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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3407

Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Education) (14:33): Madam Speaker, I rise to defend your position as Speaker and to speak against the motion to suspend standing orders moved by the Manager of Opposition Business. I would say to government members that we regard this vote as a vote of confidence in the Speaker. As far as the government is concerned, when the vote is taken, this will be a vote of confidence in the Speaker—and I am very confident that the Speaker will win.

The fact that this is a stunt is so clearly indicated by the fact that the Manager of Opposition Business came into the chamber with a prepared speech, which he then read from throughout his 10-minute contribution to the House. Madam Speaker, the Manager of Opposition Business has been building up to this since the first day that you were elected Speaker. I would remind him that, when you were elected Speaker on 12 November last year, the Manager of Opposition Business said, 'When they all return to Hogwarts, Dumbledore is gone and Dolores Umbridge is now in charge of the school.' From the first day that you were Speaker, the Manager of Opposition Business and his cohorts on the front bench, like the member for Grayndler, the member for Isaacs, the member for Sydney and the member for Ballarat, have been deliberately trying to create an issue around the speakership by being rude, by being aggressive and by behaving quite intolerably badly towards a woman in the chair.

The member for Sydney had cause to say in August 2012, about the then Leader of the Opposition, that perhaps he had trouble with strong women in public life. She said, 'I think he does find it very difficult that he's dealing with two women in positions of authority'—being then, the member for Chisholm and the then Prime Minister. But, quite frankly, Madam Speaker, the former Leader of the Opposition never spoke to either the member for Chisholm or the former Prime Minister in the way that the member for Isaacs speaks to you in the chair.

Mr Burke interjecting

Mr PYNE: Not as badly, Manager of Opposition Business. The member for Isaacs is a bully—and an aggressive one at that—and he has deliberately been trying to be rude to you from his position, with his shouting and being over the top and loud. It was all, I think, part of a deliberate strategy.

May I say, Madam Speaker, that I am no sook. I was Manager of Opposition Business for five years. I was Manager of Opposition Business for three years in a hung parliament. I hold the record for being ejected from this place by Speakers in the parliament. But I never complained. I did not stand up like a great big sook—like the Manager of Opposition Business did today—and say, like one of my four children, that I had had my toy taken away from me.

I know opposition is tough. Opposition is not challenging. It is not satisfying. You do not get to make any decisions. Paul Keating put it very well in a debate on a matter of public importance in response to the then member for Flinders, Mr Reith, when he said, 'Honourable members opposite have three more years of their lives trotting around in opposition, three more years in the corridors at night wandering in and out of each other's offices, having cold cups of tea at 11 o'clock.' And you have fallen silent, because you know it is true.

The sadness for the opposition is that you lost the election. You have three years—hopefully more—in opposition, and you just have to get used to it. When you are in opposition, you do get thrown out of parliament more often than members of the government. When I was in government, I was thrown out of the chamber, as was the Prime Minister when he was the Leader of the House. You have to put up with it; that is the way it is.

You should hold the government to account because that is what a good opposition does and the crossbenchers should do so as well. But when you speak to the Speaker, when you deal with the chair—the way you deal with the member for Mackellar is utterly unprecedented in this place. I have been here for 21 years and I am shocked and appalled, as I hope a gentleman would be, by the way you speak to the Speaker. The member for Isaacs was named today and it was thoroughly deserved. For you to move this motion of no confidence the first time the Speaker names a member is bizarre; it is ludicrous; it is over the top; it is a stunt; it is designed to hide the fact that the opposition does not have anything to say about the issues that the public care about.

The opposition have nothing to say concerning issues the public care about—lowering taxation, cutting regulation, abolishing the carbon tax, reducing cost-of-living pressures on Australian families or returning the rule of law to the workplace. Therefore, the tactic of the opposition has been one of trying to create distractions from the fact that they stand for nothing. My advice to the opposition is: you have three years to learn why you lost the election in 2010 and why you lost the election in 2013. In 2010, you only hung on to power because you were able to negotiate with the crossbenches and after one term you had fewer seats than the Liberal Party and the National Party in this House. The opposition have made no effort to do the hard work, to prepare policies, to think about what they stand for.

Graham Richardson tried to give you advice in The Australian a couple of weeks ago in one of his columns. You should listen to Graham Richardson because he was part of a successful Labor government. None of you were, I know; you were part of a very failed government. It could not have been easy for former ministers sitting opposite to accept that after three years they had fewer seats on their side of the House and after six years they were thrown from office in a landslide defeat. It is hard for them to accept that, I know. But quite frankly, they have to accept it and get on with it, if they want to serve in government ever again—hopefully, a more successful government than the last one. They have to do the work.

When we were in opposition, the former member for Scullin was in the chair. He lost a vote on the floor of this House by throwing out a member—it was the member for Paterson, Bob Baldwin. The Leader of the Opposition immediately moved a motion of confidence in the Speaker—immediately, straight after. The then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, had to second the motion because Labor's instinct was not to protect the Speaker. Labor's intention was not to uphold the dignity of the office of Speaker; it was to use it as a pawn, as a negotiating tool to get the then member for Fisher to sit in the speakership and save one vote. That is how the Labor Party thinks the speakership should be treated. It did not actually work very well for them, I hate to tell them—another piece of advice. That did not go so well, did it? Unfortunately, the former member for Fisher did not measure up as well as you had hoped.

The Labor Party's tactics in this place have been chaotic from day one. Their questions are very broad and should be ruled out of order, but quite frankly the Speaker has been very tolerant. If the questions being asked by the opposition had been asked by me when we were in opposition, I would never have got away with them. They are full of argument; they are full of abuse; yet the Speaker has been very tolerant and very generous. The reason the Speaker has been tolerant and generous to the opposition is that she was a very effective member of the opposition over a long period of time and has been an effective member of government. She knows that, for democracy to work, question time needs to be allowed to run, to flow. Due to her innate understanding of how our democracy works, the Speaker has allowed the opposition to get away with a great deal more than I was ever allowed to get away with when we were in opposition.

Rather than trying to make a political point and distract the public from their paucity of ideas by moving this motion, the opposition should be congratulating you in the chair, Madam Speaker, because you have been much more generous to the opposition then I would be were I in your place. Woe betide that day, should it ever come!

Opposition members interjecting

Mr PYNE: I have not prepared for this speech like you have. Mine are written notes, not the speeches you have. My advice to the opposition is to get on with the job of opposition. As somebody once said, 'Opposition is slowly boring through hard boards,' and it is. It is not something that you can just deal with. This is a tactic, this is a stunt, this is simply designed to distract the House, the public and the people from the shabby tactics of the Labor Party.

We have absolute confidence in the Speaker and, as long as the Speaker wants to serve in that role, the government will support her from this side of the House. The vote that we are about to take is a vote of confidence in the Speaker. I will be voting with the Speaker and I assume the government will be too. I ask the crossbenches to turn their backs on this shabby stunt and to support the Speaker.