The Speaker for the Federal Parliament House of Representatives, Harry Jenkins, has voiced support for the use of mobile devices and laptops during proceedings, but warned against mobile photography.
Jenkins addressed the issue at the end of Question Time in the house this week, bringing relief to the likes of Malcolm Turnbull, who has received criticism for the use of his iPad during sittings.
“Like Speakers Andrew and Hawker I have felt that members should be able to use laptops and mobile devices in the chamber in ways that enable them to make more efficient use of their time,” he said. “But in ways that do not infringe on the rights of others and the ability of the house to operate.
“The misuse of mobile phones and other devices has the potential to contribute to lowering the standing of the house.”
The issue stems to a photograph taken of Federal Liberal MP, Peter Slipper, sleeping during a speech delivered by Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to Parliament on 10 March 2010. The photograph was believed to have been taken by a mobile phone from a fellow member, though the source has not been revealed.
An inquiry launched by the Committee of Privileges and Members’ Interests later during March considered the possible inclusion of formal rules to prevent it occurring again. However, the inquiry’s findings lapsed following the 2010 Federal election.
While Jenkins’ warning does not constitute the inclusion of a formal rule, the Speaker said he hoped members would “be mature enough” to reject mobile photography by other members.
“Taking a photo of a member during proceedings would indeed be outside the guidelines for photography in the chamber,” he said. “The guidelines do not even contemplate the taking of photographs of members by other members.
“I am confident that members generally will share my concerns in these matters.”
Use of technology during Parliament proceedings in either the House of Representatives or the Senate has remained a touchy subject, with communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, often reminiscing of the ridicule he faced when first using a laptop during sittings.