Tracking gag orders

If you’ve ever though that the current Government spends a lot of time not allowing debate in Parliament. Well you’d be right. The use of gag orders in Federal Parliament has jumped up over the last three years. So we’re now tracking them in (almost) real time.

Under the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, a member of parliament can move a motion that the member who is speaking ‘be no longer heard’. This means the member must stop speaking. Members then vote on this motion and, if the motion is passed, the member who was speaking must immediately resume their seat. This is commonly referred to as a ‘gag motion’ or ‘gag order’. They used to be used relatively infrequently because Parliament is supposed to be about debating policy.

gag orders graph

Luckily for us gag orders use fairly standard words. As a proxy for how often gag orders are used we’ve taken the number of hits in Hansard on the words: “I move: That the member be no longer heard”. It’s not an absolutely perfect track of gag motions but any variance is tiny – and it has the advantage of being something we can keep track of relatively simply.

We also did a bit of analysis to see if the use of gag orders was related to the number of days Parliament sits. Although the number of sitting days does vary from year to year it has no real impact on the number of gag orders. That graph is going up entirely because of the Government’s willingness to gag debate.

And let’s face it keeping alternate voices silent is not the way democracy is supposed to function.

The graph is available here and updated hourly. There’s also a widget on our front page and we’ll be tweeting whenever a gag motion is put.

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