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Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Page: 800

The PRESIDENT (12:57 PM) —Yesterday, during the censure motion, Senator Bob Brown sought the protection of the chair from interjections. As all senators know, interjections are disorderly. The basis for this is standing order 197(1), which provides that a senator shall not interrupt another senator speaking, except to draw attention to a point of order or privilege or to call attention to the lack of a quorum; otherwise, a senator who has been given the call has the right to speak without interruption.

While interjections are technically contrary to standing order 197, in practice some interjections are tolerated if they are not disruptive or if they facilitate the exchange of views and arguments in a debate. However, the chair will protect from interjections a senator who asks to be protected. This principle has its basis in rulings of Presidents which have the force of standing orders.

When it appeared to Senator Bob Brown that he may not be getting that protection, he did make what can only be characterised as a reflection on the chair. In responding to a single word interjection by Senator Macdonald, Senator Bob Brown said:

That ignorance—which of course you are allowing him to continue to display, Mr Acting Deputy President, because you do not invoke the standing orders of this place, as you should—which is writ large in what he is doing and saying—

to which Senator Trood, as the Acting Deputy President, responded:

Senator Brown, order! It ill behoves you to cast aspersions on the chair.

As a reflection on the chair, the words were objectionable and therefore disorderly. Senator Trood was correct to insist on their withdrawal and I note that Senator Brown did withdraw them but only after seriously running the risk of being named for persistently and wilfully disregarding the authority of the chair. It is a basic rule of the Senate that order is maintained by the President or whoever is deputising for the President in the chair. Respect for the chair is fundamental to the effective operation of the Senate, a matter for which all senators carry responsibility.