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Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Page: 28

Mr ABBOTT (Leader of the Opposition) (5:27 PM) —I rise, like the Prime Minister, to congratulate the members for Fisher and Maranoa on their election as Deputy Speaker and Second Deputy Speaker. This is obviously going to be an unusual parliament and it is unprecedented for the opposition to provide both the Deputy Speaker and the Second Deputy Speaker. It is a sign of just what an unusual parliament this is—and hopefully, in some respects, a better parliament—that we have emerged from today’s proceedings with yourself, Mr Speaker, a member of the government party, as the Speaker, and the members for Fisher and Maranoa, members of the opposition parties, as Deputy Speaker and Second Deputy Speaker.

I think it will help develop a better tone of debate in this place to have such a speakership team. To have as the Speaker a person who, although a member of the Labor Party, has such a fine reputation in this place is undoubtedly a good thing, and I think to have members of the opposition parties as your principal assistants in the chair will develop a new speakership tradition in this parliament—a speakership which is not beholden to the executive, which genuinely serves the interests of this parliament and which genuinely champions the interests of the members of this parliament for the betterment of the people of Australia. I think that the speakership team that the parliament has settled on this afternoon is fitting, given the unprecedented circumstances in which we find ourselves.

The coalition strongly support parliamentary reform. It did not take a hung parliament to bring out our support for parliamentary reform; before the election we supported parliamentary reform. When the Prime Minister was saying that parliamentary reform was of no interest to the public, this side of the chamber supported parliamentary reform. In a sense, we are the authors and parents of genuine parliamentary reform in this parliament. But the one element of the parliamentary reform agreement that we do not accept is the pairing of the Speaker. Proper consideration of that particular proposal revealed it to be constitutionally unsound. The pairing of the Speaker turned out to be something that could not be enforced. I have to say that the great affairs of state of this country are too important to be determined on the basis of an informal arrangement. This coalition and this opposition do not support the pairing of the Speaker. We do not support all the arrangements designed to bring about the pairing of the Speaker.

Under the Constitution, as you are aware, Mr Speaker, the only vote that the Speaker can exercise is a casting vote. Under the Constitution, no member of this parliament can be prevented from exercising a deliberative vote. That is the constitutional position and that is the position which this opposition and this coalition strongly support. No member of this parliament except you, Mr Speaker, can be prevented by any contrivance or arrangement from exercising a deliberative vote in this place.

When rumours swept this parliament late last night that the member for Fisher was likely to accept the ALP’s nomination for the deputy speakership, the member for Fisher did a very courageous thing: he issued a public statement that said that while he was interested in the deputy speakership—and who would not be interested in serving the parliament in some senior capacity—he would never accept the nomination on any basis that involved the guarantee of supply or confidence in the government, and he would never accept the nomination on any understanding that he would not exercise a deliberative vote in the interests of his electors and in the interests of the party which he has served for so long. I congratulate the nominator and the seconder of the member for Fisher for nominating him for this high office on that basis—that he will vote as a normal member of this parliament in the normal proceedings of this parliament—and I congratulate the member for Fisher on accepting high office on that basis. I congratulate him, as do all members of the coalition.

I now turn to the member for Maranoa. I join the Prime Minister in her gracious words of tribute to the member for Maranoa. The member for Maranoa served as the Second Deputy Speaker in the last parliament, and he served in that position with great distinction. He is an extremely well-liked member of this parliament. I know that the member for Maranoa and the member for Fisher will serve as a fine complement to the member for Scullin in the chair. I believe that the parliament will be well served by the team which will occupy the chair in this chamber.

I again congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on returning to the high office which you occupied in the last parliament. I congratulate the member for Fisher, who has been a friend of mine for a very long time who has served this parliament in many capacities with distinction, and I congratulate the member for Maranoa on returning to the job which he filled with such distinction in the last parliament.