Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Dissent from Ruling
It is, and it is with the clerks. Everything that was said yesterday about what the standards of this House are going to be becomes absolutely meaningless if the ruling you gave is followed through on. We had a clear example of a member of parliament being given a name other than his title in this House. That is exactly what we had. It was pointed out to you and we asked for it to be withdrawn in the appropriate process, according to the standing orders of this parliament. If we cannot even get over the threshold of calling people by their titles then every word we were told yesterday becomes meaningless. Every word we were told about what the standards of this government would be, in dealings with this House, means absolutely nothing if members of the government cannot even resist the cute name-calling—if they cannot even get to stage 1 of referring to people by their appropriate titles.
In the previous parliament we had a Speaker who preferred to be called by the title 'Speaker' rather than 'Madam Speaker'. We respected that. You made clear yesterday your preference to be called 'Madam Speaker' and we respect that, but for there to be no respect for members of this House—for cheap school-yard name-calling to be the order of the day in this House—takes us to a new low. Where is the idea of the adults being in charge of the government if it is going to be a case of teasing, name-calling and cute games? That is the standard that the Leader of the House—no less—has immediately taken us to.
You, Madam Speaker, yesterday assured us and the Australian people that this would not happen. You gave a guarantee that this would not happen. We simply want you to honour not merely promises made during an election but promises made yesterday. It should not be too much for members of this House to expect that stage 1—no name-calling; calling people by their appropriate titles—is honoured.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister used a similar phrase to the one now used by the Leader of the House. The media picked him up on it straight away and he acknowledged one thing: that he would not get away with using that phrase in this chamber.
Madam Speaker, they should not get away with using those phrases in this chamber. They should not get away with being able to completely denigrate principle 101, the very beginning of the principles of the standing orders, that there will be a level of courtesy. I liked some of the interviews you gave yesterday, Madam Speaker, I just cannot reconcile them with the ruling you just gave. It is no surprise at all, when we look now, that yesterday you were brought forward by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House. It is no surprise that for the first time in defiance of Westminster tradition we have a Speaker who was physically brought here by the executive.
Madam Speaker, in a motion of dissent in the Speaker's ruling the debate needs to be very tightly delivered by the opposition or by, indeed, the government. The Manager of Opposition Business is now reflecting on the Speaker by suggesting that, somehow, your position is illegitimate because you were escorted to the chair and nominated and seconded by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House. If the opposition knew what they were talking about they would realise that the successful nominee is escorted to the chair by the persons they regard as their two closest friends in the chamber, not by their positions. Therefore, it is a disgraceful slur on the election that was conducted yesterday into the speakership to now reflect on your chairmanship not just your ruling. I would say that the Manager of Opposition Business is sailing very close to the wind of being ejected from the parliament for that unparliamentary behaviour.
Madam Speaker, I simply ask that the House take note of standing order 64, which has in big, bold letters—it is not necessary for them to read the fine print:
No Member to be referred to by name …
and for people to be referred to by their parliamentary titles. It is that simple. It is there in black and white. It is not like we need to go to the big green book to see what is the fine detail on this. It is there as the most basic principle. Not only that, it is the one area of the standing orders that was held up yesterday. It is the one area, about how we treat each other and the courtesy we show each other, which was put forward yesterday. If there were ever an example of the behaviour of this government in this House being different from what we were told it would be it is this. In many examples we are dealing with what was said before the election. On this we are dealing with what the standing orders say in black and white.
Madam Speaker, I put to the House that there is no way of reading standing order 64 that makes it consistent with your ruling. There is no way at all that those words can be read and your ruling be correct. I stood up a number of times without moving dissent in the hope that you would reconsider that ruling. We did not want to be moving dissent on the first day. We did not want to be in a situation where this parliament was different from what we were told it was going to be yesterday, but through the childishness of those opposite they could not even keep their word for 24 hours. The one protection this parliament is meant to have is your office, Madam Speaker. Your office is meant to be the one protection that members of parliament have to make sure that the standing orders are upheld.
I put to you, Madam Speaker, and I put to the House that no-one can credibly argue that that ruling and the behaviour of the Leader of the House are consistent with the standing orders of this parliament. When we vote on this dissent motion this parliament is going to make a judgement call as to whether or not the standing orders matter, as to whether or not the words of the Prime Minister about the conduct of this House matter and, Madam Speaker, I put it to you, whether or not the words you said yesterday matter.
This is no small issue. It is not like we are dealing with a grey issue of standing orders or a fine judgement call. It is not like this is an area of huge discretion. It is really simple: have a level of civility and abide by the standing orders. There is nothing more to it than that. We can all bury our heads in House of Representatives Practice. We can come up with different arguments on a whole lot of standing orders, but there is no way around this one, Madam Speaker. Today, you decide on what sort of Speaker you are going to be for this chamber. Today, this House decides whether the words of yesterday meant a thing or whether they were just some cheap media lines that were put out there because they thought it was something nice to say on the first day. That is the challenge and that is the decision that is now before this House.
Madam Speaker, I actually accept that you believe in this chamber. Well, if you believe in this chamber, defend its standing orders, because there is no way in the world that your ruling did that—no way in the world. We cannot do more than stand up a number of times and invite you to reconsider before we are left with no choice but to move a motion of dissent. In doing so it was not until you said that you would regard it as disorderly for me to continue to raise it that we were forced into this situation of moving a dissent motion.
Madam Speaker, if this is going to be an orderly House, then the standing orders must be upheld. If this is going to be a place for schoolyard teasing and games, if this is going to be a place where name-calling is in the order of the day, then this House will back your ruling. If name-calling is going to be the order of the day and childishness if going to be order of the day, your ruling is about to be backed up. But, if the standing orders of this parliament are going to be defended, then your ruling must be dissented from, Madam Speaker.
My point of order is, Speaker: is it the case that the Leader of the House is moving a gag on a dissent motion to the Speaker without anyone defending the Speaker's ruling—without a single defence of the Speaker's ruling?
The definition within standing orders is:
area of Members’ seats means the area of seats on the floor of the Chamber reserved for Members. It does not include seats in the advisers’ box or special galleries, but does include the seat where the Serjeant-at-Arms usually sits. The expression is used in standing orders 128 and 129 (divisions).
The question now before the House is that the motion to suspend standing orders be agreed to.