Monthly Archives: November 2017
We need a State Government, we need a Premier, and we need Ministers – but no-one can be absolutely certain yet about who is to be a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly: there are at five or six seats still in doubt, and while Labor says they are confident of achieving a majority in their own right, they (and everyone else) are waiting for final results.
Of the seats where results are clear, no Party yet has a majority of the Parliament.
Postal votes – and possibly recounts – will determine the final outcome of in-doubt seats, and receipt of outstanding postal vote closes at 6.00 pm on Tuesday 5 December. It’s also possible postal votes may overturn current expectations of seat-by-seat results, and throw more seats into the too-close-to-call pile – postal votes are being counted day-by-day, and new tallies in undecided seats are being announced daily.
Once postal votes are all in and all counted, the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ – see http://www.ecq.qld.gov.au) will determine whether they need further recounting in any seat – they’ve been doing check counting all along, so a full recount will be reserved for the very closest seats. That might take a day or two, or ECQ may determine there is no need.
If there’s no recount needed, it’s only after Tuesday the various Parties with members in the Assembly (Australian Labor Party, Liberal National Party, Katter’s Australian Party, One Nation Party, and perhaps the Greens) will hold meetings to determine who controls the Parliament and the Government, and who takes on which roles.
If Labor has a majority, we can expect a meeting of the Labor caucus in the days immediately after 5 December – and immediately after the caucus meeting we could expect a returned Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to announce her new Cabinet.
If Labor doesn’t have a majority, depending on how far short they fall it may take several days for a majority coalition to be stitched together – or possibly a minority Government – so we may not know who is our Government, and who is Premier, and a Minister, until the week of 11 December.
The Brisbane Times website has a pretty good summary of where things are http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland-election-2017-results and they keep it reasonably up to date.
But, be cautious – there’s only 72.2% of the votes counted so far, and the notional two-candidate count in some seats has counted the wrong two candidates!
Ben Rau from the Tallyroom has an excellent summary of the current status of counting as at Sunday 26 November 2017, including seats likely won and lost for each of One Nation, the LNP, Katter Party and Greens. You can access his summary here http://www.tallyroom.com.au/32465.
In our first article we briefly covered the formal or semi-formal nature of meetings, and what that means, and what it means that the Chair is in charge. You can have a look at it here https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/chair-meeting-1/
In our second article we covered the five basics of an efficient meeting: an agenda, reports, proposals, discussion, decisions. It’s available here https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/chair-meeting-2/
In this article we’re covering Topics Four and Five: points of order and machinery issues/motions, and rulings.
Fourth, understand points of order and machinery issues/motions.
There are plenty of decisions made in meetings which are called “machinery” or procedural, because they are (allegedly, sometimes …) about making the meeting run smoothly. These include motions like:
- “That the speaker be allowed an extension of time of 5 minutes”
- “That debate be ended, and the motion be now put”
- “That owing to the meeting running late, item 6 on the agenda be dealt with last and item 10 on the agenda be dealt with now”
- “That the meeting dissent from the Chair’s ruling that Kevin Rudd is eligible to vote”.
The standing orders of many organisations require machinery motions to go to a vote with very restricted debate, or with no debate.
If a dissent motion is moved, the Chair probably needs to vacate the Chair and hand it over to someone else until the dissent motion is dealt with, at which time you resume Chairing. If a motion to dissent is carried, the Chair must make an alternative ruling (sometimes making no ruling is an alternative).
Sometimes, the Chair can propose a machinery or process actions to the meeting, and members may be comfortable to accept it without a vote – in most cases you would call this a ruling. You might express it something like this: “As we are running out of time, I propose we deal with item 11 on the agenda now, and adjourn the other items to the next meeting. If no-one has a better suggestion, I’ll rule this way.” You would only do this sort of thing if you were confident it was necessary and would be approved. If you are not sure it would be approved, you could say this instead: “As we are running out of time, I propose we deal with item 11 on the agenda now, and adjourn the other items to the next meeting. Would someone like to move that?”
Points of order are process/machinery suggestions from attendees other than the Chair. People will say things like:
- “This speaker is off topic and you should rule her out of order”
- “Bob has spoken already in this debate – if he wants to speak twice then I want to speak twice”
- “Julie isn’t debating the issue, she’s just being nasty about people”
- “We’ve already decided this – we shouldn’t discuss it again and again and again”.
Points or Order are sometimes very helpful, pointing out things the Chair hasn’t noticed. The Chair must make a ruling on every point of order, and debate stops until you make your ruling, but a Chair needs to be alert to sneaky debaters who sometimes try to make a debating point rather than a procedural point; for example:
- “Point of order! The speaker is talking rubbish” or
- “Point of information … the facts are …”
are not points of order at all – they are debating arguments which should be made during debate.
You don’t have to agree with the point of order when you rule on it – you are allowed to say, and should say when appropriate “There’s no such thing as a ‘point of information’ – please sit down” or “That isn’t a point of order” or “I reject your point of order because Bob hasn’t spoken previously – that was a point of order he made earlier, which doesn’t count as speaking in the debate.”
Fifth, understand the rulings you can make.
Rulings are decisions the Chair makes, about how the meeting should run. You mightn’t realise it, but you are making implied rulings from the Chair all the time: who is eligible to speak, who speaks next, whether there have been enough speakers on a motion, calling an uncontroversial motion carried, and so on – the meeting just flows around this kind of ruling. Sometimes, though, when the meeting is going astray, you need to make a formal ruling, to get it back on track. Some examples:
- “I rule you are going off topic and need to refocus or finish speaking”
- “No, you can’t speak again – you’ve already spoken in this debate”
- “Your language is offensive to others present and I’m ruling you out of order. Sit down.”
- “We dealt with the issue you’re talking about last meeting. If you want to overturn a past decision, you need to move a rescission motion, and now isn’t the right time.”
Make rulings sparingly, and only when necessary or very desirable – if you make them too often, people will start to worry you’re suppressing democracy!
These are very basic rules about Chairing – there are whole books on the topic – so if you are going to Chair more often, you might want to think about more formal training.
A few final tips:
- If your meeting is a teleconference or video conference, check this out for some useful ideas, too: https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/teleconference-blues/.
- These documents have some useful general pointers and go into more detail on some topics:
You can download the whole of these three articles in one file, here http://bit.ly/2yeRE1y.
Now the State election has been called – see https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/queensland-state-election-basics/ – the Government moves into what is called “Caretaker Mode”.
Caretaker Mode is all about both maintaining public sector impartiality, and ensuring no decisions or commitments are made which will bind a new, possibly unwilling Government, post-election.
Many public servants interpret this incredibly widely – far more so than is intended or appropriate, and this can be a real nuisance for anyone trying to do business with the State Government.
Official guidelines for the conventions which apply during the caretaker period are set out in the Cabinet Handbook, section 9, here https://www.premiers.qld.gov.au/publications/categories/policies-and-codes/handbooks/cabinet-handbook/caretaker-conventions.aspx.
- Caretaker conventions are merely conventions and not binding at law – but are nearly always adhered to;
- Caretaker period starts the moment the election is called and lasts until either te result is clear or a new Government appointed;
- Things to avoid during the caretaker period: appointments of significance, implementing new policies, entering into major contracts or undertakings;
- Normal Departmental operations are to continue, but with care to ensure there’s no presumption about who will win the election;
- Departments should not at Ministerial request develop new policy initiatives;
- Opposition access to public servants is through requests to the Minister and any such discussions are confidential, but public servants may not discuss the merits of policy options with the Opposition and should keep no official notes;
- Departments prepare two sets of briefing documents for the incoming Government: one for a returned Government, and the other for a new Government;
- All Cabinet documents are readied for destruction;
- All Bills in Parliament lapse and must start again from scratch after the election, and any Acts not yet proclaimed by the Governor must await the intentions of the incoming Government. In some circumstances subordinate legislation may be approved;
- The Premier will determine whether Government advertising campaigns continue – anything highlighting the role of Ministers or covering matters of political controversy are usually stopped;
- Ministers generally don’t go to Council of Australian Governments meetings which occur during the caretaker period.
Here’s a downloadable PDF file for your reading pleasure, courtesy of Ethical Consulting Services! http://bit.ly/2hnbr4p