Federal Politics

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Bronwyn Bishop orders new rules on Twitter posts for MPs

Sometimes the shortest route to self-discipline is the removal of temptation. Former senator and foreign minister Bob Carr knows this, which is why, according to reports from freedom of information documents, he instructed staff to empty his hotel mini-bar of all snacks and beverages when he travelled.

The former senator realises that no matter the strength of one's commitment to Pilates, organic vegetables and colonic health, beer and salted peanuts sing a very sweet siren song after a hard day's work jamming about the global arms trade treaty.

On the ''Carr snacks'' logic, political types should probably be banned from using Twitter. If you take, on the one hand, a group of people whose bounteous egos are matched only by their hunger for new ''platforms'' on which to project their voices, and marry that to a micro-blogging website preternaturally suited to the speed-publishing of poorly conceived and badly spelled demi-thoughts, well, the result is a terrible mess.

Liberal pollster Mark Textor is renowned as a genius when it comes to feeling the political mood of ordinary Australians, but suffice to say his Twitter access should be curtailed, if not repealed, if the Bali Christmas holiday plans of thousands of Indonesia-loving Australians are to proceed as scheduled.

Textor should not be singled out as the sole offender. Plenty of politicians have been done for indiscreet tweeting, and on Thursday the Speaker Bronwyn Bishop made a ruling on tweets.


During the debate over the carbon tax repeal legislation, it was brought to Madam Speaker's attention by the ever-helpful manager of government business, Christopher Pyne, that Labor MP Rob Mitchell had tweeted that the Speaker had used the personal pronoun ''we'', when referring to the government. He concluded the ''independence of chair [is] gone''.

Pyne complained Mitchell had, via Twitter, reflected on the chair, which is not allowed under the standing orders.

Ms Bishop decreed that social media could be used in the chamber, but that it must still comply with the standing orders, a ruling that is both fair and unenforceable.

Unless, of course, you adopt the exacting attitude Carr has towards snacks, and enforce discipline through the removal of temptation. And smartphones.

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