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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18715

Ms GILLARD (3:41 PM) —Mr Speaker, my question to you relates to a remark made in last Thursday's question time by the Treasurer. I raised with the Treasurer that I would be seeking your guidance on this issue, but he has chosen to leave the House. In answer to a question from the member for Sturt on the Australian economy, the Treasurer pointed at me and said:

... with the shadow minister now intervening—

that was a reference to me—

want more spending and the shadow Treasurer—

a reference to the member for Werriwa—

wants to criticise the government over fiscal rigour. It is schizophrenic. Two spaces up the frontbench and we are into the height of schizophrenia in a political policy.

Mr Abbott —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There is no possible way that this can legitimately be a question to you. She is abusing the standing orders, and she is abusing the forms of the House. She wants to make an attack on the Treasurer which should not be made in this context.

The SPEAKER —The member for Prospect! I think I have already taken action against the member for Lingiari.

Ms GILLARD —Mr Speaker, it is a question to you. I am trying to use the minimum amount of time to explain it, but it is an important issue.

The SPEAKER —I am not interested in the time. I am interested in the content, and I am listening closely to it. That is why I have allowed you to continue.

Ms GILLARD —Sane Australia, a national charity helping people affected—

The SPEAKER —Minister, the member for Lalor has the call. I am listening closely to what she is saying, but I am having some trouble hearing her.

Ms GILLARD —Sane Australia, a government supported national charity helping people affected by mental illness, has received a number of complaints about the use of the terms `schizophrenia' and `schizophrenic' in this context, and it has stated:

The Treasurer's speech perpetuates the idea that schizophrenia means a split personality ...

The SPEAKER —The member for Lalor will come to the point of her question to me.

Ms GILLARD —Certainly. A spokesperson for Sane Australia went on to say:

Mr Costello's flippant use of the term “schizophrenia” as a cheap insult has itself insulted and hurt the hundreds-of-thousands of Australians who either live with this condition or care for someone who does.

The SPEAKER —I am having some trouble seeing what context this has with the chair.

Ms GILLARD —My question to you, Mr Speaker—

The SPEAKER —Thank you.

Ms GILLARD —is: will you consider the use of this language in the House, given the offence it has obviously caused to a number of Australians who are dealing with this illness and their carers? Having considered it, will you make a statement about the appropriateness of its use and, following that statement, call on the Treasurer to apologise?

The SPEAKER —The member for Lalor is well aware that there are terms that are deemed parliamentary and terms that are deemed unparliamentary. The chair has an obligation to allow the maximum amount of free speech in the House. I do not intend to take any action against comments made by the Treasurer in the context in which the member for Lalor has just outlined them.