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Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Page: 8985

The PRESIDENT (14:05): Before we move to questions without notice, I'd like to bring a matter back to the chamber. Yesterday, I undertook to review two points of order taken in relation to a supplementary question from Senator McKim to the Minister for Employment, representing the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Cash. The Attorney-General took a point of order to the effect that the rhetoric employed by Senator McKim went beyond the bounds of acceptability or decency of this chamber. While I agree that the language was inflammatory, I do not consider it was out of order. However, I would remind senators that, if a senator employs provocative language in asking a question, they cannot complain when a minister uses similarly charged language in response. As President Parry told the Senate in February last year, if a question contains a political barb, a minister is entitled, while remaining relevant and within the standing orders, to return the compliment.

Senator Bernardi took a separate point of order about the use of language which carried the imputation that a minister lied. Under standing order 193, any such imputation is highly disorderly. The fact that such imputation is contained in a question such as, 'Who is lying: you or the United Nations?' does not shield the language from the standing orders. Senator Bernardi suggested that the questions should have been ruled out of order. I don't agree, since elements of the question were in order. However, I did say at the time that I could not hear all of the question. While I don't intend to go back and revisit the matter today, I will keep a keen ear out for such language in the future.