Yesterday, NSW Labor refused leave to allow me to move my motion on Free Speech in Australia (Motion No.599)
Such a hard done by MLC – on that particular day he only got to rise to his feet for two of the four motions he had listed.
But what about the principle of free speech and the Opposition's supposed hatred of freedom? Well, this is where it gets interesting.
The February 2012 ANZACATT Bulletin tells us that; "On 12 October 2011, on a motion of the Leader of the Government, the House referred terms of reference to the Privileges Committee to inquire into and report on whether the conduct of Mr Shoebridge in relation to this matter constituted an abuse of privilege, namely the privilege of freedom of speech…..In its report, the Privileges Committee noted that the House has not identified and adopted appropriate principles to be applied in relation to the exercise of members' freedom of speech. In those circumstances, the Committee concluded that 'any finding of abuse of privilege under present circumstances could be perceived as an unwarranted restriction on members' freedom of speech'. The Committee was guided by this precedent in considering the statements made by Mr Shoebridge. In its report of November 2011, the Committee found that given the paramount importance of preserving the privilege of freedom of speech of members, and noting that the House has not adopted guidelines on what constitutes abuse of the privilege of freedom of speech, it would be unreasonable to adjudge Mr Shoebridge guilty of an abuse of the privilege of freedom of speech."
Now, Phelps took part in debating the 12th October motion by way of points of order and unless he had ducked out for a pee just as the question was put he formed part of this – as did other Coalition MLCs and presumably all their Labor counterparts:
"Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
So it's a bit rich for him to be claiming to champion free speech, when he took part in what seems to be only the fourth attempt by the Legislative Council to compel a member into silence by way of formal sanction since 1989.
# For those interested in procedural minutiae, Phelps motion is recorded as "Notice given 11 October 2011—expires Notice Paper No. 64" on 23rd February 2012 and as "Notice given 27 March 2012—expires Notice Paper No. 91" on 4th April 2012.
Hansard Running Record displays "Obj. taken, item not considered as formal business" on 4th April.
# Thanks to Clarencegirl for finding a pdf of the ANZACATT Bulletin for me.