Questions to

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Ms Carolyn Male
Member for Glasshouse, Queensland Government.

(sent 07.02.07)

Could you answer a few questions in respect to the recent decision
Parliamentary Chamber behaviour

The questions relate to the behaviour of politicians in Parliament:.

1:  How important is the perceived behaviour of members when in the Parliament Chamber?

2:  Is the Chamber supposed to be a place of dignity?

3:  Are politicians there to represent the people of the electorate or their political party masters?

4:  Do you believe that behaviour could be improved by having an independent speaker as is the case in England?

5:  What is the most important in debate – scoring political points or eliciting factual information?

6:  What do you think of the very recent behaviour in the Parliamentary Chamber?

7:  Are changes necessary to regulate parliamentary behaviour

8:  Do you believe that the presence of television cameras have any effect on Chamber behaviour?

Ms CAROLYN MALE, Member for Glasshouse and we thank her for that.

Thank you for the questions on behaviour of politicians.

As a past Deputy Speaker of the Queensland Parliament, and currently as Government Whip, I have always taken a keen interest in standards within the Chamber, and by parliamentarians generally.

Parliament is supposed to be a place of robust debate, and I heartily endorse the full and frank exchange of views that should take place.

Having said that, it should not be necessary to engage in behaviour which discredits both the institution and those who are engaged to represent the community in it.

There are many Standing Orders that Speakers and Deputy Speakers can utilise to control the debate.     These relate to rights to speak, parliamentary privilege, interjections, rules of debate and the like.    Sometimes there is a fine line between allowing full debate and having the Chamber dissolve into uproar.

I personally believe that everyone has a right to be heard, and that Standing Orders should be obeyed to allow that to happen.

When the Standing Orders are breached, and the Speakers’ directions are disobeyed, this is when Members are either sat down and not allowed to speak further or they can be ejected from the Chamber if their behaviour warrants it.     So the rules are there, and when applied fully they do work.

The presence of television cameras has not mitigated the behaviour of those Members who seek to use the television coverage as a stunt.

I believe that some of the incredibly poor behaviour that I have seen from the National/Liberal Coalition recently has been due to their desire to appear “tough”. 

I believe they have let their behavioural standards slip and this is a poor reflection on their leadership and on their Members.

Members of Parliament have the unique opportunity of being able to put forward their views and those of their constituents.     You would understand that it is not possible to get consensus on any issue amongst constituents, so Members of Parliament either vote according to their own ideas, or according to their published party platform.     As a Labor Member of Parliament I go to every election letting the people of the Glasshouse electorate know what the party platform is on a range of issues, and what I am promising to deliver for them for the following three years.     I follow this up with my voting patterns in Parliament.    I represent the people of Glasshouse by following up their issues and suggestions with Ministers and by working proactively to gain infrastructure and services for the local residents.     The two roles work hand-in-hand, but are two entirely different processes.

Just further to Q 4 - The English system of an “independent” Speaker works differently to ours.     For example, the Speaker prior to being elevated to the position is a Member of a political party.     Once appointed Speaker he/she becomes independent, and they do not have to re-contest their seat.     This is different to how it works in Queensland where no such protection is afforded to the Speaker.     Until the systems are entirely equal, I don’t think they can be compared.    But I don’t think either system provides for better behaviour by Members – that is an individuals decision to uphold standards of behaviour and decorum. 

Kind regards

Carolyn Male.   MP.   State Member for Glasshouse

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