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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Page: 11591


Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (15:25): I do not come to this debate with any sense of pleasure at all. I come to this debate with a great sense of a heavy heart. I have known the Speaker for the best part of 20 years, and when you serve as a colleague with another human being for 20 years you have many shared experiences over that time in opposition, in government, and in opposition again. I am very sad and very sorry that we have come to this pass in this place, and I know that other members of this House know exactly what I mean.

All of this could have been entirely predicted when the Prime Minister suspended her best judgement, yet again, to choose her own political survival over good judgement made in this place as Prime Minister. We do not seek to prejudge the court case that is currently underway in the Federal Court. The reason that the opposition brings this motion—a very serious motion to declare the speakership vacant—to the House today is that the revelations that have arisen out of the court case are so heinous, so egregious, that it is the opposition's contention that the Speaker can never resume the chair in this place in any way that would lend confidence to the opposition that he would do so with impartiality, good taste and fairness.

The Prime Minister said in her defence of the Speaker today, when she associated herself with the member for Fisher, that there was a double standard being employed by this opposition. I remind the House that it was this Prime Minister who said in relation to the member for Dobell that a line had been crossed and that that line meant that he could no longer serve in the Labor caucus. But, in spite of the revelations about the current Speaker, in spite of everything we now know about the Speaker, the Prime Minister still does not believe that any line has been crossed.

At the end of the day, this Prime Minister always puts her own political survival, her own ruthless ambition, ahead of the best interests of the Australian people and this parliament as their representative. She has always done it in her career. She did it to Kevin Rudd, the member for Griffith, when she promised that she would never seek the prime ministership and then ruthlessly cut him down in the dark of the night to seize the job before the 2010 election. She did it when she told the Australian people, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead,' and then, to get the Greens into the tent after the election, broke that promise ruthlessly so that she could cling to power in this parliament. She has never had any regard for anything other than her own ruthless ambition and desire to grasp power in this country since her university days, when she was part of the far Left of the Australian Union of Students.

Let us deal with some of the things the Prime Minister said in her speech. She did not at any point rise to defend the Speaker, the member for Fisher, about the allegations that have been made against him and about the release of the egregious text messages. No, she played the victim. She attacked someone else. She said that any debate about these matters was pure sexism on the part of the opposition. She played the victim in an insipid and pathetic performance that was not prime ministerial.

But nobody forced the Prime Minister's hand in November 2011. Nobody came to her and said, 'You must axe Harry Jenkins, the member for Scullin, and put in Peter Slipper.' She came up with that idea all on her own—she came up with the idea of gaining one extra vote in this chamber. She never at any point was forced to crash her prime ministership on the rocks of her own self-regard and her own ruthless ambition to seize and hold power. The Prime Minister's judgement is in question today because time and time again this government lurches from one catastrophe to another and from one scandal to another, whether it is the member for Dobell, the pink batts fiasco, the schools disaster, the supertrawler mind-changing, the live exports fiasco or the carbon tax breach of promise.

The public of this country deserve so much better; the public deserve a government that puts their interests, rather than the government's own interests, first. I beseech some good members of the Labor caucus—and I am looking at them now—to recognise that the damage which has been done to this parliament in the last 12 months has damaged us all. The lack of integrity demonstrated by this Prime Minister in choosing one vote over principle has damaged the parliament and our Westminster tradition.

I am reminded of the scene from A Man for All Seasons when Saint Thomas More says to Richard Rich:

For Wales.

Why Richard, it profits a man nothing

to give his soul for the whole world.

But for Wales.

Yet this Prime Minister, born of Wales, sacrificed her soul for just one vote—and the whole Labor caucus owns it. All the sanctimonious, supercilious members of the Labor front bench who come out and do press conferences day after day lecturing the opposition and the Australian people about misogyny are going to vote today to support the member for Fisher's remaining in the role of Speaker. Like lemmings, the Labor caucus is yet again going to follow this perfidious Prime Minister over the cliff to protect her own ambition, her own ruthless desire to grab and cling to power. Surely it is time that the members of the Labor caucus started putting the Australian people first and this Prime Minister last, because that is what is going to happen.

Let us talk about the Prime Minister's double standard. She lectures the Leader of the Opposition about his past statements, but when the former member for Robertson said to the member for Indi 'evil thoughts will turn your baby into a demon', the only comment from the then Deputy Prime Minister Gillard was that 'the member for Robertson is a good member'. She throws our words back at us today, but let us remember her words: 'the member for Robertson is a good member'. Yet the then member for Robertson had said that the member for Indi's 'evil thoughts' would 'turn her baby into a demon'.

It does not stop there. When John Williams was the Labor candidate for Indi in 2004, he said that the member for Indi could not represent the people of Indi because she did not have any children, because she did not have a family. Because she was not married and did not have any children, he said that she could not possibly represent the constituents of Indi. Does this sound familiar? Julia Gillard did not come out and attack those appalling statements; after the comments had been reported in the Age she went and campaigned for and supported the Labor candidate for Indi, Mr Williams. The Prime Minister says to us that we fostered and supported the member for Fisher as a candidate for many years. But we did not support him to be put in the most important position in this parliament. We did not support him to be Deputy Speaker after the 2010 election; we opposed his election in 2010 to the post of Deputy Speaker, and the Labor Party supported him. In 2011 we opposed his election as Speaker of the House, and I nominated on that occasion nine different members of the Labor Party of whom I asked whether they had the integrity to take the chair. I nominated them to take the chair, and their responses were very interesting. You yourself, Madam Deputy Speaker Burke—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr KJ Thomson ): I might have to pull you up in a minute, Chris.

Mr PYNE: said 'while I am loath to do so, I turn down the offer'. The member for Reid was good enough to be uncomfortable about the fact that he had to turn down the nomination. So it was not just this side of the House which knew that the Labor Party was crowing for no good reason; many members of the Labor caucus knew that the Prime Minister's judgement was seriously flawed in putting the member for Fisher forward for the post of Speaker. Her judgement has been catastrophically flawed today in defending the member for Fisher remaining in the post of Speaker and, worse, in driving her caucus over the cliff with her.

Madam Deputy Speaker, since the current Speaker has been elected—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr KJ Thomson ): I will have to call you up, Chris.

Mr PYNE: Mr Deputy Speaker, since this Speaker has been elected—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr KJ Thomson ): Thank you.

Mr PYNE: he has sat in the chair for 19 days during question time and not sat in the chair for 34 days during question time. For 34 days the current Speaker has been the Speaker with the full salary and emoluments of the post—the capacity for overseas travel, the higher travelling allowance and every other emolument that comes with the post—as well as the job of meeting foreign dignitaries and greeting them at the chamber door et cetera. He has been receiving and doing all those things, but for 34 days he has not sat in question time while the member for Chisholm has fulfilled that role, and for only 19 days he has sat in the chair as Speaker since his election on 24 November 2011. It has become high farce; it is beyond a joke. The member for Denison, in fact, described it as beyond a joke—and he is correct. The public expect a great deal better from this 43rd Parliament. If today the House votes to make the Speaker's chair vacant, it will be the first occasion—though there have been many opportunities—that this 43rd Parliament has stood up for its own integrity and supported itself.

We also heard from the member for Isaacs; it was an extraordinary performance but his credibility on these matters is nil. This man represents the seat of Isaacs, Sir Isaac Isaacs being the first Jewish Governor-General in Australia's history and the first Australian-born Governor-General in Australia's history. The member for Isaacs himself is of the Jewish faith, yet he described the Leader of the Opposition as using Goebbels-like tactics. This is a man who it is alleged—and it was reported in the newspapers—called the member for Indi a bitch in this chamber and was forced to come back into the chamber, apologise and withdraw. Yet he stands in this House today and lectures the opposition on statements that we have made in the past. The hypocrisy of the member for Isaacs is breathtaking. He said that the text messages exchanged between the applicant in the case in the Federal Court and one of the respondents all happened before the member for Fisher was the Speaker. Quite frankly, so what? The behaviour since he was Speaker is the matter that is complained about by the applicant in the case. And the Speaker was also the Deputy Speaker. I remind you that the Labor Party appointed him to that role and appointed him to the speakership.

The member for Isaacs said that the opposition had no respect for the office of Speaker. We are in the House this afternoon debating this motion to make the Speaker's seat vacant because we are the side of the House that has respect for the office of Speaker. We would never have traduced it by axing a fine and honourable man, the member for Scullin, in order to gain one vote on the floor of the House. Like Banquo's ghost, that decision of this Prime Minister has come back to haunt her and it will hang around her neck like a millstone right through to the next election—another example of her bad judgement.

So I do commend this motion to the House. I call on those good members of the Labor caucus who are thoroughly sick of this Prime Minister to finally show the courage that you have and support the opposition in restoring integrity to this parliament, in restoring integrity to the jobs that we do as members of this parliament. I call on the House to support the motion.