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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4419

The PRESIDENT (12:40 PM) —I will now address matters that were raised in the Senate on the last day of sitting, 25 June 2009.

On 25 June 2009 three questions of order were raised for my consideration.

Just before question time Senator Bob Brown referred to the vote on the motion to refer a matter to the Privileges Committee. Senator Parry took a point of order to the effect that Senator Brown was reflecting on a vote of the Senate.

The prohibition in standing order 193(1) against reflecting on a vote of the Senate is not interpreted as preventing a senator from arguing that a decision of the Senate was wrong or mistaken and should be reconsidered. The word ‘reflect’ in the standing order means reflect within the meaning of the word used elsewhere in that standing order—that is, to use unparliamentary language with reference to a decision of the Senate. Senator Brown’s remarks were therefore not out of order.

During question time a point of order was taken in relation to a phrase used by Senator Fielding in a question he asked. Senator Fielding referred to a person accused of a criminal offence ‘still living freely in Australia, no less than two kilometres away from the family of the boy whom he bashed to death with the government’s full knowledge and consent’. A point of order was taken on the basis that Senator Fielding appeared to be making an accusation that someone was bashed to death with the government’s consent. It is clear to me that Senator Fielding meant to say that the person was still living in Australia with the government’s consent and that there was an unintended ambiguity in the way his question was worded.

After question time Senator Bob Brown referred to a statement by Senator Abetz concerning Senator Abetz’s vote on the matter of the reference to the Privileges Committee. Senator Abetz stated: ‘Given that the motion related to me personally, I thought that I should not be casting a vote and that a pair was appropriate.’ Senator Brown asked me to consider whether pairing was in effect a vote. Pairs are informal arrangements between senators and are not matters of procedure for the chair to comment on, but it is obvious that where a senator is paired the senator’s absence from a vote is cancelled out by the agreed absence of another senator. I should state, however, that there is nothing in the rules of the Senate that prevented Senator Abetz from voting on the motion concerned.