Senate adjourns early as Lidia Thorpe sends chamber into chaos

Independent senator Lidia Thorpe forced the Senate to adjourn early on Tuesday night, after she repeatedly interjected, disobeyed orders and claimed the acting deputy president was asleep in her chair.

During the adjournment speeches about 8.30pm, Senator Thorpe interrupted Labor senator Helen Polley in a bid to make a speech about an Indigenous mother and son.

Both Labor and Liberal senators alike tried to restore order before Senator Thorpe accused acting deputy president Louise Pratt of being “asleep in the chair (while) I have a mother who lost her son to your system”.

Senator Pratt repeatedly asked Senator Thorpe to sit down and come to order, telling her to “stop interjecting”.

The row had begun over confusion about who was speaking and for how long, it descended into terse words and behaviour not in line with the standing orders.

President Sue Lines eventually entered the chamber and attempted to take control, telling Senator Polley to continue speaking.

Senator Thorpe would not accept the ruling and continued to interject, prompting Senator Lines to order Senator Thorpe no longer be heard before eventually adjourning the Senate early.

While the Speaker of the House of Representatives has the power to order a member leave the chamber under the standing orders, there is no similar rule in the Senate.

Instead, Senator Lines ordered “Senator Thorpe, you will no longer be heard”.

“Have you made that ruling,” Senator Thorpe replied.

“Are you telling me that I can’t be heard? Because I want to know. Is that right? Is that what’s happening?”

Despite the order, Senator Thorpe continued to read a statement from Donna Kerr, who’s son Josh – Senator Thorpe’s cousin – died in custody.

Senator Thorpe’s office said Ms Kerr had been watching the proceedings live, after the inquest into Mr Kerr’s death ended last week.

“I’m not going to leave this chamber,” Senator Thorpe said, despite having been told to resume her seat.

Murray Watt eventually moved for the Senate to adjourn, which the Senate agreed to.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher on Wednesday morning denied that Senator Pratt was asleep in the chair, and slammed Senator Thorpe’s conduct as unparliamentary.

“I’ve tried to reach out to her and speak to her about that to listen to her concerns. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do that,” Senator Gallagher said.

“Senator Pratt was doing a very difficult job trying to maintain appropriate conduct in the chamber. I don’t accept Senator Thorpe’s version of that.”

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