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Tuesday, 19 November 1974
Page: 2545

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I wish to say a few brief words on this matter because I think the adviser concerned was advising me at the time. We were debating the estimates for the Department of Urban and Regional Development and the adviser was from that Department. The Chairman said to me that he did not think the adviser should come in wearing a roll neck jumper. I told the adviser that the Chairman disapproved of his dress. The adviser said: 'Oh, does he?' It was not for me to tell the adviser to get out if anyone wanted him to get out. I saw a conference between the Chairman of Committees and the Clerk of the Senate, and they were peering around the little gateway near the door to find out what the adviser was wearing below. Apparently the discovery was that he was wearing jeans. This did not seem to be affecting anyone but what the adviser was wearing below seemed to offend the dignity of the Chairman of Committees.

Senator McLarenstated that I had spoken on this question on a previous occasion. At no time did I speak disparagingly of those who wanted to wear different dress. On that occasion I tried to trace the history of our mode of dress. I said that our mode of dress always had been determined so that we could distinguish ourselves from the working man, in effect saying that we did not work. That attitude has continued to the present but today there is some similarity in the dress of a senator and of a working man. In an organisation in which all members dress the same the higher gentry are distinguished by the stripes on the arms or the pips on the shoulders. This has been the framework of our dress all along.

The other matter I want to raise is in regard to those who want to wear shorts. If they believe they will look more masculine or more muscular, or if they believe they will be cooler they have full right to wear them. In fact, shorts and clothes sticking to a man in hot climates would burn him up. Two-thirds of the male population of the world wear skirts, not trousers. The idea that tight fitting clothes are cooler is unrealistic. In hot climates something hanging from the shoulder which keeps the sun off is the best idea. It appears that we want to keep this House a house of snobbery with only certain people being allowed in.

On the other occasion I accepted that the House Committee was laying down a code of dress for members of the House of Lords. I did not know that it was extended to cover anyone who may walk into the Senate chamber. I think we are stretching it too far if we make it apply to everybody who enters the chamber. We must be realistic. The man concerned has the mental capacity to be of assistance by advising me, irrespective of whether he has clothes on at all. The main consideration with regard to an adviser is his mental capacity. If the way he dresses offends an individual here, am I to be deprived of the advice he can give me? Is that to happen because his dress does not conform with the ideas of the senator in charge of the chamber at the time? I think we are going too far. Because I do not wish to display my legs I do not own a pair of shorts. Nevertheless, I give my support to those who want to introduce dress reform into the Senate chamber.

The PRESIDENT - In order to get this matter into perspective I will quote standing order 269 to the Senate. It provides:

Except as provided by these Standing Orders, the same rules as to the conduct of Senators and of debate, procedure, and the general conduct of business shall be observed in Committee as in the Senate itself, the Chairman of Committees being invested with the same authority as the President for the preservation of order; but disorder in a Committee can only be censured by the Senate, on receiving a report.

The report of the House Committee introduced on 2 December 1971 brings the matter into its correct perspective. It stated:

The Committee believes that rules relating to dress in the chamber should not be necessary-

I want to stress that there should not be rules- -and the choice of appropriate clothing should be left to Senators ' discretion.

There are rules with regard to clothing for the beach and rules for clothing for the boudoir, not necessarily worn on the beach or in the boudoir. Togs are made for the football ground. In each one of those areas there is appropriate dress. I do not think it behoves the Senate to prescribe the type of clothing to be worn on the beach or elsewhere, in the Senate.

Senator Cavanagh - What is the standard for an adviser?

The PRESIDENT - In my view an adviser should pay a certain deference to senators and they in their discretion should wear the dress that they believe is appropriate. The House Committee stated that the choice of appropriate clothing should be left to senators' discretion. Advisers are here by courtesy of senators, whether the Ministers want them or not. They are here by courtesy of the other senators and they should use their discretion in the type of clothing they wear.

Senator Cavanagh - This one did.

The PRESIDENT - It is a matter for his discretion. If the senator in charge of the chamber at the time felt that the adviser was not discreet enough he was entitled to use his judgment. I would not have made the same judgment. I ask honourable senators to use their discretion and -

Senator Poyser - Observe the rules.

The PRESIDENT - The rules call for the use of discretion and commonsense. That is all I am asking any senator to use. I think that Senator McLaren is quite justified in raising the matter if he feels aggrieved about the decision. On the other hand Senator Webster had the prerogative at the time to draw attention to the standing order which enables him to maintain a certain decorum in the Senate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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