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Tuesday, 8 May 2012
Page: 4136


Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (14:34): Madam Deputy Speaker, I second the motion. It is vital that standing and sessional orders be suspended so that procedures can be put in place in order that the honourable member for Scullin resume the duties of Speaker until the House otherwise agrees. The standing orders need to be suspended because the House of Representatives risks a crisis, and this crisis has at its heart an act of betrayal and dishonesty.

The Prime Minister needed to break her written agreement with the member for Denison and sought a dishonourable way of manipulating the numbers on the floor of the parliament. It is this dishonourable act that has brought us to this extraordinary position today, where for the first time in our history the Speaker has stood down in such unprecedented circumstances, leaving a vacuum at the heart of parliamentary democracy in this country. It was remarkable that the Prime Minister made no statement in the House in response to the Speaker's statement at two o'clock today. These are unprecedented events. In the past Speakers have been absent from their duties due to illness or parliamentary travel overseas. I am not aware of any circumstance where a Speaker has stood down pending a civil trial and a criminal investigation. We have a situation where the Speaker cannot perform his duties and cannot participate on the floor of the House as a consequence. We need to suspend standing orders because it is unseemly to leave this House in such limbo. This is the consequence of the squalid manoeuvre engineered by the Prime Minister to cling to power in a hung parliament. If there is an honourable way and a dishonourable way, this Prime Minister's instinct is to choose the dishonourable path.

The integrity of the role of the Speaker, the Speaker's role to uphold the dignity of the House, has been trashed by a desperate Prime Minister's concern about her job and the numbers she needs on the floor of the House—first to break her agreement with the member for Denison and then to cling to office. The House needs to suspend standing orders to find a way to bring back the dignity of the office to restore some semblance of respect and regard for an office that has been misused and abused by the Prime Minister and this government, and that way is best exemplified by the honourable member for Scullin, who conducted himself at a high standard when he was the Speaker and who carried out his duties responsibly and professionally until he was manoeuvred out of his elected position.

It is well known that the coalition did not wish to see the honourable member for Scullin move from the position of Speaker. Indeed, when the member for Scullin, as Speaker, faced a crisis over the naming of a certain member of the House, it was the Leader of the Opposition who could have taken advantage of the chaotic situation but who instead acted promptly by moving a motion of confidence in the honourable member for Scullin as Speaker. I note that it was not the Prime Minister—a member of the same political party—who did that but the Leader of the Opposition, who understands the traditions of the chamber and the importance of protecting the dignity of the House of Representatives and the office of Speaker.

We need to suspend standing orders to debate this motion because the people of Australia are right royally sick of the trashing of our national institutions that they are seeing on a weekly basis under this government. The trashing of the proper processes of the House is only one in a long list of the government's calamitous destruction of the integrity of government tender processes, like that of the Australian Network, the interference in so-called independent inquiries by Fair Work Australia, the use of the National Broadband Network for political advertising and political favouritism—the list goes on.

Standing orders need to be suspended so that the honourable member for Scullin, one of the people in the parliament who commands widespread support for doing the job of Speaker, can once again resume the duties that should never have been stripped away from him by a manipulating Prime Minister. We regret that the member for Scullin was forced to resign his position by this scheming Prime Minister. Standing orders need to be suspended, for not to do so will leave a chaotic, unprecedented mess that raises major procedural questions when the House hangs on a knife's edge.

I have one final word: we ask that the crossbenchers support us in this call. For the crossbenchers to not support this call will be to prop up a squalid, manipulative arrangement that trashes the dignity of the House. I call on the members for New England, Lyne, Denison and Melbourne to think of their own integrity and their own standing as much as that of the House of Representatives. I second this motion. (Time expired)