There are many things one can get away with saying in the Senate.
Calling a colleague “lickspittle” is just one example.
But badmouthing the Queen or her representative is out of order big time.
Senior Labor figure Stephen Conroy, known for his colourful outbursts in the Senate chamber, was swiftly admonished for that offence on Monday.
The senator launched a scathing attack against Sir Peter Cosgrove, shortly after the governor-general recalled both houses of parliament to consider critical government legislation.
He accused Sir Peter of overturning the will of the Senate in a tawdry political stunt that demeaned his office.
He insisted the whole saga of proroguing parliament was evidence of the need for an Australian republic.
Senator Conroy invoked the ghost of former governor-general Sir John Kerr, likening the recall of parliament to his 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government.
“A strong governor-general would never have agreed to this,” he told parliament.
“If the Queen had been asked to interfere in the British parliament in this way there is no way on earth this would have happened.”
Senate standing orders prohibit senators from referring to the Queen or the governor-general disrespectfully in debate, or for the purpose of influencing the Senate in its deliberations.
Senator Conroy insisted he made no reflection on the Queen, but Senate President Stephen Parry wasn’t having a bar of it.
“You have referred to Her Majesty, you’ve linked Her Majesty to remarks made by the governor-general and you’ve referred to the governor-general as having possibly a different view to that of Her Majesty – you can’t say those things.
“If we can’t uphold this fundamental basis in this chamber in relation to the governor-general and indeed Her Majesty the Queen then we are failing.
“This is the last bastion of standing orders that we should always defend.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also bought into the debate, arguing it wasn’t the first time Senator Conroy had disgraced himself.
“I look forward to the leader of the opposition publicly disassociating himself from those appalling remarks.”