Fact Sheet E1

Fact Sheet E1: Behaviour in the Chamber

 

Summary: The Legislative Assembly has rules to ensure behaviour and language in the Chamber is polite and respectful. These rules set out how members should debate and conduct themselves. For example, members' speeches must be relevant to the debate and they must not use offensive language. The Chair intervenes to restore order during debates if members break the rules. When there is serious disorder, the Speaker has the power to suspend members from the Chamber.

Rules of debate Electronic device etiquette
Members must show courtesy to the Chair Leaving the Chamber
Members can only speak from allocated places Suspending a member for a short period
No distracting behavoiur Naming and suspending a member for the rest of the day
Dress code in the Chamber  

 

Rules of debate

No disrespectful language / limits on suggesting corruption

The rules restrict how members can refer to members of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council, the Queen, the Governor and judges.

When members speak about other members, they must use their electorate or ministerial title, not their name. Personal criticisms (rather than, say, criticisms about members' politics) are not allowed unless the debate is specifically about the issue referred to.

It is inappropriate to suggest that the Queen or any of the officials mentioned above has acted with improper motives. This restriction covers allegations of any form of corruption. If a member wishes to suggest corruption, they must move a motion claiming the official has acted dishonestly. In this way, there is an open debate in which all views can be put, rather than corruption being implied but not fully discussed.

No offensive language

Members must not use offensive or unbecoming words about any other member of the Assembly. If a member is offended by words that personally refer to them, they can ask for the words to be withdrawn. The Chair can order the offending member to withdraw the words and may require an apology.

References to the Legislative Council

Members commonly refer to the Legislative Council as 'another place'. Usually, members cannot refer to matters being considered by the Council. However, if a member is misrepresented there, that member can give an approved personal explanation in response. Find out more: Fact Sheet B4: Personal Explanations.

Debate must be relevant

Members' speeches must be relevant to the current debate, and always addressed through the Chair. The Chair decides what is relevant.

Generally no reading speeches

Except for inaugural speeches or second reading speeches, members must not read their speeches. However, they can refer to notes during debate.

No displaying exhibits

Members must not display visual aids, exhibits or other objects during debate.

No references to matters before the courts

The Assembly usually does not debate matters before the courts. This is known as the sub judice convention. It prevents the Assembly prejudicing court cases.

Find out more: Fact Sheet E3: Sub Judice Convention.

 

Members must show courtesy to the Chair

At the start of a sitting day, members stand at their allocated seats until the Speaker has read the Prayer.

Members must not:

  • walk between the Chair and the member who is speaking
  • crouch down and then pass between the Chair and the member speaking
  • walk between the Chair and the table, or between the Chair and the mace while it is being carried by the Serjeant-at-Arms.

Whenever the Chair rises to interrupt a debate, the member speaking must sit down and all members remain silent. This is so the Chair can speak without interruption. Any other member standing in the Chamber must sit down when the Chair stands.

When entering or leaving the Chamber, members bow their heads to the Chair as a gesture of respect. Members also bow when crossing from one side of the Chamber to the other.

 

Members can only speak from allocated places

Members stand in front of their seats when speaking in the Chamber. Ministers, shadow ministers, former ministers and members in charge of a bill can stand at the table to make their speeches. When they are not debating, members should sit in their places rather than stand in passageways.

Members do interject during debates but can only do so from their allocated seats. However, the Chair will not allow persistent disorderly interjections.

 

No distracting behaviour

Members should not interrupt other members when they are speaking, unless to raise a point of order.

Clapping is only allowed when the Chair welcomes distinguished visitors who are sitting in the gallery. At other times, members say 'hear, hear' as a sign of approval.

Members cannot read newspapers or similar large documents in the Chamber, except when they refer to them in their speeches.

Apart from water provided in the Chamber, members must not eat or drink. Members are not allowed to communicate with people in the press or the public galleries.

 

Dress code in the Chamber

Although there are no written dress regulations in the Chamber, the unspoken code is that members dress in a way that reflects the dignity of the Chamber.

 

Electronic device etiquette

Members may have mobile phones and laptop computers in the Chamber, as long as they are set to silent. Members may not make or receive phone calls in the Chamber.

 

Leaving the Chamber

Members may leave the Chamber at any time except when a member has called a quorum, or when the doors are locked during a division.

 

Suspending a member for a short period

The Speaker or Deputy Speaker may suspend a member from the Chamber for up to one and a half hours. However, a member can still return during a suspension to vote in a division.

If the Legislative Assembly adjourns before the end of the member's suspension, the remaining time is carried forward to the next day.

If a member does not immediately leave the Chamber after being suspended, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker may name the member as below.

 

Naming and suspending a member for the rest of the day

If a member persistently and wilfully disregards the Chair's authority, or obstructs the business of the House, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker can name the member. The Speaker literally uses the member's name, for example, 'I name the Member for [Electorate], John Smith'.

A named member is usually suspended from the Chamber for the remainder of the sitting day, but can be suspended for longer. A suspended member must not re-enter the Chamber during their suspension. To be named is a serious punishment because the named member's electorate is, in effect, not represented in the Chamber for that period.

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