Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 22, 2023



Strangers Gallery Renaming

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. E.S. Bourke:

That the Strangers Gallery be renamed as the 'Public Gallery'.

(Continued from 8 February 2023.)

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (19:46): I rise to speak in relation to the motion to rename the Strangers Gallery. I thank the Hon. Emily Bourke for bringing this motion to the chamber. It is an idea born out of observations from students at Prospect Primary School during a visit to this chamber and to the House of Assembly. Our system of government was born of the Westminster system, which is steeped in tradition and custom.

It is important to acknowledge and be educated as to the origin of the term Strangers Gallery. The name 'stranger' was the term used for anyone in the UK parliament who was not a member of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. It is not born from offensive origins. By convention, visitors to the House of Commons were referred to as strangers. This word has been used in other parts of the Palace of Westminster, such as the Strangers Gallery, Strangers Dining Room and the Strangers Bar. It is not dissimilar to this place.

The earliest reference to a stranger in the Commons journal appears to be on 13 February 1575. Nonetheless, I can understand the intentions of the students to ensure that this chamber is an inviting place. Whilst we can seek to modernise, I would perhaps suggest to the government that there are so many issues, and serious issues, that our state is currently facing at the moment—things that significantly impact South Australians, things like the rising costs of living, the lack of cheap reliable power, the educational standards in our school, and let's not forget our health system.

Remember that South Australians were asked to vote like their life depended on it, only to see ramping experience a 98 per cent worsening in Labor's first 10 months of government. I would suggest that, perhaps if the government put as much effort into fixing these issues as they have to changing the name of our chamber's gallery, their ramping and hospital wait time statistics would be looking much better.

In closing, I would like to congratulate the young students of Prospect Primary School on their determination and action to achieve the renaming of both chambers in this place. Given this has already passed in the lower house, we see no need to create confusion, and the opposition will not oppose the motion.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (19:48): I rise to speak in favour of this motion on behalf of the Greens. As the honourable Leader of the Opposition has noted, many of the traditions in this place serve us well, are important and worth maintaining, but it is also important that we evolve as an institution. The students have rightly identified that the term 'stranger' is quite alienating in terms of its use here within the parliament.

This is a very, very simple change we can make that demonstrates that the parliament is, in fact, open to the whole community and accessible to the whole community. It is possible to have discussions around simple changes to standing orders whilst dealing with the myriad complexities we face here in our state, so I do not think that dealing with this is a distraction from ramping, the cost-of-living crisis or the other important issues we are dealing with here in this parliament.

I would caution the Hon. Ms Bourke though. Late last year, I proposed a very simple change to standing orders when I suggested that we might want to revisit the Lord's Prayer, and the front page of The Advertiser in response was, 'Greens ban God'. I am very concerned that the Hon. Ms Bourke may wake up to a headline tomorrow morning that says, 'Bourke bans strangers', so I do warn her she should be prepared for that.

I do think that as a parliament we are able to deal with these issues as well as the myriad other challenges that confront our state. Of course the Greens are supportive of this. It is a commonsense change.

The Hon. C. BONAROS (19:50): I also rise to speak very briefly on behalf of SA-Best on the motion to rename the Strangers Gallery as the Public Gallery, for the reasons that have been outlined by my colleagues and also for the obvious reasons behind the introduction of this motion.

I am told the word 'stranger' is derived from the old French word 'estrangier', meaning foreign or alien. As we know, in Westminster parliaments the word 'stranger' has traditionally been used to refer to a person who is neither a member of parliament or a member of staff—we do have tickets on ourselves in this place, don't we? The word does not convey inclusiveness, something primary school students who visited Parliament House last year were very quick to point out.

This parliament is not the first one to make the change. As we have heard, in 2004 the federal parliament led the way, replacing the word with 'visitor' via a revision of its standing orders. The Strangers Gallery in the UK House of Commons was renamed the Visitors Gallery in 2016.

As an aside, and something about which I was just having a side conversation with my colleague, and that has just been mentioned, we do have the Strangers Bar and the Strangers Dining Room. I know they are not up for change, but I really hope we take this opportunity to fix the grammatical error that exists on one of those signs. I have a real issue with apostrophes that are used in the wrong spot, and I can tell you there is one there and it drives me spare every time I visit. It would be nice if we could address the issue of the misplaced apostrophe that exists—

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. C. BONAROS: There is a misplaced apostrophe. I see it every time. That aside, the only other thing I have to say about that is that no doubt it can also be a very strange place to visit, but I think that has more to do with its diners than its name. With those brief words, we welcome the change the Hon. Ms Bourke has moved, and thank those students who advocated for this change. We look forward to many more schoolchildren visiting our Public Gallery—perhaps we could also take them down to visit the Strangers Bar and the Strangers Dining Room while they are here.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Bonaros, before you finish your remarks you might want to correct the record or inform me where the Strangers Bar is; I have been here for 21 years and I have not found it.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: Was it the bar? It is the Members Bar—I apologise.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you. I thought I was missing something.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: There may very well be a Strangers Bar tucked away somewhere in this building, Lord only knows; there are all sorts of things tucked away in this building. Anyway, I apologise and stand corrected; we are talking about the Members Bar and the Strangers Dining Room. With those words, I commend the mover of this motion and look forward to its passage.

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (19:54): I will not take up much of the time of the chamber; I would not want to waste anyone's time on the opposition benches. I just want to thank everyone who is supporting this motion: the Hon. Nicola Centofanti, the Hon. Robert Simms, and the Hon. Connie Bonaros. I am not sure if the Hon. Nicola Centofanti is supporting it or opposing it.

The Hon. N.J. Centofanti: I am not opposing it.

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE: Not opposing it—really strong words over there by leadership.

The Hon. N.J. Centofanti: I learn from the best.

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE: I do not want to make politics of this. It is very unusual for me that I do not want to make politics of this. From the very beginning, this could have been a much stronger motion, but what I was seeking to do was to try to get the support of the chamber, because sometimes we need to do things that are bigger than politics. If we can engage one child, one student, one person who has never set foot in this parliament before and they feel like they are welcomed, that they can make change simply by advocating and being part of democracy, that is a big win.

When we have people into this parliament and when they walk past our parliament and they see it as their home and can feel like they have participated in part of this home, I think it is a big win for us as politicians. It is really important to be able to achieve this, because it sends an important message to every future school student who comes through the doors of this parliament, every future adult, teenager or whoever, that you can change this parliament and you can change it for the better.

We have seen that multiple times, with the flags, the Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag in the lower house, and we are hopefully going to see it in this chamber. We have seen in the lower house chamber that when you do the right thing and advocate, campaign, lobby your local MPs, you can make change. Thank you to everyone who has supported it or not supported it. I look forward to not seeing the Strangers sign up there anymore.

Motion carried.