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Friday, 15 November 2002
Page: 6475


The PRESIDENT (9:30 AM) —On 13 November 2002, during debate on matters of public interest, the Acting Deputy President, Senator Knowles, undertook to refer to me a question which was raised about the order of calling senators to speak. Senator Tierney was on the list of speakers provided by the whips, but was not present when he was due to be called according to the list. After one government and three non-government senators had spoken, Senator Tierney was called when Senator Murphy also rose to be called. It was suggested that Senator Murphy should have been called because Senator Tierney had `missed his turn' according to the list.

It is well established that the list of speakers provided by the whips is not binding on the chair but is merely a guide. The call to speak is allocated by decision of the chair, having regard to the practices of the Senate. One of those practices is that there should be a balance between the government and the non-government parties. The Acting Deputy President was therefore entitled not to follow the list but to allocate the call having regard to the principle of balance.

The result of the chair's allocation of the call was that two government and three non-government senators spoke, including two opposition senators and one minor party senator. While not a complete balance, this allocation was more balanced than it would have been if Senator Tierney had not been called. The decision of the Acting Deputy President was therefore correct.