Motion of Dissent from Speaker’s Ruling
19 September 2007
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Manager of Opposition Business) (2.52 p.m.)—I move:
That the Speaker’s ruling be dissented from.
The SPEAKER—Does the Manager of Opposition Business have the dissent in writing?
Mr ALBANESE—I do. This is the first dissent motion in your Speakership—
Government members—That is not right!
Mr ALBANESE—that I have moved, because we on this side—
Government members interjecting—
The SPEAKER—Order! Members on my right! The Manager of Opposition Business has the call. He will be heard.
Mr ALBANESE—We know that this is a desperate government. What we have seen in the last two days is a government that has been prepared to engage in any tactic other than to debate the future of the nation. We saw the Prime Minister yesterday, in the House, say very clearly about the Leader of the Opposition:
… when you know you are lying through your teeth …
Mr Tuckey—Mr Speaker, on a point of order: is the member putting forward a dissent or a party-political speech? If he is dissenting from your ruling, he has a responsibility to address the issue.
The SPEAKER—The member for O’Connor raises a valid point of order. The Manager of Opposition Business is raising a dissent against a ruling. He will stick to the ruling.
Mr ALBANESE—Absolutely, to the core—
The SPEAKER—The Manager of Opposition Business will keep to the point.
Mr ALBANESE—which is the inconsistencies in your ruling. We come into this chamber and we know that they have a majority. We know that they can use that majority. We know that everything is stacked against us in the standing orders and in House of Representatives Practice. But what we expect on this side of the chamber, and what the public expect, is a fair go. What we do not expect is, when the Prime Minister says ‘when you know you are lying through your teeth’ and we raise that with you in consecutive points of order and in questions to the Speaker after question time, that you rule that the Prime Minister is in order and yet today, when the member for Melbourne used exactly the same words, he is excluded from representing his seat for 24 hours. Then, when the member for Gorton raised an interjection, you excluded him for one hour. It is the inconsistency that has got this side of the parliament fed up, because we expect a fair go.
The inconsistencies go on, because on 25 June 1996, to use just one example, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said about someone on this side of the chamber:
You’re just lying through your teeth …
The foreign minister was asked to withdraw that remark, and he withdrew, as he should have. Every person on this side of the chamber who gets asked by you to withdraw does so out of deference to you and out of respect for this parliament. But what we see is two different sides: on the one hand, this is reminiscent of what happened to the member for Lalor when the Leader of the House showed his leadership on parliamentary standards when he referred to ‘snivelling grubs’. What we saw then was this parliament being brought into disrepute.
The SPEAKER—Order! The Manager of Opposition Business has moved a dissent motion. He will speak to the motion. He will not reflect on the chair.
Mr ALBANESE—Maybe, Mr Speaker, you should comprehend that the nature of a dissent motion is that, if it is carried, you lose your job. This goes to the heart of whether this parliament has confidence in you. But what we have seen over the last couple of days is an orchestrated attempt by a government that is out of touch and out of time and does not want to debate the issues so engages in disruptive behaviour. We saw it in response to the Leader of the Opposition’s first question yesterday, where we had an orchestrated attack from those opposite. We had the Prime Minister and the pretender without courage—Chicken Man—yesterday and the day before giving the finger to the Leader of the Opposition and to those opposite as if that were acceptable. That is the sort of behaviour that we have to put up with time after time.
When we raise points of order, what we get is reminiscent of The Castle—Denis Denuto being asked, ‘Why are rulings being made in the High Court?’ You sit there and you say, ‘It’s the vibe.’ We never get to an actual point of order or to any substance. What we simply get is: ‘That’s the majority, and it’s right. This is the minority and you’re wrong.’ It simply is not good enough. We know that it is sporting finals time, and everyone who follows sport knows that the home team usually gets a bit of an advantage from the umpire, but the figures this year show that 52 Labor members have been ejected and only two—one of which was yesterday—from the coalition. That is a penalty count of 52 to two. But, to be fair, that is consistent because you have excluded more members of parliament than any Speaker before you since Federation. You have excluded 175 Labor members from the House and only five members from the coalition. That shows, Mr Speaker, just how unreasonable the rulings have been.
You ruled question No. 1 today out of order, that the Special Minister of State did not have to answer it, even though standing order 98(c)(ii) makes it very clear that a minister is responsible for answering questions about administration. He is the Special Minister of State. He employs not just all his staff but every staff member in the parliament. He is responsible for it. But you, when there is a difficult question, say that it is optional whether ministers answer them.
Let me tell you that Mr Phelps has put out a press release and in it says, ‘Dr Phelps is the chief of staff to the Special Minister of State but was attending the meeting in a private capacity.’ The only problem is that the media contact, Dr Peter Phelps, uses 0419261416, the phone number paid for by the taxpayer. He is sitting in the office there. He did radio interviews this morning but you ruled that it was somehow optional whether he be accountable to this parliament or not. It is simply the case that those of us on this side of the House do not expect to get an advantage but we do expect, when there is a clear parallel less than 24 hours apart—such as the Prime Minister’s statement and the statements from the member for Melbourne and the member for Gorton—that you will make a consistent ruling and treat people the same.
We are all accountable to our electorates, and you are accountable to this parliament. Whenever we raise difficult questions to you, you never refer to standing orders; it is just, ‘No, no, the government’s right.’ I have to say that you have a hard job, because the Leader of the House is probably the worst offender in the parliament when it comes to breaching standing orders. Not once has he ever got to that microphone at the dispatch box and referred to standing orders or House of Representatives Practice. That is because the members of the government do not care. Their arrogance is out of control. It is arrogance because they got a Newspoll result that was the same as the Newspoll two polls ago. How arrogant are they going to be if they are re-elected at the election later this year?
That is what we are seeing from this government. It is an arrogant government, out of touch, out of control and out of time. But they do not want to call an election because when you call an election you cannot abuse standing orders in this House, you cannot abuse the advertising budget and get the taxpayers to pay for all your party political advertising. This is a government out of control, and you have a responsibility, Mr Speaker, to be fair dinkum and make consistent rulings so that they are brought back into line. You have failed to do that, Mr Speaker. That is why we are dissenting from your ruling and that is why this dissent motion should be carried, and everyone in parliament knows it should be carried. (Time expired)
Mr McMullan—I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.