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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13782

Mr MELHAM (Banks) (12:44): Mr Clerk, I move:

That the honourable member for Fisher, Peter Slipper, do take the chair of this House as Speaker.

Mr Clerk, I was first elected to this place on 24 March 1990 and I have had the opportunity to observe seven Speakers during that time. I want to say something in the first instance about the immediate past Speaker. I regard Mr Jenkins as having served with distinction in this House—

Honourable members: Hear, hear!

Mr MELHAM: doing himself and his party proud and more importantly doing this parliament proud.

Honourable members: Hear, hear!

Mr MELHAM: I am proud also to call him a friend. In relation to Mr Slipper, I moved on 28 September 2010 his nomination as Deputy Speaker of this place, and he was successful in that nomination. He has been Deputy Speaker since that time. If one goes to the Parliamentary Handbook one will see that he is eminently qualified to occupy the position of Speaker. He has been on the Speaker's panel since 18 February 2008. He was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration from 21 October 1998 to 26 October 2004. He was acting parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister from 14 March 2002 to 7 October 2003.

But I particularly want to talk about his service since he has been Deputy Speaker of this place, since 28 September 2010, and I do it through the prism of having served on the Privileges Committee, having served on the Procedures Committee of this House and having a strong love of the procedures of this place. Mr Slipper has impressed—because it has been a difficult position. He has not been intimidated. He has acted with independence and impartiality. He has, I think, incurred the wrath of some of those opposite with some of his actions, because he has observed the rules of this place.

So when one looks to who is to replace former Speaker Jenkins, one has to say: who is best capable of keeping the House in order? I say, without hesitation, that Mr Slipper, the member for Fisher, fits that bill—and fits it impeccably in terms of his service to this House.

I observed a press conference today that seemed to indicate that the opposition believe that the Speaker should come from the government side of the House—as if it were some convention, writ large. Let me say to all members of the House: that is fine but let us not rewrite history and let us not rewrite what those opposite have done. One of the first acts I was involved in when I was first elected to this parliament was the election of the then Speaker for that parliament. We actually had an election. The Liberal Party actually nominated one of their own for Speaker—Mr Dobie, who was defeated 79 to 67 on 8 May 1990. So the view of the Liberal Party at that stage was that they felt that one of their own was better to be Speaker, and it became a matter for the House. So it was not an unopposed position. Was it an accident in 1990? No; it was repeated.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr MELHAM: I am arguing here why Mr Slipper qualifies for the position of Speaker, notwithstanding that he is not a member of this government. On 4 May 1993 there was another election for Speaker where Mr Dobie was again put up, and he was defeated by Speaker Martin by 78 to 63. So this notion—this recent invention—that the Speaker has to be a member of the government is not what the opposition used to think.

You have to have a long memory in this game and, fortunately, because I have almost 22 years of experience in this place, I remember some events past—and we have also got the honourable member for Berowra, the Father of the House, who knows it was usual in the early days for the opposition to put up one of their own. I do not decry that; there is nothing wrong with that. But I am not going to stand here and allow it to be unchallenged that something is wrong because the Speaker does not come from the governing party.

So, Mr Clerk, I say to you that I believe in the time that Mr Slipper has occupied the position of Deputy Speaker he has shown that he is worthy of being elected to the position of Speaker in the way that he has run this place. I believe he will be a good, independent Speaker, which is what this House needs.

The Clerk: Is the motion seconded?