Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 3 Hansard (14 March) . . Page.. 525..
Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 74 and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour.
Sitting suspended from 12.26 to 2.30 pm.
Statements by members
Ruling by Speaker
MR SPEAKER: Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Stefaniak, took a point of order concerning certain statements made on 28 February 2007 by the Chief Minister, the Attorney-General and Dr Foskey. The Leader of the Opposition asserted that those statements contravened standing order 54, which requires members not to use offensive words against any member of the judiciary.
Firstly, as I pointed out in my ruling last week when I was requested to rule on a matter raised by Mr Smyth, our practice, based on House of Representatives Practice, requires that any request for a withdrawal must be made at the time the remark is made. As I stated yesterday, the request is now more than 13 days—and three sitting days—after the remarks were made.
I suggest that members be more prompt when they wish to raise these matters. In my view it is not desirable to make rulings on debates that occurred some time ago. However, as the matters raised are not usual, in that they relate to the judiciary rather than a member, I am prepared to rule on the matter. Page 504 of the fifth edition of House of Representatives Practice quotes the following ruling made in 1937:
From time immemorial, the practice has been not to allow criticism of the judiciary; the honourable member may discuss the judgments of the court, but not the judges.
Later, it states:
Judges are expected, by convention, to refrain from politically partisan activities and to be careful not to take sides in matters of political controversy. If a judge breaks this convention, a Member may feel under no obligation to remain mute on the matter in the House.
Odgers Australian Senate Practice, 11th edition, also offers some rationale for the standing order protecting the judiciary, stating at page 205:
The protection of judicial office-holders under the standing orders is based on the need for comity and mutual respect between the legislature and the judiciary, and the requirement that judicial officers be protected from remarks which might needlessly undermine public respect for the judiciary. The protection, however, does not prevent criticism of the judgments or decisions of courts.
This matter is a somewhat difficult one. Some members have suggested that the magistrate concerned has not refrained from entering into the political debate in arriving at findings in relation to the role of some ministers. Equally, ministers may wish to defend their role and rebut some of the findings of the judgment. On