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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 26 August 2010) . . Page.. 4015 ..

The Assembly voted—

Ayes 6

Noes 10

Mr Coe

Mr Smyth

Mr Barr

Mr Hargreaves

Mr Doszpot

Ms Bresnan

Ms Le Couteur

Mrs Dunne

Ms Burch

Ms Porter

Mr Hanson

Mr Corbell

Mr Rattenbury

Mr Seselja

Ms Gallagher

Mr Stanhope

Question so resolved in the negative.

Unparliamentary language

Ruling by Speaker

MR SPEAKER: Members, before we return to business, yesterday I was asked for a ruling on certain words used by Mr Stanhope referring to Mr Hanson in the course of the debate on the motion regarding Calvary hospital. I have reviewed the Hansard overnight. The relevant comment from Mr Stanhope was:

I am talking about … his commitment to antidiscrimination against gays and lesbians, his commitment to human rights and his commitment to women, all commitments that he has breached over the last two years … He has been homophobic, he has been sexist and he has no commitment to human rights.

I would like to take this opportunity to draw a distinction between what I believe is robust political debate and criticism and unparliamentary and offensive conduct in the chamber. In doing so, I would like to quote an observation made in the Senate by Deputy President Wood. This is a quote, so forgive the gender, the non-neutral terms:

When a man is in political life it is not offensive that things are said about him politically. Offensive means offensive in some personal way. The same view applies to the meaning of ‘improper motives’ and ‘personal reflections’ as used in the standing orders. Here again, when a man is in public life, and a member of this Parliament, he takes upon himself the risk of being criticised in a political way.

That quoted, however, in the current context, I believe that the use of the words “homophobic” and “sexist” is unparliamentary. Whilst members are free to criticise other members, policy positions or inconsistencies between their stated position and their behaviour, the simple use of such words in the context of name-calling is not fitting of the behaviour we should accept in this chamber.

On that note, I am concerned by the increasing level of personal attack in this chamber, something I believe has intensified in recent weeks. I consider personal attacks to be unparliamentary and unacceptable. As I have already noted, members should seek to draw a line between political debate and personal attack. I will increasingly turn to the use of standing order 202 to address this sort of behaviour in the chamber.

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