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Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Page: 1934

The SPEAKER (15:16): Yesterday I was asked by the member for Lyne if persons in the public gallery who were disruptive during question time had been signed in by a member. I inform the House that bookings for the public galleries for question time yesterday were generally made by individual members of the public. Except for the first three rows in the central gallery, members of the public are able to book seats in the public galleries and do not need to be signed into the building.

I have been advised that the five people who were involved in disruptive behaviour from the galleries had not been signed into the building. I remind members that the first three rows in the public gallery are the ticketed areas. Members are reminded that they and others who sign visitors into the building are responsible for the conduct and behaviour of their visitors.

The disruptive behaviour from the gallery yesterday was totally unacceptable. I remind the House that admission to the gallery is a privilege, and people attending must adhere to certain standards of behaviour. Visitors are required to be silent and to refrain from attempting to address the House, interjecting, applauding or conversing. With the agreement of the President of the Senate I have banned the individuals concerned from the building for the remainder of this sitting fortnight.

Additionally, yesterday, the Manager of Opposition Business, the member for Sturt, asked me to request the member for Bendigo to withdraw a comment he made on Twitter during Question Time. As Speaker, I am responsible for maintaining order in the chamber and interpreting the standing orders. My role is to adjudicate on the proceedings of the House. It is not practical to extend this role to adjudicating on a range of matters incidental to proceedings such as private communications, conversations or use of social media when it is thought that they have come from the chamber.

To prevent tweeting would necessitate a blanket restriction on all electronic and communication devices in the chamber. Although this may appeal to some members, I imagine it would be strongly resisted by others. I do acknowledge that public communications emanating from the chamber are a recent phenomena which could impact on deliberations. This is something the House has only just started to grasp. If the House wishes to come to a more considered view on this matter, it may wish to use the avenues available to it, such as asking the Procedure Committee to address the question of tweeting or sending other forms of public communication from the chamber.

Members are reminded that any comments made on social media, even if made from the chamber precincts, are not covered by parliamentary privilege. While I cannot reasonably adjudicate on members’ private communications, I remind members they should have regard to the perceptions the wider community will have of any comment that is made by them, including via social media. They should also be conscious of their relationships with other members and seek to have a level of discourse that enables civil relationships to be maintained between members.

Finally, I inform the House that any use of social media by members reflecting on any occupant of the chair that comes to my attention, would be dealt with as any other comment made outside the House that reflects on the chair: as an important matter of order. I thank you for your attention.