Hard to take Australian politics seriously at the best of times but this is ridiculous.
Monday Dec 4 12:55 AEDT
Ridicule, belittlement and backstabbing may be an everyday part of exchanges in parliament, but senators have been banned from hugging visiting MPs.
Greens leader Bob Brown has received a stern letter from the Senate’s president Paul Calvert, after he hugged New Zealand Greens MP Metiria Turei on the floor of the chamber during question time on Tuesday.
Ms Turei had been among a delegation of visiting New Zealand MPs who had been granted special permission to sit on the floor of the Senate.
Spotting his old friend, Senator Brown approached Ms Turei and gave her a hug.
Senator Brown on Thursday received a letter from Senator Calvert, warning him that his actions were “disorderly”.
“On November 28, 2006, you approached guests who were seated on the floor of the Senate chamber as a special courtesy as a visiting parliamentary delegation,” Senator Calvert’s letter said.
“I reminded you at the time that it is disorderly to approach distinguished visitors in the chamber.
“If you persist in defying the authority of the chair, I will have to review the policy of allowing guests from other parliaments the courtesy of sitting on the floor of the Senate.
“I will also be likely to report you to the Senate for gross disorder under standing order 203.”
Senator Brown said Senator Calvert had “gone orbital” about the hug.
“He should concentrate more on real misbehaviour in the chamber as Christmas approaches and tempers fray,” he said.
“A few hugs will not go astray – I think they should be encouraged.”
Senator Brown said there was no rule preventing members of the House of Representatives greeting chamber guests.
A spokesman for Senator Calvert said it was disorderly to approach guests seated on the floor of the Senate because it disrupted question time.
“This has been ruled by the president on two previous occasions, and those rulings have been published and are well known to all senators,” he said.
“It is nothing to do with preventing anyone being ‘welcomed’. Senators are free … to talk to such guests in the lobbies adjacent to the chamber.
“But going up and talking to people disrupts the process of asking and answering questions, which is the purpose of question time.”
And I think if I remember rightly, this is the second time Metiria has gotten in trouble in the Senate. Last time either Bob or Kerry (or both), waved at her.