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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Page: 11574

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:07): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I move:

That, as provided for by section 35 of the Constitution, the Speaker be removed from office immediately.

At the risk of detaining the House in a repetitive way, let me say that it is absolutely crystal clear that the Speaker is no longer a fit and proper person to uphold the dignity of this parliament and is no longer a fit and proper person to uphold and protect the standing orders of this House. I say that the Speaker is not disqualified by the mere fact of a legal action against him—that can befall any member of this House and of itself should not be a disqualification from high office. What must nevertheless be held against the Speaker of this parliament are the undenied, uncontradicted facts that have emerged, and that continue to emerge, in the course of the case currently on foot against him. At the risk of dismaying this chamber, at the risk of dismaying the public, I must allude—and I only allude—to the gross references to female genitalia which are contained in the uncontradicted, undenied evidence before the court about the conduct of this Speaker. I must allude to the vile anatomical references to which this Speaker appears to be addicted in his text messaging.

There is the clear bias in undenied, uncontradicted evidence before a court against a member of this House by someone who is charged to act without fear or favour, by someone who is charged to act impartially towards all members of this House, by someone who is charged with the upholding of the standing orders of this House without fear or favour, against or in favour of any single member. Be you the newest member, be you the father of the House, the Speaker is charged with upholding the standing orders impartially for and against all members of this parliament, and on the face of the uncontradicted, undenied evidence before a court this Speaker cannot do that. This Speaker has not done that. That is why this particular Speaker is no longer a fit and proper person to be the Speaker of this House.

But it is not just the Speaker who has failed the character test. It is indeed this Prime Minister who has failed the judgement test. This Prime Minister hand-picked the current Speaker for the top job of this parliament. This Prime Minister orchestrated the resignation of the former Speaker, the member for Scullin, a man of undoubted character, a man of undoubted quality and a man of undoubted impartiality in the conduct of this chamber. Does anyone think for a second that the member for Scullin, the former Speaker of the parliament—a man who loved this parliament, who loved the speakership as he loved his life—would have resigned to spend more time with his colleagues in the caucus? Ask the member for Banks what caucus is like these days. Does anyone think that the member for Scullin really resigned to spend time with members of the caucus? Clearly the member for Scullin resigned the speakership because he had been instructed by the Prime Minister, a Prime Minister who engaged and who masterminded a squalid deal to shore up her numbers in the parliament. And mark my words, Madam Deputy Speaker, what we will shortly see from this Prime Minister and ministers in this government is a defence of the indefensible, an attempt to say that someone who has clearly failed the character test is worthy of sitting in the greatest chair of this parliament. I say to this Prime Minister: just as the Speaker has failed the character test, you, Prime Minister, are about to fail the judgement test. And every day that you, Prime Minister, run a protection racket for the current Speaker, just as you ran for months and years a protection racket for the member for Dobell, you indicate your unfitness for high office as well.

Last November, when the Prime Minister feared she was about to lose the support of the member for Denison because she knew she would not be able to deliver on her poker machine pledge, she cooked up this deal. She knew she was about to lose the support of the member for Denison. She feared she was about to lose the support in the parliament of the member for Dobell. She was apprehensive then, as always, about the actions of the former Prime Minister, the member for Griffith, so, in conjunction with the Leader of the House, the member for Grayndler, she dreamt up this brilliant political wheeze. She dreamt up this brilliant political tactic. Never mind if it involved the political assassination of a well-respected Speaker of this parliament; she knew that she could rely then, as always, on the Sussex Street death squads, which had already dispatched one Prime Minister, to deal with the Speaker of this parliament. Never mind that the squalid deal that the Prime Minister cooked up last November involved placing in the chair of this parliament someone whom her own government was investigating for misuse of entitlements; all that mattered to this Prime Minister last November, when this brilliant piece of political manoeuvring was being dreamt up, was buttressing her position in the parliament. That is all that ever matters to this Prime Minister—her own survival in this parliament.

What is now absolutely apparent is that, while members on this side of the House were attempting to manoeuvre the Speaker out of the parliament, the Prime Minister and members on the other side of the parliament were giving him the biggest job in this parliament, apart from the prime ministership itself. In the process of managing the Speaker, not out of the parliament but into the speakership, this Prime Minister dudded a good Labor man who had done nothing—nothing at all—but discharge the duties of the speakership in a fair and impartial manner, but it was not sufficiently partial to satisfy the Prime Minister and the leader of this House.

Let us be absolutely crystal clear about the situation in this parliament right now. This Speaker is this Prime Minister's creation. This Speaker's actions are this Prime Minister's responsibility and this Speaker's standards perforce are this Prime Minister's standards unless she has the responsibility and the decency to remove this Speaker from his high office. We know, because we have been observing this Prime Minister now for a long time in this parliament, that 'sorry' is the one word she cannot say. We know 'I was wrong' is the one statement that she cannot make. Well, I say to this Prime Minister: please, for the sake of this parliament, for the sake of this country, for the sake of ordinary standards of decency, admit that you got it wrong when you engineered the member for Fisher into the Speaker's chair and just say, 'Sorry'. Just apologise to this parliament for the travesty that you inflicted on us in November last year.

As things stand, this whole sorry Slipper saga illustrates the ethical bankruptcy of this government. We have had minister after minister just about knocking over the microphones to stand up for this Speaker. We have had minister after minister tripping over themselves to defend this Speaker. We had the Minister for Foreign Affairs describing the accuser of the Speaker as 'more rehearsed than a kabuki actor'. We had the Leader of the House saying that anyone who criticised the current Speaker was guilty of engaging in the politics of personal destruction. We even had the Leader of the House compare court action against the current Speaker to Watergate. What sense of standard, what sense of proportion, what sense of perspective do these people have?

Worst of all, we had the one person in this House most charged with respecting due process, with respecting the ordinary processes of the courts, the first law officer of the Crown, the first law officer of this country—the Attorney-General herself—who went out in public again and again to say that those who were engaged in prosecuting this Speaker were somehow guilty of an abuse of process. She did not say it once—it was not a slip of the tongue in the heat of the moment—she went out and said it deliberately, cold-bloodedly and calculatedly again and again and again. It is interesting, isn't it, that the Prime Minister is now saying, 'Oh, I couldn't possibly comment on something which is before the courts. Oh, no, not me. Not me—upholder of standards, upholder of decency, always wanting to give someone a fair go.' Oh, yeah! This is what the Attorney-General said when picked up on the fact that she was prejudging a matter before the courts:

I think it's unrealistic given the public interest in this matter that there will not be commentary.

And wasn't there commentary! There was comment after comment. There was defamation after defamation of someone whose only fault was seeking to assert his rights at law against the Speaker of this parliament.

But what has happened since more has been revealed about the real character, the real nature, of the individual who holds the highest job that this parliament can bestow upon anyone? The Attorney-General has now taken the vows of a Trappist monk. The Attorney-General has now taken the vow of silence on this matter that the Prime Minister is now going to attempt to take. It is total, total hypocrisy. This is a government which is only too ready to detect sexism—to detect misogyny, no less—until they find it in one of their own supporters, until they find it in someone upon whom this Prime Minister relies to survive in her job. Then, of course, no fault can possibly be found—no evil dare be spoken. Well, the Australian public are not mugs. They know what is going on here; they know that this government is about to run a protection racket for something, which is absolutely contemptible for attitudes and values, which are absolutely and utterly indefensible.

Not only has the Prime Minister failed the judgement test, not only has the government failed the standards test, but this Attorney-General has failed the honour test. She has dishonourably failed to defend the ordinary judicial process of this country. Not only has the Attorney-General failed to defend judicial process, she has been the chief defender of the Speaker himself. She has been running his defence rather than defending the courts and the justice process of our country.

It is no accident that the member for Banks has today resigned as chairman of the government caucus. It is no accident that he has resigned today, because the member for Banks must be only too well aware of the fact that, back in November last year, it was he who was forced to nominate the current Speaker for the position that he now holds. It was the member for Banks who was forced by this government to endure 10 minutes of infamy, while he stood in this place to assert the virtues of the member for Fisher. He knew it was wrong then, he has known that it has been wrong every day since then, it has obviously been hanging on his conscience and now he has resigned. The member for Melbourne Ports also asserted the honour of the member for Fisher—an assertion that he knew then and has known every day since to be simply false. So far, the only honourable man opposite in this matter has been the member for Banks. I commend him for that.

I know that the Prime Minister is in a difficult position today. She has already lost her caucus chairman, she is fighting to avoid losing her Speaker and what she is frightened of ultimately losing is also the support of her caucus. Just as she has lost the caucus chairman, she will lose her Speaker—and I suspect she will shortly lose the caucus, because what this Prime Minister has done is shame this parliament. Should she now rise in this place to try to defend the Speaker, to say that she retains confidence in the Speaker, she will shame this parliament again. And every day the Prime Minister stands in this parliament to defend this Speaker will be another day of shame for this parliament and another day of shame for a government which should have already died of shame. The member for Fisher should never have been a Speaker in this parliament; he should not have been made Speaker last November and he should not be Speaker now.

Let me simply remind the Prime Minister, whom I presume is about to rise to her feet in this parliament and defend her personal selection of the member for Fisher as Speaker of this place, that on 24 November last year she said of the Speaker that he had shown 'a fierce sense of balance and appropriateness'. This Prime Minister thinks that this Speaker is a man of appropriate judgement. What this Prime Minister now needs to do is defend the conduct, the character and the words of this Speaker.

Ms Macklin interjecting

Mr ABBOTT: I hear an accusation: 'How long was he in our party room?' We were trying to get him out of our party room and what did members opposite do? They put him into the biggest job in parliament. The Speaker is this Prime Minister's property. The Prime Minister owns this Speaker and, every day the Prime Minister stands in this parliament to defend him, the bonds between them will be closer. This Prime Minister should be ashamed of herself, she should be ashamed of her choice, she should be ashamed of her judgement and she should be ashamed of the fact that she is now having to defend the indefensible. This Speaker should be gone, and he should be gone today.