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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13158

Questions Without Notice

Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth) (15:15): Madam Speaker, I seek clarification from you, but I will just put a little bit of context—

Mr Albanese: Madam Speaker, on a point of order on process: it has been determined in recent times that, where the Speaker has made rulings, the Speaker will not entertain questions on the detail of the rulings after question time and instead will do it in private or on some other occasion. The ruling was made by Speaker Jenkins and then confirmed by Speaker Slipper. I do not object to my friend the member for Wentworth raising his question, but I do think that such questions have been raised at too-regular intervals and that Speaker Jenkins was very wise to suggest that it is not appropriate to do so at this time.

The SPEAKER: I thank the Leader of the House. I will allow the member for Wentworth to pose this question. I think it is very valid, though I perhaps will not give him an answer on the spot.

Mr TURNBULL: I raised a point of order on the minister for climate change describing the opposition leader as having acted 'mendaciously'. My point was that 'mendaciously' means 'lyingly' and that the use of 'mendaciously' should therefore be objectionable. Your ruling was that it was only disorderly to use the word 'lie'. I respectfully draw to your attention that the House of Representatives Practice says:

… examples of expressions which are unparliamentary—

Citing May, which is the UK equivalent of the Practice, include—

the imputation of false or unavowed motives;

… … …

charges of uttering a deliberate falsehood …

So, if I say that someone is mendacious, I am charging that they have uttered a deliberate falsehood. That is what mendacious means. The Practice goes on to say:

An accusation that a Member has lied or deliberately misled is clearly an imputation of an improper motive. Such words are ruled out of order and Members making them ordered to withdraw their remarks.

That is at page 516 of the Practice.

I do not think that this place will be held in high regard if it is objectionable to say, 'The honourable member has lied,' but not objectionable to say, 'The honourable member has acted mendaciously.' These two sentences are completely synonymous, and—with great respect to you, Madam Speaker—the remarks of the minister were equally objectionable whether he used the word 'lie' or the word 'mendacious', and they should have been withdrawn. I ask you to rule on this—at your leisure, of course.

The SPEAKER: I think we need to draw a distinction between a ruling and advice given by the chair. That would be my only response to that for now. I thank the member for Wentworth and will report back to the House, as I think that otherwise we will go round and round in circles on this one.