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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 20151

The SPEAKER (3:43 PM) —On 11 September 2003, the honourable member for Brisbane asked me a question relating to two matters occurring during the preceding question time. The first matter concerned a remark by the Leader of the Opposition which was drawn to my attention by the Leader of the House and which the Leader of the Opposition then withdrew. The member for Brisbane noted a passage at page 489 of House of Representatives Practice reporting a ruling of a previous Speaker that a request for the withdrawal of a remark considered offensive must come from the member reflected upon, if present. Standing order 78 states:

When the attention of the Speaker is drawn to words used, he or she shall determine whether or not they are offensive or disorderly.

House of Representatives Practice, on page 489, states:

The determination as to whether words used in the House are offensive or disorderly rests with the Chair, and the Chair's judgment depends on the nature of the word and the context in which it is used.

In the context, I consider my action was appropriate to the situation. It is not uncommon for a point of order to be raised by members who have not themselves been directly reflected on objecting to another member's use of possibly offensive words.

The second matter concerned a point of order by the honourable member for Fraser relating to the application of standing order 321 to the tabling of ministers' notes. As noted on page 573 of House of Representatives Practice, it has been the practice that a minister's notes do not come within the category of papers relating to public affairs, which must be tabled under standing order 321. Although the reference in House of Representatives Practice is to a 1976 ruling by former Speaker Snedden, subsequent Speakers from both sides of the House have followed the same practice. In this instance I did not ask the minister whether he was referring to notes as he had previously indicated that he was specifically doing so.