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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1598


Mr HOWARD (Leader of the Opposition) —Madam Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation. After I have made the personal explanation I would also seek your indulgence to put a matter to you regarding the conduct of this House.


Madam SPEAKER —Would you proceed with your personal explanation, please.


Mr HOWARD —Yes, Madam Speaker. Over the past two weeks-in fact, stretching back over a period of a month-the Government, through both the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and the Treasurer (Mr Keating), and the Prime Minister has repeated it outside the House, has deliberately, maliciously and dishonestly--


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will withdraw those comments.


Mr HOWARD —I have to withdraw all of those? All of them? So in other words, I can no longer say the Prime Minister deliberately says something. Are there two rules?


Madam SPEAKER —You may, with every good will in the world, say `deliberately' did something but not `deliberately, maliciously misled'. The honourable member knows that.


Mr HOWARD —With great respect, Madam Speaker, the question of whether something is dishonest or whether something is malicious must be governed by the facts of the matter. I put it to you with every respect and every good will in the world that you are in no position to make some kind of ex cathedra judgment as to whether my assessment of whether something the Prime Minister has said is dishonest or malicious is correct or incorrect until you have heard me on the facts of the matter.


Madam SPEAKER —I am, however, in a position to point out to any member of the House, and so is any occupant of this chair, that there is an acceptable degree of language within the House to which all members must adhere.


Mr HOWARD —Madam Speaker, I would have to say with all the conviction we can muster on this side of the House that we believe, with great respect, a double standard is being applied regarding language in this House.


Madam SPEAKER —The honourable member is reflecting upon the Chair.


Mr HOWARD —If I am reflecting on the Chair, I withdraw that reflection, but I will not withdraw the very considerable feeling on this side of the House that you have not exercised to a sufficient extent possible the very considerable discretion that is available to you and the very sufficient and ample regard to which you are held on both sides of the House to bring to a greater level of decorum and purpose the conduct of Question Time. You constantly invite--


Madam SPEAKER —May I reply to the Leader of the Opposition in this regard: I recognise that he is upset. I am going to pass by what I consider to be a reflection upon the Chair.


Mr HOWARD —I do not want any patronising rulings, Madam Speaker.


Madam SPEAKER —In that case, I no longer hear the honourable gentleman.


Mr Lionel Bowen —Madam Speaker, I think it ought to be drawn to the attention of the Leader of the Opposition that, while he has indulgence at your discretion, to use that indulgence to cast reflections on you and the position you hold is outside any indulgence. It is no good talking about double standards or saying that you may make judgments that he does not agree with. The issue is very clear. I make the point that the Leader of the Opposition was speaking by indulgence.


Mr Howard —What are you doing at the moment?


Mr Lionel Bowen —I am trying to protect the Speaker. The Speaker is entitled to protection because--


Mr Sinclair —What are you doing at the moment? Is this a point of order?


Mr Lionel Bowen —On a point of order: If one wishes to take any action one does it by substantive motion. That is the point.


Mr Howard —Madam Speaker, may I seek your indulgence once again?


Madam SPEAKER —Yes. I was just looking up a standing order that I think is relevant to what brought this matter on in the first place. When the Leader of the Opposition was using the adjectives about, I am not quite sure now whether it was the Prime Minister or the Treasurer--


Mr Howard —Both.


Madam SPEAKER —I draw your attention to standing order 76, which states:

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

I am prepared to hear the honourable gentleman but I make it quite clear that if he intends to reflect upon the Chair he should move a substantive motion to do so.