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Transcript of doorstop interview: 22 February 2008: gagged without a vote on first sitting day.



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Fri, 22nd February 2008 TRANSCRIPT - STEVEN CIOBO - GAGGED WITHOUT A VOTE ON FIRST FRIDAY SITTING DAY

Steven Ciobo MP Shadow Minister for Small Business, the Service Economy & Tourism

E&OE

CIOBO:

Today, I feel sorry for the Speaker who was put in a difficult position. The reason for that was that under this new Government's part-time Parliament we have a situation arise where democracy is being gagged without a vote. I was trying to speak on behalf of my constituents and as a Member of Parliament to exercise compliance with the standing orders to move a motion to allow for Question Time today so that we had a fully functioning Parliament. What we actually had was a situation where I was gagged without a vote. I was asked to leave by the Speaker and the Sergeant-at-Arms.

JOURNALIST:

Sounds like a stunt.

CIOBO:

It's not a stunt. There are some fundamental rights and some fundamental values as a Member of Parliament that we have to stand up for. Today I was seeking to do exactly that. The Speaker was put in a difficult position because we have a non-functioning Parliament on Friday's because the new Labor Government refuses to be accountable, refuses to have divisions and as a result the Speaker's hands are tied.

JOURNALIST:

Would you do it again?

CIOBO:

This is certainly a matter that needs to be resolved; we have a situation where as a result of decisions that have been taken by this new Labor Government to not allow divisions where matters can't be resolved and as a consequence we're left in this limbo of a part-time parliament.

JOURNALIST:

You defied the speaker (inaudible)

CIOBO:

No, I didn't defy the speaker. We moved a motion of dissent on the speaker. The situation is none of these issues were resolved. Effectively what took place was that my motion to suspend standing orders was ostensibly deemed to not have been successful. But the Government's motion to gag me was ostensibly deemed to have been successful. So it wasn't a case of me wanting to have dissent from the

Speaker. It was a case of me simply standing up for my right and to continue moving my motion - my right as a Member of Parliament.

JOURNALIST:

Steven, can you just take us through the technicality, every time someone is thrown out from now on, do you say the Speaker doesn't have the authority to do that without a vote?

CIOBO:

Well, what happened today, the situation we've got on Friday's is that I moved a motion to suspend standing orders. That motion I tried to speak to and the Government gagged me. The problem is that the Government, because they don't want to have divisions on Friday's so that the new Prime Minister can have his day off and the new Minister's can have their days off, we've now got a situation where there was no vote that was taken. The consequence of that, I argued, is that as my right as a Member is to continue speaking on my motion. The Speaker, it appears, ostensibly held the view that my motion was lost, yet the motion to gag me was won on the basis that there was no vote taken.

JOURNALIST:

Do you believe the Sergeant-at-Arms has the power (inaudible)?

CIOBO:

No I don't. I don't believe that there was the right to do that. I complied with the request. There have been other members, I remind you in the past, such as Senator Brown and Senator Nettle who refused to comply with the Speaker. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to compy with the request from the Sergeant-at-Arms, and so I complied with the request.

JOURNALIST:

Did the Sergeant physically touch you and sort of carry you physically?

CIOBO:

No he didn't

JOURNALIST:

If it was wrong for the speaker to throw you out, why don't you just go back in there? CIOBO:

Today is an opportunity for people to talk about issues that are important and I don't want to deny them that opportunity. But the facts still remain that we have, in my view, this parliamentary limbo caused by a Government that doesn't want to be accountable on Friday's. This could all be resolved very simply - if we simply allow the normal operation of standing orders, that the Government simply allowed for there to be a Question Time, all of this would be resolved and Friday would function as a normal Parliamentary today.

JOURNALIST:

How can you say Kevin Rudd wants the day off when he's off visiting flood victims in your state in Mackay. That's pretty crass thing to day isn't it?

CIOBO:

No it's not a crass thing at all. The fact is that the Parliament is meant to be sitting today; we should have a Question Time. We've got 14 sitting days without Question Times. It's clearly a parliamentary day off for a lot of the Ministers in the Rudd Government and it's not good enough. If Parliament is in session, we should have a Question Time, we should have the normal functioning of Parliament, and these kinds of things would never happen.

JOURNALIST:

Can we expect the Opposition to turn it on every time there is a Friday sitting? Are we going to see more of this protest (inaudible)?

CIOBO:

Well you best direct that question to the Leader of the Opposition.

JOURNALIST:

Question Time has gone for a lot longer this week than previous Question Times, surely that's enough time to ask every question.

CIOBO:

The reason Question Time has gone for a lot longer is that Government Minister's attended to what they want. We had an answer from the Prime Minister that went for over ten minutes.