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Wednesday, 7 March 2001
Page: 25286

Mr HORNE (3:41 PM) —I have a question for you, Mr Speaker. During question time today it was quite obvious to members on this side of the House that a ballot was taking place on the other side. What concerns—

Honourable members interjecting—

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Paterson has the call.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Bruce!

Mr HORNE —It was obviously a show and tell ballot, by the way. The whole point is that, if a ballot such as this is going to be conducted during question time, it does nothing for the dignity and the decorum of this House.

Mr SPEAKER —The occupier of the chair has no interest in ballots on either side of the House.

Mr Beazley —You did have an interest in one.

Mr SPEAKER —I accept the interjection of the Leader of the Opposition. I respond to the member for Paterson by indicating that, as he would be aware and as I have noticed in the past, this is a practice that has occurred. It is not a practice I would encourage. There have been occasions in the past when my predecessors have had occasion to intervene because the ballot was being disruptive. That was not as I observed to be the case today. In fact, I was unaware of the ballot procedure. I believe there are a number of other matters in the House that detract from the dignity of the House in a more dramatic way than does the ballot, but I will keep this in mind.

Mr Reith —If I may, Mr Speaker, technically on a point of order on that matter: we have been conducting ballots for the whole time that I have been here.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr SPEAKER —I would remind a number of members of their status in the House.

Mr Reith —We have ballots; they have factional deals.

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the House will come to the matter.

Mr Reith —Seriously, Mr Speaker, I raise the further point only because you said it was a practice you would not want to encourage. I am assuming from that remark that, unless you felt that the process was disruptive, you do not have any other objection to it. I just want to make that point. Out of respect to the chair, I do not want there to be a ballot tomorrow and then there to be some question about whether it is fair.

Mr SPEAKER —I am happy to respond to the concern raised by the Leader of the House. I deliberately chose the words `I would not want to encourage' because I was wanting to indicate that I did not think that the frequency with which this occurs should increase. I do not believe that what happened today was disruptive, and that should have been self-evident from the remarks I made. There are, as I said, other matters that detract in a much more dramatic way from the dignity of the House.

Mr Leo McLeay —On a point of order, Mr Speaker: of course, if the government want to involve everybody, we would be happy to participate!

Mr SPEAKER —The Chief Opposition Whip will resume his seat.

Mr SPEAKER —I would remind the Chief Opposition Whip of his obligations to the House and to the dignity of the House.