Oct 10, 2012

Motion to Amend Standing Order 13

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (09:01):  I move the motion relating to the amendment of standing order 13 in the terms in which it appears on the Notice Paper:

That standing order 13 be amended by omitting paragraph (c).

The current standing order was drafted as a response to the landmark 1994 About time report by the Procedure Committee. That report recommended a package of reforms to increase opportunities for private members to participate in the proceedings of the parliament to create time for government and non-government members to engage in and reinvigorate the proceedings of the House. For example, that report led to the establishment of what is now known as the Federation Chamber and allowed House committees to undertake advisory inquiries into legislation. It was a bipartisan report, and part of the package was the understanding that the presiding officer position should be available to all members of the House.

So the intention behind the original standing order 13 was to allow people from opposing sides in the two roles of Deputy Speaker and second Deputy Speaker. Before then, non-government members would not have been as able to preside over the House as they are now. We saw that last night with the election of the member for Maranoa to be Deputy Speaker. The original standing order was about striking a balance while increasing participation. It follows now that the balance should be restruck to reflect the intention behind the original standing order. That is what the amendment I am moving here today does, and I commend it to the House for support.

After the last election—when the parliament was, for the first time since the Second World War, one in which one or other side of politics did not have an absolute majority in their own right—there was a series of discussions and meetings about parliamentary reform. I was a participant, as was the Leader of the House, along with the Manager of Opposition Business and the crossbenchers, particularly the member for Lyne. Also participating, in terms of signing off on those reforms, were the current Prime Minister and the current Leader of the Opposition, who were at that stage indeterminate in terms of who would be in a position to form government.

One of the decisions that was made unanimously was that there would be a pairing in effect—as all pairing arrangements are informal arrangements—between the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker. That is, whichever side of politics the Speaker came from, the Deputy Speaker would come from the other side.

They would in effect be paired, cancelling out their votes, thereby removing the partisanship behind who held the high office of Speaker of the House of Representatives. That was an agreement all sides of politics struck to ensure that people would not attempt to select someone as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in order to take away a vote from the floor of the House of Representatives. Given the nature of the parliament, that was agreed by all sides.

The member for Lyne played a particularly important role in that parliamentary reform process. I have been reminded that it is almost two years to the day since the infamous group hug in the courtyard outside Aussies. At that time, some spoke about a kinder, gentler parliament. That was just before the Leader of the Opposition determined to try to wreck the parliament day after day by cancelling question time through moving suspensions of standing orders what is approaching 70 separate occasions now—the sort of destructive negativity that we see in this parliament every day. But at the time the view was that this change would be a part of moving towards an improvement in the way that the affairs of this House were conducted.

That agreement was reneged on immediately once the government determined that the Prime Minister would be in a position to form a government. Those people who had freely put their signatures to that reform document walked away from those reforms, including the pairing of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker. Under those circumstances, the standing orders were not changed to allow for a proper balance to occur in the deputy speaker positions. There is a guarantee in standing orders that the Second Deputy Speaker position will go to the opposition. The government of the day, by definition of its majority, has ordinarily in all of the other parliaments—the previous 42 parliaments—has held the position of both Speaker and Deputy Speaker. The Second Deputy Speaker position was created so that there would be some representation from both sides of politics. Therefore, in the circumstances in which the Deputy Speaker is from one side of politics, it is appropriate that the Second Deputy Speaker be from the other side of politics.

Hence the changes that I am moving here, which are about getting the balance right and the spirit of the reforms that this government has maintained a commitment to. This government has attempted, in the circumstance of the relentless negativity of those opposite, to continue to promote the reform of the parliament. I therefore commend the motion to the House.