苏州吴中区美甲培训

苏州美甲美睫培训学校

Malcolm Turnbull’s slim majority means a calm Speaker is needed

Tony Smith has been a good performer in the role of Speaker. Photo: Alex EllinghausenThere is one consequence of the federal election result of July 2 that has not yet received the attention it deserves. It has to do with the role of the presiding officer of the House of Representatives.
苏州美甲美睫培训学校

In Canberra unlike the United Kingdom the Speaker is not removed from party politics. The office is given to a member of the winning side after each election.

In Canberra’s adaptation of the Westminster model, rulings by the Speaker on matters of procedure and precedent, no matter how unsound they may appear, are upheld in the government’s favour by an obedient parliamentary majority.

And yet despite the blight of partisanship the office of Speaker in the federal parliament retains a residual element of authority. The undesirable dynamics of the Speaker’s situation will not be reformed any time soon but old-fashioned parliamentary niceties cannot totally be ignored.

It is a bad look to have a Speaker who creates unnecessary angst in the chamber by being even more partisan and divisive than normal. Outbreaks of dissent and the ejection of members add to an impression of chaos. It is always the government, and never the opposition, which attracts any resulting public opprobrium.

Every so often the demise of a hapless Speaker can presage the demise of an embattled government as a whole.

The dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975 was prefigured by the resignation of Labor’s Speaker Jim Cope earlier in the year. Similarly the end of the Abbott government last year followed hard on the heels of the standing down of Bronwyn Bishop whose time as Speaker was, arguably, controversial and contentious.

The Speaker cannot afford to unduly complicate the executive’s need to dominate. But there is scope for the job to be performed with deftness and tact thus maintaining parliament’s original façade of decorum and gravitas. A good Speaker enforces the standing orders of the lower house with a soothing dose of diplomacy and common sense.

Any Australian Prime Minister keen on surviving is well advised to have a good Speaker. One reason why Julia Gillard was able to last out most of the length of the hung parliament of 2010-2013 was because the presiding officer during the latter part of this period was, either substantively or in an acting capacity, Anna Burke.

The need for a calming Speaker becomes pressing in situations where the government, as has been the case since the election, only has a tiny lower house majority in its own right.

Where numbers are tight the performance of the Speaker becomes critical. Decisions from the chair must be more carefully considered and are applied in circumstances where they are no longer being rubber stamped by an assured majority.

Malcolm Turnbull secured only a bare election win on July 2. He needs all the stability and cohesion he can must muster, which includes factoring in the role of Speaker. He cannot afford to be saddled with another Cope or Bishop.

Things on the appointments front have not panned out well for the Prime Minister recently as indicated by the fate of Kevin Rudd and Brian Martin. But the Speakership may well be an exception to this poor personnel management record given that a safe pair of hands is readily available.

Bishop’s successor as Speaker when she resigned in 2015 was the Victorian Liberal Tony Smith. Bishop fuelled controversy but in contrast Smith, like Burke before him, turned out to be a worthy Speaker. His good humour and diplomacy served to disperse the dark clouds surrounding the Speaker’s chair.

When the new parliament is convened at the end of this month, the first item of business to be dealt with in the House of Representatives will be the election of a new Speaker.

If Malcolm Turnbull has any significant input into the matter he should do his utmost to secure the renomination (and therefore reelection) of Tony Smith as Speaker. Such an outcome would be good both for the government and for the parliament as a whole.

There is another important factor to consider as well. The poll on July 2 was a double dissolution election. As a result the Turnbull government has a mandate to convene a joint sitting of the two federal houses to consider legislation whose failure to pass triggered the double dissolution, including the proposal to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

The joint sitting, if it does go ahead, will in all likelihood be presided over by the Speaker. The government, because of the election result in the Senate, will not have an absolute majority. If the tactful Smith is in the chair the chances of procedural chaos taking over as a result of this outcome are much lessened.

All in all Tony Smith’s reelection as Speaker at the end of this month would be a modest but nonetheless real contribution to steadying the Turnbull government’s sagging fortunes.

Stephen Holt is a freelance Canberra writer.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲美睫培训学校.

Comments are currently closed.