Wednesday, 2 April 2014
On 27 March 2014 Federal Labor laid out its grievances with regard to the behaviour of Speaker of the House of Representatives Bronwyn Bishop
Excerpts from Federal House of Representatives Hansard, 27 March 2014:
Honours and Awards
Mr SHORTEN (Maribyrnong—Leader of the Opposition) (14:12): My question is to the Prime Minister.
Why is the government's priority a plan to bring back knights and dames, but there is no plan for Alcoa workers, for car workers, or for Qantas workers? Prime Minister, why are your Liberal government's twisted priorities so out of touch with the needs of ordinary Australians?
The SPEAKER: Before I call the Prime Minister I simply want to note that there was silence on my left, as there should be, for the asking of the question. I expect the same silence for the answer. The Prime Minister has the call.
Mr Dreyfus interjecting—
The SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat.
Mr Dreyfus: Madam Speaker!
The SPEAKER: I name the member for Isaacs!
Opposition members interjecting—
Mr Burke: For saying 'Madam Speaker'?
The SPEAKER: I name the member for Isaacs!
Mr Burke: For saying 'Madam Speaker'?
Mr PYNE (Sturt—Leader of the House and Minister for Education) (14:13): I move:
That the Member for Isaacs be suspended from the service of the House.
The SPEAKER: The question is that the member for Isaacs be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. [14:17]
(The Speaker—Hon. Bronwyn Bishop)
Ayes ...................... 82
Noes ...................... 54
Majority ................. 28
Question agreed to.
The member for Isaacs then left the chamber.
Mr BURKE (Watson—Manager of Opposition Business) (14:21): Madam Speaker, I seek leave to move a motion which has not been moved in this form in the House since 1949:
That the House has no further confidence in Madam Speaker on the grounds:
(a) that in the discharge of her duties she has revealed serious partiality in favour of Government Members;
(b) that she regards herself merely as the instrument of the Liberal Party and not as the custodian of the rights and privileges of elected Members of the Parliament;
(c) that she constantly fails to interpret correctly the Standing Orders of the House; and
(d) of gross incompetency in her administration of Parliamentary procedure.
The SPEAKER: Before I call the Leader of the House, I would say to the Manager of Opposition Business that earlier today the opposition was unable to call a division on a second reading motion because they had one member only in the House. Subsequent to that, they called a division on the question that the bill be agreed to and then called the division off. Then, when we had a division on the third reading and all the members were present, they failed to provide a speaker on the next piece of business. I suggest they get their own house in order. I now call the Leader of the House.
Mr Pyne: Leave is not granted.
Mr BURKE (Watson—Manager of Opposition Business) (14:23): I move:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Watson from moving the following motion forthwith:
That the House has no further confidence in Madam Speaker, on the grounds:
(a) that, in the discharge of her duties, she has revealed serious partiality in favour of government members;
(b) that she regards herself merely as an instrument of the Liberal Party and not as a custodian of the rights and privileges of elected members of the parliament;
(c) that she constantly fails to interpret correctly the standing orders of the House; and
(d) of gross incompetency in the administration of parliamentary procedure.
Madam Speaker, I note that this is an example of all the noise being on this side of the chamber. The reason these standing orders need to be suspended, Madam Speaker, is in the first instance—
Government members interjecting—
The SPEAKER: Order! There will be silence on my right so that the speaker may be heard.
Mr BURKE: Madam Speaker, what has just happened in this House is worthy of suspending standing orders.
Never before in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia has someone been named for calling out 'Madam Speaker'. That is what just happened in this House. Under no definition of what is within House Practice or of history or of anything that has happened in this parliament since 1901 has anyone claimed that the words 'Madam Speaker' or 'Mr Speaker' were unparliamentary. And, yet, the member for Isaacs did not just get warned or thrown out; he got named for calling you 'Madam Speaker'. Yesterday, we had a member of parliament thrown out for laughing. Madam Speaker, we have spent months watching you laugh at every joke from the ministers at the expense of members of the opposition. But, somehow, that is an appropriate way to conduct the role.
Madam Speaker, I do not dispute what you said before that there are times in this chamber when things are cooperative. The example you gave this morning you articulated in a way that I would not disagree with one bit.
But I do disagree with your decision to make that argument from the chair before the Leader of the House decides whether or not to grant leave. The comments you made, Madam Speaker, were reasonable comments for someone on either side of the chamber to make but not reasonable if you are meant to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Madam Speaker, it is acknowledged on both sides of this House and throughout the country that you are a formidable parliamentarian. That is acknowledged. It is acknowledged that, for your entire time in opposition and when you have sat on those benches opposite, you have been one of the people who have been able to come to the dispatch box and launch scathing and effective attacks on us as the Labor Party. You are respected as a member of
parliament for that. But we cannot support you continuing to behave that way when you want to sit in the Speaker's chair.
In response to the claim of 'stunt' that I heard from the frontbench, Madam Speaker, we have not rushed to this.
We raised concern on the day that you were elected as Speaker. The tradition referred to in Practice—and this is why we should be suspending standing orders—that non-executive members nominate and second the election of Speaker, and then bring the Speaker to the chair, is one of the powers of the backbench and the non-executive members of this House. That tradition was broken the moment you became Speaker. We then found on 13
November last year that, despite the Prime Minister claiming that certain words specifically were sure to be considered unparliamentary, you decided that name-calling was going to be considered legitimate in this parliament. On 19 November last year, on issues relating—
A government member: Have you got a speech ready?
Mr BURKE: We prepare a sheet most days, I am afraid. Today is the day when, considering that for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth someone was thrown out for saying 'Madam Speaker', everybody has to acknowledge that this farce has gone on for far too long. Madam Speaker, on 19 November last year, you reinterpreted a question asked by the member for Herbert, who had made no mention of numbers in the question. I raised a point of order, saying that there was an issue of direct relevance, and your response was:
The question was one that was pertaining to numbers, as clearly was indicated by the questioner.
Notwithstanding that there was no reference to that in the question at all, you came up with a new question to get around standing order 104.
When we debated the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill, you waited until the moment when the opposition were moving amendments and then decided that amendments which had been flagged and had gone through the appropriate processes of checking would be disallowed by you, denying the opposition the capacity to put our amendments. We were not expecting to win the vote, but we were expecting to have our right to make our case.
Madam Speaker, on 2 December last year, we had a circumstance where the Leader of the Opposition after he was given the call for one purpose went on to seek leave for another. You claimed that you had called on him to resume his seat prior to him saying, 'I seek leave,' and we asked you to check the tapes. You came back, allegedly having checked the tapes, Madam Speaker, and what you told the House was not true. You told the House that he, the Leader of the Opposition, again sought the call. The tapes do not reflect that. The tapes show the exact opposite. But, once again, the information provided to this parliament was changed so that you could pretend to be acting within the standing orders.
Madam Speaker, the issue of time limits has been one where time and again we have seen ministers in this House be allowed to continue their comments for quite a period after their speaking time has elapsed. But, when an opposition member asks a question, suddenly the 30-second rule is enforced—and enforced completely strictly.
If you want to provide a level of lenience for government members, that is fine; it is the impartiality of the way you do this job that is at issue, Madam Speaker. To have a circumstance where leave is not granted for this motion is extraordinary. As to the action that you took today, 98 people have now been thrown out of the House by you—every one of them from the opposition. So it is 98-love. No Speaker in the history of Federation has a record like that.
We have had situations with amendments. I remember we had an amendment that I moved to a motion from the member for Denison, where you ruled, in answer to a point of order from the Leader of the House, that the amendment was too far away from the original motion—notwithstanding that on 2 December last year you allowed the Leader of the House to move an amendment to a motion from the Leader of the Opposition that completely reversed everything that was in the first motion. Madam Speaker, if I stand to raise a point of order, you wait until the minister has completed before you hear the point of order. At each issue, at each part of this, the practice that is followed is the same on every occasion. The Prime Minister is now laughing, but he will not be thrown out—nor should he be. But I can tell you that when he defends knights and dames it is really funny and we will laugh.
This motion today is not one that people rush to move. On every occasion that a motion of this nature is moved—whether it is a suspension of standing orders or whether leave is not granted—it is carried forever in practice. When opposition members get to this point they do not expect to win the vote, but they do expect to have a situation where everyone in Australia knows bias when they see it. Madam Speaker, we do not doubt for one minute your effectiveness as a warrior for the Liberal Party, but that is not the job you chose to take on. Yet in the Speaker's chair you have continued to act as though enjoying the victory for your own side is your job. Madam Speaker, the parliament deserves more than that. The parliament cannot have confidence in a Speaker who refuses to be impartial.
The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?
Mr Albanese: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:43): I second the motion. We all know that this is a position that you coveted for years and years. How sad is it, having achieved his ambition, that you have chosen the low road of partisanship, rather than the high road of independence that this office demands. Madam Speaker, when you were the member for Mackellar you were very fond of the big book, House of Representatives Practice. I draw your attention to pages 163 and 164, which state a very simple principle:
The Speaker must show impartiality in the Chamber above all else.
That is the fundamental principle upon which the reliance and integrity of this parliament resides. Those opposite say, 'Oh, but we won the election.' That is absolutely true—there is a majority there. But there are millions of Australians voting for us on this side and they also deserve to be represented and not be treated with contempt from the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
It is one thing for this Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition to want to trash the 43rd Parliament and come in here every day and move to suspend the standing orders and engage in disruptive conduct as a tactic, but it is another thing, having won the election and achieved the high office of Prime Minister, for him and his team to trash the 44th Parliament. So addicted are they to negative tactics, they engage in them. We see it every day. We saw the Prime Minister last week, while the sand was going through the hourglass for a division,
looking upwards and giving directions to you, Madam Speaker, saying: 'Close the door. Close the door. Close the door.' We see, time after time, the Leader of the House give instructions to you as the chair, including today. Madam Speaker, we have a penalty count at the moment. If this were a Souths-Manly game and the penalty count was 98 to nil in favour of the home team, they would be jumping the fence. What we have day after day in this parliament is partisanship from the chair, is abuse of standing orders and is treatment of those on this side of the House with contempt. We are seeing it by this very process. We are seeing it by the process whereby those opposite are not even allowing the motion to be debated. We are having to suspend the standing orders. What they should do is allow the motion, and then it will be a vote in the confidence of your speakership. As it is, it is left hanging as a result of them not even allowing the motion to proceed.
The SPEAKER: I remind the member that he must address the motion as he is drawing attention to it.
Opposition members interjecting—
Mr ALBANESE: I am, and that is why standing orders should be suspended! You have just given a cracker of an example, Madam Speaker, of your partisanship. Here I am saying why they should be suspended so that we can have the proper debate and have a vote in your speakership, as to whether you have the confidence of the House, and you interject from the chair in order to slap that down.
Today we had, in the naming of the member for Isaacs, unprecedented action taken for such a minimal statement. I checked, Madam Speaker, if he said 'ma Dame Speaker' because I thought maybe there was something that was a reflection, but there was not. What we see in this chamber every day is the born-to-rule mentality of those opposite. We saw it from this Prime Minister just two days ago with his reinstatement of imperial honours and we see it with your behaviour, unfortunately, Madam Speaker, each and every day in this chamber.
The SPEAKER: The question is that so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the member for Watson moving immediately that the House has no further confidence in Madam Speaker.
The House divided. [14:52]
(The Speaker—Hon. Bronwyn Bishop)
Ayes ...................... 51
Noes ...................... 83
Majority ................. 32