Speaker bans use of word ‘incompetent’ in Parliament, deems it ‘offensive’

by | May 6, 2021 | NT Politics | 0 comments

NT politicians are no longer allowed to call Chief Minister Michael Gunner or his government “incompetent” in Parliament after Labor Speaker Ngaree Ah Kit ruled the word “offensive” and banned it.

Parliament has descended into farce at times this year, with Labor members claiming to be “offended” by many different words used by the Opposition and independent MLAs over the course of debate.

But the farce hit a new low during budget debate on Tuesday night, when independent MLA Robyn Lambley criticised the Gunner Government for its failure to rein in spending despite being told in the Langoulant budget repair report that continuing to borrow money to pay for day-to-day operations was not sustainable.

“That was two years [ago] Langoulant told you that,” Ms Lambley said.

“This government just spends despite all the advice that Territorians paid for. We paid for that Langoulant budget repair report and where has it taken us? Absolutely nowhere because you are all too stupid to understand how to manage the finances of the Northern Territory.”

That set off Leader of Government Business Natasha Fyles and Arts Minister Chansey Peach, who demanded Ms Lambley withdraw the comment.

“I withdraw ‘stupid’,” Ms Lambley replied. “Instead, I say ‘incompetent, completely and utterly incompetent’.”

That set off Labor Member for Arafura Lawrence Costa and backbencher Joel Bowden who demanded Ms Lambley withdraw the “incompetent” remark.

“I am not withdrawing that,” Ms Lambley said.

“That is ridiculous. We use the word ‘incompetent’ all the time in this place. Incompetent is a word that is measured and intelligent. When I look across the Chamber, I see incompetent people managing the Territory’s finances and the evidence is the fact that we are facing a $9 billion debt.”

Speaker Ngaree Ah Kit ruled the word was “offensive” and said it would now be banned.

“Honourable members, I am going to add ‘incompetent’ to the list of do not use words in this Parliament,” she said.

“I find it offensive and I am making that ruling.”

Question time in recent months has been routinely interrupted by Labor members, especially Ms Fyles, claiming to be offended by comments the Opposition and crossbench have made and demanding they be withdrawn. The tactic has resulted in valuable time being wasted and less questions being asked of the government.

The farce continued during question time today, when Opposition Leader Lia Finocchairo called Mr Paech “mate”, sparking Ms Fyles into action.

“It is an offensive remark and I ask that you make her withdraw that,” Ms Fyles demanded of the Speaker.

“Yes, it’s offensive calling the Member for Gwoja mate,” Ms Finocchiaro said. “I’m really sorry for calling him mate – it’s deeply offensive.”

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