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Thursday, 30 November 2000
Page: 23110

Mr SPEAKER —There was I understand a one-minute ringing of the bells. In fact I am unable to explain to the House why there was a one-minute ringing of the bells.

Later in division—

Mr Tim Fischer —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I have just observed that there are a number of people outside the doors. I ask that you consider recalling the division.

Mr McMullan —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: what is the result? The standing orders require the result to be—

Mr SPEAKER —I do not have the result of the division. That is why I could not respond.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I ask for the result of the division.

Mr SPEAKER —As I indicated to the Leader of the Opposition earlier, when I was accused of ignoring him, I do not have the result of the division.

Mr McMullan —Mr Speaker, can I raise a point of order. My point of order is that at least two government members were admitted to the vote after you had required the doors to be closed: the member for Makin and the member for Mitchell.

Mr SPEAKER —I am conscious of the matter raised by the Manager of Opposition Business and in fact have been conferring with the Clerk about it. I call the Leader of the House.

Mr Reith —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: it seems to me—and on the supposition of an equality of votes—the circumstances are clear to everybody in the House, and they are that there was intervening debate but a one-minute division called. I did not hear all of the words of the Manager of Opposition Business, but obviously if that were the case there would be two courses of action available. I understood him to suggest that you could recommit the vote, which is not uncommon in the Senate, or that you could rely otherwise upon the general principle that for a vote to be carried a majority is required. Finally, without further checking my constitutional legal principles, I put it to you, Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER —The Chief Opposition Whip is out of order.

Mr Reith —To put the matter beyond doubt, Mr Speaker, you would of course be perfectly entitled to exercise a casting vote so that the matter is dealt with expeditiously.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, is it not a fact that the result of the division is 57 votes all? The division has been conducted in accordance with the requirements that you have laid down, with the bells rung to your satisfaction and the members who wished to vote entering this chamber to vote. It is 57 all, as we can all see here, Mr Speaker. That leaves you in the situation of having a casting vote. Mr Speaker, you are now in the situation of determining between the dignity of the House and your job.

Honourable members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —When the House as come to order, including the member for Prospect: I would respond to the Leader of the Opposition by indicating that I do not have the result at this stage. I merely indicate to the Leader of the Opposition that I do not have the result.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Lyons!

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Lyons will be dealt with.

Mr Tim Fischer —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Chair of the Main Committee, the Deputy Speaker, because of the intervening debate, repaired to the Main Committee for its resumption—

Mr SPEAKER —If I could, I would recognise you—and I now can, thanks to the member for Banks exercising some courtesy.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, as I understand it, the result of the division is in the hands of the clerks; the clerks are in a position to hand it to you. Mr Speaker what is the result?

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition understands that I am not in a position to pronounce the result of the division until I have the division sheets.

Mr McMullan —Mr Speaker, under standing order 203, when the count has been conducted, it shall be handed to you and you will give the results to the House. Now we have been waiting for more than five minutes. When are you going to apply standing order 203?

Mr SPEAKER —As the Manager of Opposition Business is well aware, the clerk makes the sheets available to the occupier of the chair, when he or she is satisfied that the division is accurate. I am simply awaiting that event.

Mr Reith —Mr Speaker, on the point of order: just prior to matters being brought to a head—I only put this to you in response to the comments from the Leader of the Opposition—the fact of the matter is that there was a one-minute intervention and we could see people standing outside. The fact of the matter is, Mr Speaker, not too much should be made of this. It should simply be dealt with either by the casting vote or by the recommitment. On that basis, Mr Speaker, that is obviously a matter for you. I would put to you that the simplest thing is for you to exercise a casting vote, which no-one doubts that you have.

Mr McMullan —Mr Speaker, on a point of order. There's the result. Enforce the standing orders, take it and declare it—

Mr SPEAKER —The Manager of Opposition Business is in fact being a little less patient than is normally the case. I had just finished hearing a point of order from the Leader of the House. The result of the division is ayes 57, noes 57. The question is therefore not resolved. I have the power, as the chair, to exercise a casting vote. It would clearly be inappropriate for me to cast a casting vote with the ayes, given that I believe that my original decision was entirely appropriate. It would also be, in my view, equally inappropriate to exercise a casting vote with the noes because I do not believe that I should vote simply to maintain myself in office. For that reason, under standing order 208, it seems reasonable to recommit the vote. Ring the bells for four minutes.

Mr McMullan —On a point of order, Mr Speaker, you call for a division under standing order 208 in the case of an error. There is no error.

Mr SPEAKER —The bells are being rung. There was an error.

Opposition members then left the chamber.

The House divided. [10.55 a.m.]

(Mr Speaker—Mr Neil Andrew)

Mr SPEAKER —The question is that the Speaker's ruling be dissented from. I appoint the honourable members for Corangamite and Hinkler tellers for the noes. There being no tellers for the ayes, the question is therefore negatived.