25 October 2003

A little constitutional nonsense...

The SPEAKER�Order! On behalf of all senators
and members, I extend to the President our thanks for
his address, and wish him and Mrs Bush a very pleasant
and successful time here in Australia.

Before I adjourn the House, all senators and members
will be well aware that under the standing orders
both Senators Brown and Nettle leave me no choice
but to name them, having defied the chair. Senators
Brown and Nettle are therefore named.

Mr ABBOTT (Warringah�Leader of the House)

(11.54 a.m.)�I move:

That Senators Brown and Nettle be suspended from the
service of the House.

Question agreed to.

I think this makes Senators Brown and Nettle the first members of the Senate to be suspended from the service of a strange unicameral body unknown to the constitution.

Thursday's proceedings were not a joint sitting under Section 57 of the Constitution. In fact the two houses have held joint meetings (as opposed to sittings) in this way on 5 occasions, to receive a mace from a House of Commons delegation, and to hear addresses from Presidents Johnson, Bush the Elder, Clinton, Bush the Younger and Hu. There are standing orders for a Section 57 joint sitting and for the opening of parliament. There are none for a joint meeting on other occasions. Just for the record, the arrangements agreed to for the joint meeting are available.

The only body that can suspend a senator is the Senate. A show of hands by members of the two houses is legal and constitutional nonsense, in keeping with much of what happened that day. John Howard is a desperate advocate of the monarchy. Apparently that means an invisible governor-general whose sole function is to disappear whenever the prime minister so directs.

It goes without saying, that a mere simple majority of both houses cannot alter the constitution and confer parliament's power on a body outside the constitution. But then it should also go without saying that the doors of the parliament should not have been shut by the presiding officers on the demand of the executive. That the opposition leader should not have been excluded from the reception. And on and on and on.

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