May 292007

Listening to Question Time today – first time for quite some period – I noted sadly that nothing has changed with regard to David Hawkers clear bias from the Speaker’s Chair.

From the live minutes on the House of Representative website:

Mr Rudd, 2:44:07 PM, to Mr Howard (Prime Minister), Point of order, Mr Albanese, 2:46:23 PM, Mr Howard, 2:46:44 PM, Point of order, Mr Garrett, 2:47:10 PM, Mr Howard, 2:47:25 PM, Point of order, Mr Rudd, 2:47:53 PM, Point of order, Mr Abbott, 2:48:23 PM, Mr Howard, 2:48:36 PM, Point of order, Mr Albanese, 2:50:04 PM, Point of order, Mr Albanese, 2:50:50 PM
Member ordered to withdraw
Speaker ordered Mr Albanese to withdraw for 1 hour for disorderly behaviour, 2:51:04 PM, Mr Howard, 2:51:19 PM
(12) Mr Hardgrave, 2:52:38 PM, to Mr Hockey (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations)
(13) Mr Rudd, 2:58:24 PM, to Mr Howard (Prime Minister)
Member ordered to withdraw
Speaker ordered Mr Tanner to withdraw for 1 hour for interjecting after a warning had been given by the Chair, 3:00:16 PM

I refer the reader to Standing Orders 104 and 94a which were queries and exercised during the above exchanges.

104 – An answer must be relevant to the question.

Now this is a fairly precise instruction, which unfortunately is open to a very wide interpretation. The answer to the Leader of the Opposition’s question to the Prime Minister, regarding an apparent ghost advertising campaign on climate change was clearly one of obfuscation and misdirection, and not at all relevant to the question posed. Yet David Hawker as Speaker of the House, chose, as he always does when ruling on points of order raised by the Opposition, completely ignored the tenor of Standing Order 104. In fact, he not only ignored one Opposition member raising the issue of relevance, he ignored six attempts to have the Prime Minister’s response brought back to the context of the question posed.

94 – 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.

Arbitrary and dictatorial are words which come to mind with regard to Hawker’s approach to the impartiality integral to the respect his position of Speaker holds. Clearly, impartiality is not a part of David Hawler’s understanding of his responsibilities as Speaker. One only need read the House Hansard for practically any Question Time period to understand this.
In addition, the Leader of Opposition Business, and the Leader of the Opposition have written to Hawker on numerous occasions, as is their right, to question his exercise of position in interpretation of Standing Orders. It’s not as if attempts – formal attempts through the House Standing Committee on Procedure – haven’t been made to clarify the apparent vagaries in Standing Orders and the responsibilities of the Speaker. The Committee’s report is yet to issue. Like most things concerning our Parliamentary system, that report will doubtless take longer than an elephant’s gestation.
It is my belief, as I listen to Kevin Rudd’s censure motion speech, that this prostitution of the Parliamentary system is merely one example of the lazy, ‘born-to-rule’ attitude this government has to it’s responsibilities and accountibilities to the Australian people. This is why the electorate wants change. If for no other reason, to see an end to political sloth.

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