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The speaker and standing orders

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John Howard

NEWS RELEASE Member for BennelongShadow Minister for Industrial Relations & Manager of Opposition Business in.the House 26/2/94


I welcome the declaration by the Speaker Mr Stephen Martin ("Sunday" Program) that in future he will enforce the Standing Orders more firmly.

All the Opposition expects from the Speaker is a fair go. Plainly that was not the case last week, particularly on Thursday. There was a widespread media and community view that the Opposition had received less then even treatment.

The Opposition believes that Standing Order 145 dealing with relevance can and must be enforced more strictly.

Constant flouting of this standing order by Ministers at Question Time lies at the heart of much of the unhappiness about the way in which Question Time has been conducted over recent years.

Presiding officers elsewhere in Australia, including in the Senate, have traditionally enforced the equivalent Standing Order applying to their houses of Parliament more firmly than has been the recent practice in the House of Representatives.

Two former Speakers namely Gordon Scholes (Labor) and Sir Billy Snedden (Liberal) used standing 'order 145 far more rigidly than any of their successors.

It is also time to look again at the possibility of giving to the Speaker of the House of Representatives the political independence afforded to the Speaker of the House of Commons.

That was Opposition policy at the last election and remains so today.

On the "Sunday" program this morning Mr Martin at least acknowledged the merit of examining the idea.

For its part the Opposition would be willing forthwith to discuss such a change with the Government.

If the Government were willing in principle to examine the proposal I would be willing on behalf of the Opposition to canvass it with the leader of the House Mr Beazley.