"Explain why MPs speak with a piece of paper over their heads."

Hi Saira, thanks for your question

The practice of members of parliament covering their heads with paper comes from a previous rule of the British Parliament. In the British House of Commons, when a member wants to attract the Speaker’s attention they stand up. However during a division when the bells would ring and members move around the chamber, it would be difficult to attract the Speakers attention. Members would either put on a hat or cover their head with a paper to attract the Speaker’s attention.

This practice was never included in the rules for the Australian Senate or House of Representatives. Instead it was decided that any discussions about a division vote could be held immediately after the bells had finished. Despite this, there are instances when members of the Australian Parliament have observed the British tradition of covering their heads to speak during a division.

diagram to help explain Explain why MPs speak with a piece of paper over their heads.