Legislative Council: Thursday, March 21, 2024


Matter of Privilege

Matter of Privilege

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:20): I move:

That a Committee of Privileges be established to inquire into and report on the statement of the Hon. T.A. Franks made in this council on 19 March 2024 and whether Order of the Day (Private Business) No. 38 for Wednesday 20 March 2024, a motion for the establishment of a select committee on gender dysphoria, put forward by the Hon. F. Pangallo has yet been voted on.

I rise today very briefly to raise this issue and take an unusual step of attempting to refer myself to a Privileges Committee to resolve a matter of debate on privilege. I do so referring to the question time events of Tuesday 19 March, when, during the question put by the Hon. Frank Pangallo on the topic of gender dysphoria, he stated:

…I called for our own federal and state governments to introduce similar bans here but was met with silence, and as people in this place know the silence followed the Labor government voting not to support my proposed inquiry to examine—

At which point, I interjected and said:

Point of order: the member is misleading the chamber. There was no vote on that inquiry.

I note that, under standing order 182, members must not be interrupted in this place unless it is to raise a point of order. I also note that to raise a point of order to call attention to the council if one member believes that another member is misleading the chamber, it must be done at the time. So I certainly believe that my interjection was appropriate to following the standing orders.

The following day, the Hon. Frank Pangallo came into this place and, at the end of question time on Wednesday 20 March 2024, in a personal explanation, he stated:

…I stated that the Labor government had voted not to support my proposed inquiry into gender dysphoria.

'The Labor government had voted not to support it,' he goes on to say, then he states that he was meaning in the caucus of the Labor Party. However, in the language of this place, 'a Labor government voting not to support someone's inquiry' I believe would be interpreted by members of this place and members of the public as being a vote of this council. The Hon. Frank Pangallo then stated:

To wrongfully accuse me of misleading the chamber is a serious slur when the member should have and would have known the context of my comments had she shown me the courtesy to complete my question.

I reiterate: under standing order 182, it is entirely proper to raise a point of order and interrupt a member given the call by the President. I also note that I do not believe I wrongfully accused the member of misleading the council. If the member was misinterpreted and believes that more context was required, then that is different as an issue, but in terms of my actions to raise a point of order, I stand by them. I believe his words, that the Labor government had voted not to support his inquiry, would be rightfully interpreted by this council as a vote of the council—not a vote of caucus, not a vote of the PTA, not a vote of Rotary, not a vote of any other group, but a vote of this council. 'The Labor government voted' were the words of the member.

With that, I raise this issue because in this place in recent months we have had many issues raised that I believe have not met the standards that the community expect of us. Our obligations not to mislead the council are significant and they are afforded to us with the privilege of parliament. I believe it is a matter that deserves some airing and to be treated with the seriousness that should follow such an allegation. I do not do so to cause a slur on the Hon. Frank Pangallo, but I do find that the adherence to standing orders and the adherence to conventions in this place have slipped of late and I hope they can be restored by this process.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:25): I will be very brief and indicate that we will not be supporting the notice of motion on a matter of privilege that is before us. What precipitated this motion are statements that were made by the Hon. Frank Pangallo, where he referred to a vote having been taken for the establishment of a particular select committee. Clearly, because it is still on the Notice Paper, no such vote has taken place.

I understand and concur with comments that in this place we need to be measured and very careful with the words that we use. I think most of us here have said something that we had believed to be correct or we have said something that has had a different connotation to what we meant and we have corrected ourselves afterwards.

In this case, I think it is clear that there was not a vote that had taken place. It is still on the Notice Paper, but there is nothing that I think the honourable member who is moving the motion has done to transgress the privileges of this place that would warrant a Privileges Committee being established. I think we have not had a Privileges Committee established in this place since 1898, so it is clearly a very rare occurrence. Although it probably was not a particularly accurate way to describe the voting on a select committee, we do not think it warrants a Privileges Committee being established to inquire into the use of the privileges placed by the Hon. Tammy Franks.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO (15:27): I rise briefly on behalf of the opposition to indicate that we also will not be supporting the matter of privilege motion. As the Leader of the Government has pointed out, great importance is attached to matters involving privilege and it is my understanding that the last Privileges Committee in this place was in 1898. Obviously, there have been motions moved on both sides since, but none proceeded with.

I also echo the words of the Leader of the Government in this place that we do need to be careful about the words we use in this place in all circumstances and correct the record when appropriate, but we the opposition will not be supporting this motion.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:28): I thank the members of the government and the opposition for their reflections upon this. I am happy to discharge the motion if that is procedurally appropriate. I seek leave to withdraw the motion.

Leave granted; notice of motion withdrawn.