Wellington attacks parliament TV ban

Peter Wellington … “Parliament is the people’s house”.

Independent MP Peter Wellington says he is disappointed his notice of dissent on the TV cameras ban in the Queensland Parliament has been ruled out of order by Speaker Fiona Simpson.

The ban on TV stations’ cameras for nine sitting days was announced by Ms Simpson last week.

Mr Wellington tried to move dissent from the action, but after taking legal advice Ms Simpson ruled this out of order.

The cameras have been suspended as punishment for videoing a demonstration in the public gallery in June.

The rules on TV access to parliament prohibit shots of the public gallery. The demonstration, resulting in protesters being ejected from the gallery, was during debate on the Government’s changes to legislation passed by the previous parliament to permit the registration of same-sex civil unions.

Mr Wellington told Newsbytes this week he was disappointed his dissent motion was unsuccessful and he believed the ban was unprecedented.

“My understanding is this is the first time in the history of the Queensland parliament that a Speaker has chosen to penalise the independent media for showing some footage after the event about what happened in the public gallery because of concern that showing of that footage might prompt some people to misbehave in the future,” he said.

Mr Wellington also opposed increased penalties for people speaking from the public gallery.

“Parliament is the people’s house. People should be able to go into the gallery and observe what is happening,” he said.

“Whenever someone has spoken out in the gallery after they’re warned, they’ve simply been removed.

“I see no reason why that can’t happen again, and I don’t believe there’s a need to increase penalties for people who choose to speak out from the public gallery.”

Ms Simpson told MPs last week she would order a thorough independent safety and security review of the chamber and parliamentary precinct because the media breach could reasonably be expected to contribute to future public safety issues.

Parliamentary media gallery president Patrick Condren of Channel 7 said he was surprised at the delayed response to the June 21 broadcasts of public gallery protests on amendments to the civil unions bill.

Options were canvassed during a brief meeting with a member of the Speaker’s office last Wednesday afternoon, Mr Condren said.

“Ideally, we would talk to Speaker Simpson about our interpretation of the rules,” he said.

“We would do Speaker Simpson the courtesy of talking with her first, not a news agency.”

In her statement to parliament last Wednesday, Ms Simpson described the policy breach as “an aggravated one” as “there were reminders given by the Speaker and her delegates that footage of the public gallery should not be recorded, nor should it be broadcast”.

Mr Condren said earlier this year Ms Simpson stated an intent to review the media access policy but there had been no follow-up.

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