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EYE-BALL on – The Australian Parliamentary Process – Part I – The Speaker …

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The Australian Parliamentary Process – Part I – The Speaker …

David CameronAnyone who saw the UK PM David Cameron perform Wednesday night Australian time was able to see a Parliamentary session all Australians should be using as a benchmark – and be wanting answers as to why the Australian Parliament  cannot conduct itself with a similar respect for the process of Government.

UK Speaker

The UK “SPEAKER” – Mr John Bercow – was effective and commanded respected from all the House and made the Australian Speaker – Mr Harry Jenkins– look absolutely second rate – Speaker JenkinsSpeaker Jenkins seems to spend more time addressing parliament on Standing Orders policy and interjection rulings – you might think he is using this camera time exposure during Question Timeas a self-promotion exercise.

In the many hours this UK special sitting and recalled session ran – the UK Speaker was the least heard and when he stood – the HOUSE became a Church.

The point being that whilst Australia has it’s own quirkiness in the ‘ROBUST’ connotation to what forms Australia’s Parliamentary Question TIme – the performance of the UK MP‘s – their House in general – their decorum – their respectful presentation of Questions – the way the question were answered directly and concisely – no party propaganda bullshit – no Ministerial posturing – no trying to self-promote from the backbench – the total presence of the Parliamentary session gave hope to a diminishing belief that Democracy had outlived its usefulness.

It is the Australian Parliament that is shocking lacking – in all facets of behaviour and conduct – Members are so divisive and locked into the party-line and regimented structure – that true constituency representation by MP’s in the House has been lost.

The HOUSE behaves like fans at a fiercely parochial football match – where you sit on one side with all your Member colleagues – and as part of your membership duty you are required to sling – to bastardise – and to ridicule the other side at every opportunity and then again whenever else the Party Leadership demands.

These MP’s are grown adults – representatives as our voice in Parliament – and what they offer up as a reflection of that responsibility in this highest office in the land – can best be described as punk-gang game of marbles in a school yard for delinquents.

Their regular performances in the House has been a deteriorating existence – and causes great embarrassment for all of us – there is no pride in what Question Time offers or is supposed to represent – nor in the Standing Orders all Members are supposed to adhere to according to our Parliamentary system – or of the participants who are responsible for dragging the levels of behaviour to where they currently sully.

There are many behavioural differences to the UK system when compared with Australia – each SPEAKER has their own set of STANDING ORDERS from which they are charged to manage the behaviour of the House and to allow the conduct Government business within their respective Houses.

The UK system is not abided to alternate Questions during Question Time – and the backbench questions being asked are mostly orated without written text to read from – this makes for a much more impressive overview of the Members asking the question that they have some purchase to the question being asked.

The UK language level is of course educated and on such a higher intellect than the level commonly displayed and demonstrated by the Australian MP’s. The UK responses are articulately delivered and almost always relate to the Question asked … where Australian MP’s tend to self-promote themselves – denigrate the other side – and use the time at the lectum to deliver debate on policy initiatives.

I rate Australia’s Parliament a crude, disrespectful and rude 2 out of 10 on a scale where the UK Parliament represents the benchmark score of 10/10.

It is a fair statement to say – that every Question time in the Gillard Government has been an abomination – and it can be pinpointed that the reasons emanate from The Speaker and his performance under the existing ‘Standing Orders’ – even the Speaker states that he is hamstrung in controlling the House by the current version of the Standing Orders.

Research into the current version of the Australian version of Standing and Sessional Orders – [current as at 20th Oct 2010] – and as published on the Australian Government website – Sections relating to the Speaker and his authority when overseeing the conduct of the House are set out as follows –

Manner and right of speech
64 – No Member to be referred to by name
In the House and the Main Committee, a Member shall not be referred to by name, but by one of the following forms, as appropriate:
(a) the Member’s ministerial office (e.g. Prime Minister, Minister for Defence, Attorney-General);
(b) the Member’s parliamentary office (e.g. Leader of the House, Leader of the Opposition, Chief Government Whip);
(c) the Member’s electoral division (e.g. Member for Adelaide).

65 Members wishing to speak
(a) A Member wishing to speak shall rise and, when recognise by the Speaker, address the Speaker. If a Member is unable to rise, he or she will be permitted to speak while seated.
(b) When a Member is speaking, no Member may converse aloud or make any noise or disturbance to interrupt the Member.
(c) If two or more Members rise to speak, the Speaker shall call on the Member, who in the Speaker’s opinion, rose first. If the Speaker’s selection is challenged, a motion may be moved—
That [Member who was not called] be heard now.
The question must be put immediately and resolved without amendment or debate.

66 When interruption of Member allowed
A Member may only interrupt another Member to:
(a) call attention to a point of order;
(b) call attention to a matter of privilege suddenly arising;
(c) call attention to the lack of a quorum;
(d) call attention to the unwanted presence of visitors;
(e) move—
That the Member be no longer heard;
(f) move—
That the question be now put;
(g) move—
That the business of the day be called on; or
(h) make an intervention as provided in the standing orders.

The Speakers duty to keep ORDER in the House is quoted as:

Order

60 Order kept by Speaker or Chair
(a) The Speaker, or the occupier of the Chair of the House at the time, shall keep order in the House.
(b) The Deputy Speaker, or the occupier of the Chair of the Main Committee at the time, shall keep order in the Committee. The House may address disorder in the Committee after receiving a report from the Deputy Speaker.

61 Members to recognise authority of the Speaker
(a) If the Speaker stands during a debate, any Member then speaking or seeking the call shall sit down and the House shall be silent, so the Speaker may be heard without interruption.
(b) When the Speaker is putting a question no Member may walk out of or across the Chamber.

62 Members moving in the Chamber
A Member in the Chamber must:
(a) take his or her seat promptly;
(b) bow to the Speaker on entering or leaving the Chamber;
(c) not remain in the aisles; and
(d) not pass between the Speaker and any Member who is speaking.

A great diversion used in the House by the Opposition is the POINT of ORDER reference – the Standing Orders decree as follows:

Point of order and Speaker’s ruling

86 Point of order
(a) Subject to standing order 104, a Member may raise a point of order with the Speaker at any time. After the question of order has been stated to the Speaker by the Member rising to the question of order, consideration and decision of every other question shall be suspended until the matter is disposed of by the Speaker giving a ruling thereon.
(b) A Member interrupted by a point of order must resume his or her seat.
(c) During a division, Members may speak while seated to a point of order arising out of or during the division.

87 Dissent from ruling of Speaker
If a Member dissents from a ruling of the Speaker, the objection or dissent must be declared at once. A Member moving a motion of dissent must submit the motion in writing. If the motion is seconded, the Speaker shall then propose the question to the House, and debate may proceed immediately.

Disorder

88 Use of certain names
A Member must not refer disrespectfully to the Queen, the Governor-General, or a State Governor, in debate or for the purpose of influencing the House in its deliberations.

89 Offensive words
A Member must not use offensive words against:
(a) either House of the Parliament or a Member of the Parliament; or
(b) a member of the Judiciary.

90 Reflections on Members
All imputations of improper motives to a Member and all personal reflections on other Members shall be considered highly disorderly.

91 Disorderly conduct
A Member’s conduct shall be considered disorderly if the Member has:
(a) persistently and wilfully obstructed the House;
(b) used objectionable words, which he or she has refused to withdraw;
(c) persistently and wilfully refused to conform to a standing order;
(d) wilfully disobeyed an order of the House;
(e) persistently and wilfully disregarded the authority of the Speaker; or
(f) been considered by the Speaker to have behaved in a disorderly manner.

92 Intervention by Speaker
(a) The Speaker can intervene:
(i) to prevent any personal quarrel between Members during proceedings; and
(ii) when a Member’s conduct is considered offensive or disorderly.
(b) When the Speaker’s attention is drawn to the conduct of a Member, the Speaker shall determine whether or not it is offensive or disorderly.

93 Member ordered to attend House
A Member who wilfully disobeys an order of the House may be ordered to attend the House to answer for his or her conduct. A motion to this effect can be moved without notice.

94 Sanctions against disorderly conduct
The Speaker can take action against disorderly conduct by a Member:
Direction to leave the Chamber
(a) The Speaker can direct a disorderly Member to leave the Chamber for one hour. The direction shall not be open to debate or dissent, and if the Member does not leave the Chamber immediately, the Speaker can name the Member under the following procedure.
Member named and suspended
(b) The Speaker can name a disorderly Member. Immediately following a naming, on a motion being moved, the Speaker shall put the question—
That the Member be suspended from the service of the House.
The question must be resolved without amendment, adjournment or debate.
Urgent action
(c) If the Speaker determines there is an urgent need to protect the dignity of the House, the Speaker can order a grossly disorderly Member to leave the Chamber immediately. When the Member has left, the Speaker must immediately name the Member and paragraph (b) shall apply; except that the Speaker shall put the question for suspension without a motion being necessary. If the question is resolved in the negative, the Member may return to the Chamber.

Term of suspension
(d) If a Member is named and suspended, the term of the suspension shall be:
(i) on the first occasion, for the 24 hour period from the time of suspension;
(ii) on the second occasion during the same calendar year, for the three consecutive sittings following the day of suspension; and
(iii) on a third or later occasion during the same calendar year, for the seven consecutive sittings following the day of suspension.
A suspension in a previous session or a direction to leave the Chamber for one hour shall be disregarded in the calculation of these terms.

Exclusion from Chamber and Main Committee
(e) A Member who is subject to a direction to leave the Chamber for one hour, or a suspension for 24 hours or more, shall be excluded from the Chamber, its galleries and the room in which the Main Committee is meeting.
Removal of Member
(f) If a Member refuses to follow the Speaker’s direction, the Speaker may order the Serjeant-at-Arms to remove the Member from the Chamber or the Main Committee or take the Member into custody.

95 If grave disorder, House suspended or adjourned
In the event of grave disorder occurring in the House, the Speaker, without any question being put, can:
(a) suspend the sitting and state the time at which he or she will resume the Chair; or
(b) adjourn the House to the next sitting.

96 Serjeant-at-Arms to remove persons
(a) If a visitor or person other than a Member disturbs the operation of the Chamber or the Main Committee, the Serjeant-at-Arms can remove the person or take the person into custody.
(b) If a visitor or other person is taken into custody by the Serjeant-at-Arms, the Speaker must report this to the House without

There is ample ambit within these Standing Orders for the Speaker to reign the House into Order – the question then becomes why has Speaker Jenkins lost control over the House?

Why is there such a lack of respect for his authority – why does the House take the level of behaviour to the extreme that directly challenges the Speakers authority – it’s contemptible and in a Court of Law would not be tolerated – all these questions have relevance and are reasons why the House has reduced itself to the uncompromising and juvenile standards it now represents. Simple put – Speaker Jenkins is not up to the job and that then begs the question – why did Gillard stick with him as her Speaker in a minority Government?

Looking to the Standing Orders for the UK Parliament – the following is copied from their UK Government Website – on Standing Orders.

Order in the HouseIrrelevance or repetition.

42. The Speaker, or the chair, after having called the attention of the House, or of the committee, to the conduct of a Member who persists in irrelevance, or tedious repetition either of his own arguments or of the arguments used by other Members in debate, may direct him to discontinue his speech.
42A. The Speaker, or the chair, may direct any Member who Sub judice. breaches the terms of the sub judice resolution of the House to resume his seat.

Disorderly conduct – ORDER IN THE HOUSE 43
43. The Speaker, or the chair, shall order any Member or Members whose conduct is grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately from the House during the remainder of that day’s sitting; and the Serjeant at Arms shall act on such orders as he may receive from the chair in pursuance of this order. But if on any occasion the Speaker, or the chair, deems that his powers under the previous provisions of this order are inadequate, he may name such Member or Members, in which event the same procedure shall be followed as is prescribed by Standing Order No. 44 (Order in debate).
44.—(1) Whenever a Member shall have been named by the Order in debate. Speaker, or by the chair, immediately after the commission of the offence of disregarding the authority of the chair, or of persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House by abusing the rules of the House or otherwise, then if the offence has been committed by such Member in the House, the Speaker shall forthwith put the question, on a motion being made, ‘That such Member be suspended from the service of the House’; and if the offence has been committed in a committee of the whole House, the chair shall forthwith suspend the proceedings of the committee and report the circumstances to the House; and the Speaker shall on a motion being made forthwith put the same question as if the offence had been committed in the House itself. Proceedings in pursuance of this paragraph, though opposed, may be decided after the expiration of the time for opposed business.
(2) If any Member be suspended under paragraph (1) of this order, his suspension on the first occasion shall continue for five sitting days, and on the second occasion for twenty sitting days, including in either case the day on which he was

44 STANDING ORDERS
suspended, but, on any subsequent occasion, until the House shall resolve that the suspension of such Member do terminate. (3) Not more than one Member shall be named at the same time, unless two or more Members, present together, have jointly disregarded the authority of the chair.
(4) If a Member, or two or more Members acting jointly, who have been suspended under this order from the service of the House, shall refuse to obey the direction of the Speaker, when severally summoned under the Speaker’s orders by the Serjeant at Arms to obey such direction, the Speaker shall call the attention of the House to the fact that recourse to force is necessary in order to compel obedience to his direction, and the Member or Members named by him as having refused to obey his direction shall thereupon and without any further question being put be suspended from the service of the House during the remainder of the session.
(5) Nothing in this order shall be taken to deprive the House of the power of proceeding against any Member according to ancient usages.

Members suspended, &c., to withdraw from precincts.
45.—(1) Members who are ordered to withdraw under Standing Order No. 43 (Disorderly conduct) or who are suspended from the service of the House shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.
(2) Suspension from the service of the House shall not exempt the Member so suspended from serving on any committee for the consideration of a private bill to which he may have been appointed before the suspension.

Suspension of salary of Members suspended.
45A. The salary of a Member suspended from the service of the House shall be withheld for the duration of his suspension.

ORDER IN THE HOUSE 45
Power of the Speaker to adjourn House or suspend sitting.
46. In case of grave disorder arising in the House the Speaker may, if he thinks it necessary to do so, adjourn the House without putting any question, or suspend the sitting for a time to be named by him.

Time limits on speeches.
47.—(1) The Speaker may announce that he intends to call Members to speak in a debate, or at certain times during that debate, for no longer than any period he may specify, and he may at any time make subsequent announcements varying the terms of an announcement under this paragraph.
(2) Whenever the Speaker has made an announcement under paragraph (1), he may, subject to paragraph (4), direct any Member (other than a Minister of the Crown, a Member speaking on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, or not more than one Member nominated by the leader of the second largest opposition party) who has spoken for that period to resume his seat forthwith.
(3) The Speaker may announce, at or before the commencement of any debate (other than a topical debate) in respect of which he has made or intends to make an announcement under paragraph (1) of this order, that speeches by a Minister of the Crown, Members speaking on behalf of the
Leader of the Opposition, and not more than one Member nominated by the leader of the second largest opposition party shall be limited to twenty minutes and he may direct any such Member who has spoken for that period to resume his seat forthwith.
(3A) The Speaker may announce, at or before the commencement of a topical debate in respect of which he has made or intends to make an announcement under paragraph (1) of this order, that speeches by a Minister of the Crown and any Member speaking on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition shall be limited to ten minutes and he may direct any such

46 STANDING ORDERS
Member who has spoken for that period to resume his seat forthwith.
(4) In relation to any speech, the Speaker shall add to any period specified—
(a) under paragraph (1) of this order—
(i) one minute if one intervention is accepted, plus the time taken by that intervention;
(ii) two minutes if two or more interventions are accepted, plus the time taken by the first two such interventions;
(b) under paragraph (3) or (3A) of this order, one minute for each intervention accepted up to a maximum of fifteen minutes.

These Standing Orders are not that different to the Australian version – one glaring difference is that UK Members suspended forfeit their salary whilst Suspended – i.e. (45A). Australia voted this down when it was canvassed as an option – why should MP’s get paid when they breach the Standing Orders?

The House should introduce a fine system that all Australians have imposed when they err or make willful errors of judgement – perhaps setting an hour suspension at $5000 and a day suspension at $15000 might make these so-called elected Members more respectful of their behaviour. We all have to pay fines – why not Parliamentarians.

The current Australian Government is a Minority Government – with a single vote making the difference – this puts pressure on the Speaker and makes him very reluctant to suspend or evict any Government member – else the numbers in the House return to a stalemate and if more than one Government Member is suspended or evicted – then the Government cannot conduct business and risk’s a motion of no-confidence.

This may account for some of the Speakers reluctance to not apply the Standing Orders as they are written.

That would then suggest that the Speaker is applying a double standard to the House in favour of the Government – and the Opposition in turn are quiet within their rights to show contempt towards the Speaker in their conduct of Opposition business.

Neither Leader has set any real example and it can be said that neither has any real presence within the House – all that can be said is that the Australian Public deserve better – but both Leaders come from a history of conflict – the PM in the sense that she was rejected for pre-selection for so many years before she attained her opportunity – and the Opposition Leader from a ‘head-kicking’ history and ‘hatchet’ man that is steeped in political thuggery.

From this comes the contemptible repartee that presents itself as debate – it hardly makes for an example for the children who visit the House on school excursions to learn about how our Parliamentary system works – and as part of that they sit in the public gallery watching this behaviour take place.

________________________________________

The EYE-BALL Opinion …

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  1. makin money
    August 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    would you fellas include a twitter link simply because i would like daily notices of your awesome

  2. Herman
    November 24, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Todays announcement, that Harry Jenkins will resign as speaker and be replaced by a former deputy speaker from the liberal party is several things.

    For a died in the wool ALP voter it shores up the minority government, and reduces reliance on the total capacity of the cross benches. For a Liberal Party faithful, it is treachery. Somewhere in the middle is actuality.

    Under ALP rules all candidates who cross the floor can expect expulsion. That is the message put out already by the Opposition Leader. He has said MR Peter Slipper will be expected to resign the Coalition and party if elected as speaker.

    Bob Katter has come out saying what an excellent speaker Harry Jenkins was. Tony Abbott has also spoken well of Mr Jenkins which also counts for nought.

    What really matters here is the democratic process. Peter Slipper was elected to the parliament as a Liberal, but unidentified sources say former Howard minister Mal Brough is likely to be endorsed in his seat of Fisher. This has lead to his defection. Not only should Mr Slipper resign the Liberal Party but he should also seek a fresh mandate from his constituency.

    I constantly advocate 2 party politics are the problem. Many people have a totally different view, asking then what is the alternative. That is a different debate.

    We have 2 party politics, and we have a minority government. We need to accept that under our democratic belief. Therefore should a clandestine deal that debases the very heart of that acceptance, be changed, then we must deal with that scenario in isolation.

    Should we then get a 3 way contest at a by election, between a new Liberal nomination (possibly Mal Brough), and an independent Peter Slipper (who will become speaker when elected as an independent) and a Labor nominee, again then so be it. Should Labor choose to not run a nomination again so be it. What goes to the very heart of democracy is that, the will of the people can not be corrupted.

  3. EYE-BALL
    November 24, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks for the frank comments Herman …

    But I have to ask – the presumption of a by-election based Mr Slippers presumed defection or forced resignation from the Coalition defies Democracy – surely if the vote at the election was a party vote and not a individual vote – Democracy was not served.

    Your comments are honest in what they say – yet if Mr Slipper is but a puppet – then surely all MP’s belonging to a major Party are also puppets …

    Therefore what is the deal – when we vote the presumption is that it is generally a Leadership and Party vote – but that is not what we understand Democracy to be – it is supposed to be a vote for the individual with the Party a secondary factor.

    The farce that is currently taking place in the House of Representatives to elect a new Speaker – is the true reading of just how serious the Government is in wanting to lead. AT the time of writing this response – five (5) Labour party nominees have declined their Speaker nomination. The Labour party nominated Mr Slipper – a Coalition member and subject to the Political spoils as outlined by Herman – and this is surely a day in Australian history that further shames the Labour Party …

    EYE-BALL

  4. Herman
    November 24, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Mr Slipper will be enriched as the new speaker. His salary and entitlements will increase. I won’t even speculate on his parliamentary superannuation.

    His electorate will be endowed by a thankful government as an independent in the run up to the next Federal election.

    It appears Mr Jenkins is happy to take an easier job. The Government (treasury) pays the bills. It is a good chance his seat will revert to the Liberals at the election that will wash away all elements of this government. Again Treasury will pay to keep those ex labor politicians on excess entitlements..

    This is not democracy. This is self serving government. I have had my say and welcome any other opinion.

  5. lista de
    August 14, 2012 at 2:07 am

    your blog is really excellent. it inspires the readers who have that great desire to lead a better and happier life. thanks for sharing this information and hope to read more from you.

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