Change the government and you change the country — and perhaps the outfits.
In a change of little consequence for most Australians, but an abomination for the sticklers of sartorial standards, the new Labor Speaker of the 47th Parliament flexed his discretion over the dress code for the House of Representatives.
Neckties were not compulsory for male MPs, Speaker Milton Dick signalled on Wednesday.
Not since Liberal MP Philip Ruddock strode into the chamber in a safari suit in 2015 has the chamber been so scandalised by fashion choices.
The new standard was set after Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather, 30 years of age and one of the youngest members in the parliament, rose to speak in question time, his navy suit and collared shirt unburdened by a tie.
Affronted by this, Nationals MP Pat Conaghan called a point of order, objecting to “the state of undress” of the member for Griffith.
But the Speaker promptly dismissed Conaghan’s concerns, and Chandler-Mather was permitted to proceed with his question to the prime minister on public housing.
“It’s completely bizarre that I need to dress up like a businessman when this place is supposed to represent all Australians. I stood up to talk about the housing crisis and the Libs wanted to talk about my tie,” Chandler-Mather told and .
Conaghan was unimpressed, insisting that the Greens MP had violated the dress code.
“This is not a barbecue. This is question time in the Australian parliament. What next, board shorts and thongs? Maybe a onesie in winter,” he said in a statement following the controversy.
“Some may say that it’s a minor matter to not comply with the dress standard but what it says to many, including me, is that there is little respect for the tradition and history of our parliament.”
According to the official rule book — the the standard of dress in the chamber is a matter for the individual judgment of the member, but “the ultimate discretion rests with the Speaker”.
Indeed, the 1000-page tome documents the evolution of that discretion over the decades. In 1977, the Speaker ruled tailored safari suits without a tie were acceptable, laying the foundation for Ruddock’s camel-coloured number decades later. Earlier rulings dating back to the 1920s permitted members to wear hats, but not when entering or leaving the chamber or while speaking.
In 1999, Speaker Neil Andrew told the chamber that the widely accepted standard of professional dress involved good trousers, a jacket, collar and tie for men and a similar standard of formality for women but he would not rigidly enforce this.
This was endorsed by Speaker David Hawker in 2005, who permitted tieless forays into the chamber in some circumstances, but drew a firm line at “casual wear”.
“However, while I accept that members hurrying to attend a division or quorum will sometimes arrive without a jacket or tie, it is not in keeping with the dignity of the House for members to arrive in casual or sports wear,” he said.
In 2022, hurrying or not, ties are not binding.
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( Information from smh.com.au was used in this report. To Read More, click here )