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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1878

Madam ACTING SPEAKER —Earlier today the Leader of the National Party (Mr Sinclair) raised a matter of privilege. He referred to a notice displayed in the Parliament House post office advising of a union ban on all mail dispatches, including priority paid and express courier mail, to Queensland until 13 May 1985. My duty is to decide whether the facts, as presented, constitute prima facie evidence of a breach of privilege.

The particular circumstances applying in the matter raised by the right honourable gentleman, as I understand them, are that union bans have been placed in respect of the conveyance of all mail to Queensland. These actions are not, I understand, directed in any particular way at members of parliament. The situation is rather that members, along with other people in the community, may be affected. Members are thus not being subjected to particular action in their capacity as members.

I have had recourse to the records of our own Parliament and to those of the United Kingdom House of Commons to assist me in this matter. Whilst I acknowledge that members may be inconvenienced by the actions in question, I am particularly aware of the general reluctance of the Parliament to extend the limits of contempt and of the general principle that the House should exercise its penal jurisdiction as sparingly as possible and only when satisfied that to do so is essential in order to provide reasonable protection for the House, its members and committees from substantial interference with their functions. Accordingly, I am of the opinion that the matter raised does not constitute a prima facie case of breach of privilege. I cannot, therefore, accord precedence to a motion in respect of the matter.