Personal Explanations

The PRESIDENT (14:16): I have a statement to make in relation to some procedural matters before I ask if there are any petitions and continue with our standard procedure. On the previous sitting day, the council gave leave for the Minister for Human Services to make a personal explanation. I would like to provide clarification to honourable members on the standing orders and procedures for making personal explanations. Standing order 173 states:

By the indulgence of the Council, a Member may explain matters of a personal nature although there be no question before the Council; but such matters may not be debated.

Importantly, ‘indulgence of the Council’ has been ruled to mean the unanimous consent of the council. Members should remain aware that they have received such leave of the council and confine their statements to matters personally affecting the member. With regard to personal explanations, Blackmore states that:

 …such latitude is permitted as is essential to the explanation. Hence reference to a former debate, and even reference to ‘another place’ is not objected to. But a Member must confine themselves strictly to the matter of explanation…must not introduce other subjects, or discuss other Members’ remarks.

In relation to debate on questions currently before the council, standing order 175 states:

A Member who has spoken may again be heard, to explain in regard to some material part of the speech on which the Member has been misquoted or misunderstood, but shall not introduce any new matter or interrupt any Member in possession of the Chair.

Odgers refers to the use of personal explanations as procedures ‘to respond to some misrepresentation…in an earlier debate…or in some other form or publication’ and states that the explanation must relate to matters personally affecting the member. Such explanations cannot be used simply to respond to arguments raised in debate. To use the procedure, the member must claim to be misquoted, misunderstood or misrepresented.

As May’s Parliamentary Practice advises, it is expected that members wishing to make a personal explanation by indulgence of the council will first inform the President of the particulars of the explanation in order for the President to be able to assess whether the explanation remains within fair bounds. Members should also advise the chamber under which standing order (173 or 175) they seek to make the explanation. As May recommends:

The indulgence of a Personal Statement is granted with caution, since it may lead to irregular debates.

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