Last year as I was out buying groceries I learnt of an amazing event unfolding in Canberra which seemed to take even the most seasoned political commentators by surprise. This was the resignation of much loved Speaker Harry Jenkins and the subsequent installation of Peter Slipper as Speaker. This event left the Coalition by surprise and many as it did many of their supporters and the general public. It also caused widespread anger from those in the same quarters. Anger at the decision and defection aside, no matter what party it is aimed at, the debate has now moved on to the actions of the new Speaker at the end of the first parliamentary sitting week of 2012.
I must say that I held very low hopes for a fair and balanced Question Time after the events of the last parliamentary sitting day in 2011. Notwithstanding the fact that the events would have caused the loud anger that ensued, it appeared that Coalition MPs would become the subject of a brutal political vendetta.
This seems to have changed this year and my expectations of the Slipper Speakership have subsequently become favourable to the Speakership. I say this as there have only been two ejections of Coalition MPs under the much loved Standing Order 94a during the 3 days of Question Time this week.
The new Speaker has also embarked upon instituting some parliamentary reforms of Question Time which I view with a reasonable level of favourability.
To further shorten the length of both questions and answers, further than those under the agreement beginning the “new paradigm” is a very positive development. This has seen the length of time allowed for answering a question in Question Time down to 30 seconds, 15 seconds shorter than under the previous agreement reached between the Government, Opposition and the rural Independents. Further, answers have been reduced by one whole minute, down to 3 minutes.
Now, those who know me and what I stand for in relation to this area will know that I do not find this ideal, it is true, I think it could be reduced even further to cut down some of the rubbish which can all too often invade questions and answers. However, it must be said this is a positive development and not at all one I expected.
A further change under Peter Slipper as Speaker is the removal of a warning before the booting of an MP being too loud or un-parliamentary. This is neither here nor there. There are some circumstances where I believe more leeway should be granted, such as if a member is plainly being loud on one or a small number of occasions. There are plenty of times under any Speaker where some being loud are caught and others not so it is a bit unfair to them. On the other hand for more serious infractions such as language deemed inappropriate or for defying the Speaker then an automatic ejection is an entirely sensible outcome.
On renaming of the Main Committee, to the Federation Chamber, I see it as just a name change to part of our parliamentary democracy. It is if anything an homage to federation we are and in that way somewhat of a tribute to the founding fathers of our nation Australia.
There is no doubt the new Speaker is growing on me, in the performance of his new role anyway…