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The practice of pairing in parliament

AAP logoAAP 16/08/2016

HOW PAIRING WORKS, OR DOESN'T, IN FEDERAL PARLIAMENT

* The practice of pairing MPs and senators has become more than just a long-standing convention or the honouring of a gentlemen's agreement.

* It's an unofficial arrangement, organised by party whips, which can be used to enable a member or senator on one side to be absent for any votes when someone from the other side needs to be absent for personal - especially where it involves family issues - or ministerial commitments.

* The arrangement retains the relative voting strengths of the parties.

* Disputes on pairing arrangements are more likely to occur on vital votes, and have been the cause of protracted disorderly proceedings.

* Pairs have been cancelled by the government because of the need for an absolute majority to pass some legislation.

* The opposition has cancelled the arrangements because it has been dissatisfied with the way proceedings were being conducted.

* Although there is no rule or order requiring a member or senator to observe a pair, there is a considerable moral and political obligation to adhere to such an agreement.

* Labor says it will not enter into any agreement for the new parliament, which begins sitting on August 30. Instead it will consider any requests for reasons that are compelling.

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