Independent television camera operators have been banned from the floor of Queensland Parliament until late August.Queenslanders should have the right to see what is happening in their Parliament, an independent MP said while questioning a temporary ban on television cameras in the chamber.
Nicklin MP Peter Wellington gave notice this morning that he would move a motion of dissent in Speaker Fiona Simpson’s ruling, which sees independent television cameras banned from the floor of Parliament for nine sitting days because footage of a civil union protest was broadcast.
“It certainly appears to me to be censorship, but I need to walk that fine line, otherwise the Speaker might … say you’ve criticised the Speaker and throw me out of Parliament,” Mr Wellington told reporters.
But Ms Simpson defended the ruling at the opening of today’s sitting, while flagging a broader review of safety in the public gallery.
Ms Simpson announced yesterday the temporary camera ban, citing a breach of media access policy, which states that events in the galleries are not part of the official proceedings.
The policy states that cameras should only focus on whichever MP has “the call” to speak. When there are disturbances in the gallery, the incident is not meant to be shown.
Last month, protesters disrupted proceedings in Queensland Parliament for about five minutes as MPs pushed through changes to water down same-sex civil union laws.
Dozens of protesters were escorted from the public gallery after they took offence at comments made during the parliamentary debate and disrupted proceedings.
Ms Simpson told MPs this morning the broadcast of footage of the protesters “demonstrated disregard for standing orders and the current policies” and could lead to public safety issues in Parliament in the future.
She said people in a democracy had a right to express their views, but this must be balanced “with the right of elected members to have the opportunity to have their view heard”.
Ms Simpson said it was unacceptable for protesters in Parliament’s public gallery to express their views such that MPs were impeded from debating the issue.
She added she was concerned about safety in the public gallery and chamber in the future and had ordered a thorough independent review of safety and security arrangements.
It is unclear at this stage whether this means safety screens could be installed as a barrier between the upper-level public gallery and the Legislative Assembly below.
Earlier, Mr Wellington gave notice he intended to move a motion of dissent in Ms Simpson’s ruling on television cameras.
Ms Simpson said she would take advice and consider the motion.
Speaking to reporters before today’s parliamentary proceedings began, Mr Wellington said he had seen a copy of the Speaker’s letter about the television camera ban.
“I believe Queenslanders have a right to see what is happening in their Parliament,” he told media.
Mr Wellington noted that Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie was among several MPs who commented about the protest in the gallery.
“When this debate was happening about the civil unions we saw the chief law officer of the state … standing up and speaking [about events in the gallery],” Mr Wellington said.
“So what we see is two rules and it’s ridiculous to me that in 2012, the year of the electronic age, for some reason we cannot have media footage of what’s happening in the public gallery.”
Ms Simpson said the official parliamentary broadcast feed would continue to be available during the temporary suspension of TV camera access.
But it is understood television networks have previously decided not to use the in-house vision, amid concerns that it is not of broadcast quality. A TV journalist said the feed was also not physically cabled to the TV offices.
In a brief statement yesterday, Premier Campbell Newman said the issue “was entirely a matter for the Speaker and that he was not informed of the action until after the media gallery were told”.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.