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Monday, 21 May 2018
Page: 3937

Federal By-Elections

Mr BURKE (Watson) (15:15): I have a question to the Speaker.

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: If members could cease interjecting, I'm trying to give the Manager of Opposition Business the call.

Mr BURKE: Thanks, Mr Speaker. Thank you for making that statement to the House. I respect the procedure that you said you would follow in terms of who you would consult. The advice you just referred to from the Australian Electoral Commission creates a situation where government policy can hold up whether or not a seat is filled.

When the member for Bennelong resigned, a by-election was called two days later. For the seat of New England, it was called on the same day that the High Court handed down its decision. For Batman, it was six days after. Indeed, if a general election is called, once that is agreed with the Governor-General, everything can happen within 33 days, and it happens immediately.

That being the case, and respecting the independence of your role as Speaker—

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will cease interjecting.

Mr BURKE: I do have to raise the issue that it is now taking longer to fill five seats than it would take to fill 150, and we are currently in a situation where the government could delay a regulation for as long as they wanted, and that would determine when a by-election was held.

The SPEAKER (15:17): Let me just address that question as quickly as I can. I'll make a couple of statements because I'll deal with the substance of the question. The last part of my statement the Manager of Opposition Business should acquaint himself with, and that is that I'll continue to consult with the commissioner and party leaders, and I hope to be able to update the House later this week. I think that answers the substance of his question.

Let me also point out to the Manager of Opposition Business and all members the process that Speakers normally undertake. Their obligation is to advise the House of resignations and then to advise the House once writs have been issued. I've taken this course of action today because the events are unusual, given the circumstances, and as a courtesy to the House. That's why I've done that.

Can I also say, as frankly as I can, that my duty is to consult with the Australian Electoral Commissioner. I realise that lots of people have lots of opinions on this matter, but I would be very surprised if any members of the House thought that I should not consult with the Electoral Commissioner or indeed that I should ignore his advice. I'll update the House later in the week. That's my expectation. Out of courtesy to all members of the House, I wanted to give this update today.