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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1238

Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (10:44): I am a little bemused by Senator Brandis's last contribution. I thought it was perfectly reasonable for senators to ask you for some clarification, as a couple of us have. I find it extraordinary. I repeat that the sixth-grade girls class from my daughter's school are here today and if Senator Cash were to stand up and graphically describe a sexual act, as she did last time, I would be a little concerned and I would want the chair to have the ability to deal with that—whether or not the government think they are making a cheap political point about the language used on construction sites and whether that was appropriate on a construction site. The very fact they are arguing it is inappropriate on a construction site would certainly make it inappropriate in this chamber in front of sixth-grade schoolgirls and schoolboys. Some of the language that Senator Wong has gone through, again, is not the sort of language in which we should be engaging in this chamber.

For the Leader of the Government in the Senate to essentially reject what I thought was a very reasonable explanation that you made—you suggested that we should also read it in more detail—is quite inappropriate. It indicates the standards that this government is prepared to go to. I do not want to turn this into a partisan argument. I am actually trying to turn it into a reasoned argument about supporting your ruling, and also to ensure that you still have the power to say that you think that sort of language is inappropriate in this chamber, if you believe so. It is a perfectly reasonable community standard that normally applies. You have applied it fairly. The government has pushed the envelope, pushed the edges of it, in recent weeks. I think the chamber is right to reflect on it and I think the course of action you have taken is entirely appropriate.