rules would soon bring the ‘House’ to a higher level of accountability.

Rather then ‘warn, name, suspend’ and the like – can you think that interjecting and wayward Members would continue to misbehave if they were fined – ‘2%, 5%, and 10%’ of their Parliamentary Salary for similar behaviour.   The rest of Australia is governed by monetary fines when they break Societal Laws – why should our Politicians not have the same deterrent factor?

Also – suspending a Member harms the constituents they represent, the constituents should always be represented in the ‘House’.

There is a conflict in these rules – recently Thompson was arrested and was due to face court during a sitting the ‘House’ is sitting because it would disadvantage the constituents that MP represents.  Yet – the ‘Standing Orders’ allows for suspensions for a Members bad behaviour.  This is duplicity in its extreme and a bunch of serious barristers and lawyers have not recognised this conflict.

UK Parliament Procedures:

Suspensions happen in the UK Parliament – but Members forfeit their salary entitlements for the period of their suspension. See UK ‘Standing Orders’ link here – see section 44-45 below … which states in part:

44.—(1) Whenever a Member shall have been named by the Order in debate. Speaker, or by the chair, immediately after the commission of the offence of disregarding the authority of the chair, or of persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House by abusing the rules of the House or otherwise, then if the offence has been committed by such Member in the House, the Speaker shall forthwith put the question, on a motion being made, ‘That such Member be suspended from the service of the House’; and if the offence has been committed in a committee of the whole House, the chair shall forthwith suspend the proceedings of the committee and report the circumstances to the House; and the Speaker shall on a motion being made forthwith put the same question as if the offence had been committed in the House itself….

(2) If any Member be suspended under paragraph (1) of this order, his suspension on the first occasion shall continue for five sitting days, and on the second occasion for twenty sitting days, including in either case the day on which he was suspended, but, on any subsequent occasion, until the House shall resolve that the suspension of such Member do terminate. … continues …

45A. The salary of a Member suspended from the service of the House shall be withheld for the duration of his suspension.

Alternative Question Policy:

Another process that diminishes the process of Government is the alternate question policy.

Why does the Government need to ask itself about its own policy’s?

The responses are heavy with propaganda as if selling and busking on a street corner – what is the purpose and legality of the Government asking itself questions – reference is made again to the Standing Orders –

Questioners must not ask Ministers:

  1. Questions should not ask Ministers—
    1. for an expression of opinion;
    2. to announce the Government’s policy, but may seek an explanation regarding the policy of the Government and its application and may ask the Prime Minister whether a Minister’s statement in the House represents government policy; or
    3. for legal opinion.
    4. to announce government policy, but may seek an explanation about the policy and its application, and may ask the Prime Minister whether a Minister’s statement in the House represents government policy.

This highlighted section also appears in the 2003 ‘Standing Orders’ version word-for-word.

The – ‘but seek an explanation about the policy and its application’ – is a broad scope and when it happens – the Opposition go to sleep as does most of the viewers.  The Minister responding to these ‘prop’ questions do so with gratuitous electorate recognition and thank-you’s to the MP’s asking the question.  The Government share these questions around to give all the backbenches face time on the TV broadcast.  It is so obvious …

The Government of the day has ample opportunity to announce and sell their initiatives and policy’s outside the Chamber.

Why has the ‘Standing Orders’ diminished in its intent in allowing Party propaganda to take up 50% of the Question Time session?

I am so sick of the ‘catharsis’ – it is not in the electorate’s interest – it lowers the intelligence standards of MP’s and is suited to the dumb-downed lawyers now filling the House as an alternative and lucrative career choice.  

Their mono-log oration skills, their diminished argument skills, their lack of quick wit,  their boring occupation of the podium diminishes our Parliament day after day.  Question Time is now as boring as watching afternoon ‘Play School – and many times much worse.   

In summary – Question Time is the opportunity for The Opposition to try and tag the Government, and the Government does its best to avoid being directly relevant to the question … as stated – a waste of time.

The ‘Disorder’ section of the ‘Standing Orders’:

The section covering ‘Disorder’ is produced below:

Point of order and Speaker’s ruling

[86] – Point of order

  1. Subject to standing order 104, a Member may raise a point of order with the Speaker at any time. After the question of order has been stated to the Speaker by the Member rising to the question of order, consideration and decision of every other question shall be suspended until the matter is disposed of by the Speaker giving a ruling thereon.
  2. A Member interrupted by a point of order must resume his or her seat.
  3. During a division, Members may speak while seated to a point of order arising out of or during the division.

[87] – Dissent from ruling of Speaker

If a Member dissents from a ruling of the Speaker, the objection or dissent must be declared at once. A Member moving a motion of dissent must submit the motion in writing. If the motion is seconded, the Speaker shall then propose the question to the House, and debate may proceed immediately.

Disorder

[88] – Use of certain names

A Member must not refer disrespectfully to the Queen, the Governor-General, or a State Governor, in debate or for the purpose of influencing the House in its deliberations.

[89] – Offensive words

A Member must not use offensive words against:

  1. either House of the Parliament or a Member of the Parliament; or
  2. a member of the Judiciary.

[90] – Reflections on Members

All imputations of improper motives to a Member and all personal reflections on other Members shall be considered highly disorderly.

[91] – Disorderly conduct

A Member’s conduct shall be considered disorderly if the Member has:

  1. persistently and wilfully obstructed the House;
  2. used objectionable words, which he or she has refused to withdraw;
  3. persistently and wilfully refused to conform to a standing order;
  4. wilfully disobeyed an order of the House;
  5. persistently and wilfully disregarded the authority of the Speaker; or
  6. been considered by the Speaker to have behaved in a disorderly manner.

[92] – Intervention by Speaker

  1. The Speaker can intervene:
    1. to prevent any personal quarrel between Members during proceedings; and
    2. when a Member’s conduct is considered offensive or disorderly.
  2. When the Speaker’s attention is drawn to the conduct of a Member, the Speaker shall determine whether or not it is offensive or disorderly.

[93] Member ordered to attend House

A Member who wilfully disobeys an order of the House may be ordered to attend the House to answer for his or her conduct. A motion to this effect can be moved without notice.

[94] – Sanctions against disorderly conduct

The Speaker can take action against disorderly conduct by a Member:

Direction to leave the Chamber

  1. The Speaker can direct a disorderly Member to leave the Chamber for one hour. The direction shall not be open to debate or dissent, and if the Member does not leave the Chamber immediately, the Speaker can name the Member under the following procedure.

Member named and suspended

  1. The Speaker can name a disorderly Member. Immediately following a naming, on a motion being moved, the Speaker shall put the question—
    1. That the Member be suspended from the service of the House.
    2. The question must be resolved without amendment, adjournment or debate.

Urgent action

  1. If the Speaker determines there is an urgent need to protect the dignity of the House, the Speaker can order a grossly disorderly Member to leave the Chamber immediately. When the Member has left, the Speaker must immediately name the Member and paragraph (b) shall apply; except that the Speaker shall put the question for suspension without a motion being necessary. If the question is resolved in the negative, the Member may return to the Chamber.

Term of suspension

  1. If a Member is named and suspended, the term of the suspension shall be:
    1. on the first occasion, for the 24 hour period from the time of suspension;
    2. on the second occasion during the same calendar year, for the three consecutive sittings following the day of suspension; and
    3. on a third or later occasion during the same calendar year, for the seven consecutive sittings following the day of suspension.

A suspension in a previous session or a direction to leave the Chamber for one hour shall be disregarded in the calculation of these terms.

A great number of these ‘Standing Orders’ are broken during every Question time session – the duplicity in the Government expecting everybody in the Nation to comply with Rules and Regulations, is compromised when our Leaders blatantly defy the Speaker and threaten her resolve and patience.

Members are often ‘in contempt’ and disrespectful to the MP’s opposite one another.

Please – if you found this story to your liking and would like to promote it to your social media contacts – i.e. Twitter, Facebook, or other icon linked account below – please use/click on your favoured Icon(s) to promote the story.  Thankyou.


Have your say where it counts: – contact your Local Federal Representative via the links below and let them know how you feel about this, or any other topic that you feel strongly about – or you can just post a comment below and let off some steam.

Links to Australian Parliamentary Website – MP’s


The EYE-BALL Opinion …

Advertisements
  1. barry
    February 17, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    One can only say ..”A country’s politicians are merely a reflection of it’s people ”

    Seems this saying is quite appropriate in Australia.

  2. The Parable
    February 18, 2013 at 10:32 am

    FACTS (Federation of Commercial Television Stations) need to consider the G rating given to telecast of parliamentary question time. Why is it rated G? G for Grose, G for ???

    The caterwauling is indecent, and a terrible blight on the Speaker!

  1. No trackbacks yet.
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: