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Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Page: 5284


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (15:32): by leave—I move:

That this House has confidence in the Member for Scullin’s Speakership.

I thank members opposite for the opportunity to move this motion. I may not detain the House for quite as long as the time I have on the clock. Obviously, we have been in uncharted and difficult parliamentary waters ever since the parliament resumed after the last election. Obviously, in the circumstances where the government cannot naturally command a majority, the job of the speakership is even more difficult than usual. Under difficult circumstances, Mr Speaker, you have done your job with commendable impartiality and with considerable forbearance. I know that all members of this House from time to time try your patience; I know from time to time I do and I suspect from time to time the Prime Minister does. All of us in this House are trying to make political points, as we should, given that the job of this House is to determine the great questions before our nation. I do not think anyone on this side of the House has anything other than respect for the job you do under difficult circumstances, and the last thing any of us would want to see is you feeling that you have been compromised in your ability to discharge your office by the vote that has just been taken. Whatever we on this side of the House think of a particular decision that you might have just made, we do have deep and abiding confidence in your ability to run this House.

I want to put it on the record that it is not the opinion of this side of the parliament that anyone could do a better job than you, Mr Speaker, in maintaining the order and the discipline of this House. Mr Speaker, you discharged your office very effectively in the previous parliament and, if I may say so, you have done your job with even more dignity, more assurance and more command in the more difficult circumstances of this parliament. As you know, Mr Speaker, when there was some question as to whether the government would renominate you in the weeks after the election, it was the position of the coalition that you should be renominated, and nothing has changed in the intervening nine months to alter that view of the opposition that you are by far and away the best person to take the chair, that you are by far and away the best person to do what is inevitably a difficult job in the circumstances of a hung parliament.

Mr Speaker, I really do understand how you would be feeling at this present time. You made a call. It was the best call that you could make in your judgment at that time. On this side of the House, we respectfully disagreed with the call that you made. As it happened, our judgment was backed by the House. But please do not for a moment think, because of the fact that on this particular occasion, this solitary occasion, your judgment has not been supported by the House, that that indicates any want of confidence in your speakership. That is why I moved this motion. Please, Mr Speaker, do not judge what is the appropriate thing to do in the circumstances of this House by what might be the appropriate thing to do in the circumstances of very different houses. In this respect at least, this is genuinely a new paradigm and please, Mr Speaker, do not add to the difficulties of this day by feeling that you cannot continue in the chair.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?