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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 22 September 2010) . . Page.. 4312 ..

Interjection—ruling by Speaker

MR SESELJA: Mr Speaker, I seek clarification on your earlier ruling which referenced Mr Coe’s comments. There are a couple of things, if you could? One, I am not exactly sure which comments you were referring to but there seemed to be an implication that Mr Coe had said something inappropriate. I did not hear him say anything inappropriate. I think it would certainly be helpful for Mr Coe and others if anything that was said was identified so that if it is inappropriate it can be withdrawn.

Secondly, I would seek further clarification of your ruling which seemed to be suggesting, from my understanding, that interjections of a policy nature are reasonable but others are not. That seems a significant departure from debates in this place, on both sides, and it would appear to set a very new standard for debate in this place. I would seek some detail on that and particularly in relation to the comments about Mr Coe. I certainly was close to Mr Coe and did not hear anything inappropriate in what he said. And if he did say something inappropriate it might be better for everyone if it is identified so that it can be withdrawn if indeed it is inappropriate.

MR SPEAKER: Certainly. I will make a general observation. The distinction I was seeking to draw in the ruling I made was between what I do consider to be genuine political comment and simple, personal jibes. This goes to your second point to some extent.

In the specific example—and I do not think it is a matter that needs to be withdrawn specifically—Mr Coe had asked the question and, as the Chief Minister paused to collect his thoughts when he stood up, Mr Coe commented across the chamber something along the lines of “phone a friend”. I consider that to be a fairly unnecessary personal jibe. I think it adds nothing to the quality of political discourse in this place and it can in no way be judged to be part of holding the government to account. It was simply derogatory.

I compare it to the subsequent question where Mr Corbell was asked about the Cotter Dam and comments were made about “triple the cost” et cetera. I consider that to be more relevant to debate in this place.

Mr Coe’s example, to be fair, is not the worst I have heard. It was simply a trigger point that reminded me that, I guess, we had reached a cumulative point that it was an appropriate moment for the Speaker to intervene and give an indication of expectations for conduct in this chamber.

You believe that drawing a distinction between personal jibes and political commentary is a new standard for this place. I certainly believe it is an acceptable standard. It is a standard I wish to operate to. If members do have concerns about that, I would be happy to receive feedback probably outside the chamber and I am happy to take the conversation up in the administration and procedure committee if there is significant concern. But it is my view, as Speaker with responsibility for upholding acceptable behaviour in this chamber, that it is an appropriate distinction to draw.

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