Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Anthony Albanese: "Abuse of power continued over and over again" in the Australian Parliament since Abbott Government sworn in

The fight continues across the Dispatch Box over the contention that the present Speaker in the Australian House of Representatives, Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop, is biased and abuses privilege.

Australian House of Representatives Hansard 27 May 2014:

Mr PYNE (Sturt—Leader of the House and Minister for Education) (15:11): Madam Speaker, I move:
That so much of standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the House from moving forthwith:
That the Manager of Opposition Business, the member for Watson, be required by this House to immediately apologise to the Speaker for grievously reflecting on her in this place, most particularly yesterday in a motion of referral of the Speaker to the Standing Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests…..

Mr Albanese: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask for a ruling as to whether this motion moved by the Leader of the House is in order and whether, in fact, a motion before a motion before the House attempting to demand certain action of a member for referring a matter to the Privileges Committee, or seeking to refer a matter to the Privileges Committee, is, in itself, a breach of privilege and an attack on the right of the member for Watson to raise issues in an appropriate way.
The SPEAKER: There is no point of order.
Mr Albanese: Have you seen the motion, Madam Speaker?
The SPEAKER: Yes, I have.
Mr PYNE: Madam Speaker, I read the motion very clearly to the House.
The SPEAKER: And I have a copy of it.
Mr PYNE: The motion did not reflect on the member for Watson attempting to ask the Privileges Committee
to investigate the Speaker. It was a motion to ask him to apologise to you for reflecting on you as Speaker—
The SPEAKER: Correct…..
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:01): Thank you. The substantial issue is that of the Speakership and whether it should be used. The House of Representatives Practice makes it very clear—impartiality of the chair. That is what it is all about.
They raise an issue of whether the member for Watson said, incorrectly apparently, that the office had never been used—and he has apologised for that. He apologised for that at once and he also said sorry twice that that was incorrect. But let us be very clear about where that article comes from. It comes from a response about the abuse of the Lodge and Kirribilli House to raise money for the Liberal Party. That is where it comes from; that is the context of that article.
Should any Speaker, be they McLeay or Bishop or any of them, use the Speaker's office? No, they should not!
That is an appropriate debate for us to have. They then say, 'Well, if you got some of the detail wrong then therefore there should be an apology for that.' But there was false information, with respect, Madam Speaker, given from the chair. You said from the chair during this debate that the independent Speaker was an agreement between Labor and the Greens. It was not—it was not!
Tony Abbott:
… I've always supported an independent speakership …
Press comments from him:
I also want to make it very clear that we discussed the issue of a Westminster style speakership …
Over and over again, those opposite—and the Leader of the House signed, in writing, a document.
This is the day after Sorry Day. The irony of those opposite, who for 10 years could not say sorry to the first Australians, coming in here seeking to move by resolution that the Manager of Opposition Business take certain action.
Have a look at all the quotes they have said. The Leader of the House himself:
… the Leader of the Opposition—
Tony Abbott—
… proposed a Westminster style independent Speaker as early as the early part of this decade, in early 2001.
They were all up for it, allegedly, during that period. They signed an agreement but they walked away from it, of course.
But also, what are they asking for here? The same person, Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister who said:
We have never been involved in the business of suppressing free speech …
This attack on my colleague, the member for Watson, is all about, 'How dare he come in here and ask questions on behalf of Australian taxpayers about how much money was raised in the Speaker's office?' the one area of this parliament that should be free from party politics—that should be used in the national interest, that should be used for functions involving foreign guests and that should be used in a bipartisan way in this place.
What you seek to do in doing this is to shut down free speech and debate in this parliament. The fact is that during this very debate, Madam Speaker, the problem is not the member for Watson. The problem is a Speaker who interjects from the chair. The problem is a Speaker who makes partisan decisions. I stand by, and we stand by, all of the comments—with the exception of that factual error that he made—of the member for Watson about the conduct of this parliament because, at the end of the day, it is not about you, Madam Speaker, it is not about the member for Watson, or me or the Leader of the House. It is about how this parliament functions.
The fact is, if you think this parliament has been functioning well since last September then I think you are completely out of touch with what the majority of Australians who watch this parliament see each and every day with this abuse of power continued over and over again by the Leader of the House, who is too immature to hold
that job!

The exchanges recorded in Hansard a day earlier which lead to Anthony Albanese speaking against Leader of the House Christopher Pyne’s motion …….

Mr BURKE (Watson—Manager of Opposition Business) (15:14): Madam Speaker, under standing order 103 I have a question for you in your role as the administrator of parliament. How many Liberal Party fundraisers has the Speaker held in the Speaker's dining room and on what dates did these fundraisers occur?
The SPEAKER : I know the member for Watson was late into the parliament at nine o'clock this morning so he probably did not hear the statement I read on that occasion, so I will read it again.
On 15 May 2014, the member for Moreton asked me a question about the display of posters in corridors. Posters had appeared on the outside of doors to several members' suites, and the member had asked that they be taken down. Consistent with the longstanding practice, upheld by successive Speakers, that signs and posters not be permitted in the corridors or on the doors leading off the corridors, the members concerned were asked to take the posters down at my request and they have since been removed. It remains the prerogative of members to place material inside the internal corridor windows of their suites. Also, all members are entitled to use their suites for their own purposes, but of course not for illegal purposes. That is the answer to your question.
Mr BURKE (Watson—Manager of Opposition Business): Madam Speaker, I refer you to page 179 of House of Representatives Practice, where it states:
For many purposes the Speaker is in effect 'Minister' for the Department of the House of Representatives and jointly with the President of the Senate is 'Minister' for the Department of Parliamentary Services.
As you would appreciate, ministers are not able to hold political functions in departmental resources. I ask again: how many Liberal Party fundraisers has the Speaker held in the Speaker's dining room and on what dates did these fundraisers occur?
The SPEAKER:  I refer the member also to the Practice, which refers quite clearly that the Speaker is in charge of the domain of Parliament House, which was made quite clear from the original time of the Speaker holder back in 1901. I have said that members may use their suites for whatever purposes they see fit, and that includes you, but they may not use them for an illegal purpose. Therefore, it is not the business of either executive government or others to ask members the purposes for which they use their offices. That is the rule.
Mr BURKE (Watson—Manager of Opposition Business): Madam Speaker, in your role as administrator of that department, which then goes to the finances of that department, I ask: how much has the Liberal Party paid on each occasion for the use of the Speaker's dining room for fundraisers and has the ordinary $600 venue hire fee, which applies to all private dining rooms, been among the payments made?
The SPEAKER : I will not engage in debate on the question. I have made the ruling. I have said that members may use their offices for their own purposes.
Mr BURKE (WatsonManager of Opposition Business): Madam Speaker, I wish to raise a matter of privilege. In recent days there have been reports that the Speaker has used her Parliament House dining room to hold Liberal Party fundraisers. There is a question as to whether the Speaker or the Liberal Party paid for the use of the Speaker's dining room for these party political functions. I have available for tabling, if it would assist, articles from The Sunday Telegraph, The Sun-Herald, The Sunday Times, the Sunday Canberra Times, The Age and The Australian. I ask the Speaker to investigate whether this constitutes an improper interference with the operations of the House of Representatives such as to require that the matter be referred to the Privileges Committee for investigation and report.
The SPEAKER: I simply say that the member for Watson is perfectly at liberty under standing order 216 to write to the committee himself, and I recommend that he do so.
Mr BURKE: Madam Speaker, House of Representatives Practice indicates that I should first raise the issue with you in the House, which I have now done, and then there is an option for an individual to have ready a motion to move immediately, which under Practice does not require a seconder. Is that the path you wish me to choose?
The SPEAKER: I have said that under standing order 216 you are perfectly entitled—and I am following a ruling made by my predecessor, the member for Chisholm. That is the ruling, so you no longer have the call.
Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, I seek the call.
The SPEAKER: You can seek the call, but I recommend you do precisely as I said.
Mr Burke: I seek the call.
The SPEAKER: You have the call.
Mr BURKE (WatsonManager of Opposition Business): I move:

That the following matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests:
Whether the Speaker's use of her Parliament House dining room for Liberal Party fundraisers constitutes an improper interference with the operation of the House of Representatives.

It has been the case throughout this parliament and previous parliaments that there are venues for hire all around the building. The Speaker's office is not one of them. I do not intend to completely derail the day and derail the parliamentary business of the day. I had hoped, Madam Speaker, that you would take the questions in good faith. There was no argument in the questions that I raised. The questions I raised simply sought the same sort of information that the people of Australia are entitled to find out about. When I first heard these allegations, I made the response that I believed that your position would be untenable if it were true because I could not believe, for all the arguments that I have had with the chair, that your office would become outsourced to the Liberal Party as a fundraising venue. For all the arguments we have had, it never occurred to me that partisanship would go to effectively donating a venue to the Liberal Party…..
The SPEAKER interjecting—…..

The SPEAKER (15.35): Before I call the Leader of the House I will say this: the reason I did not say I will take it and reflect upon it is because it does reflect on me. It is far better that you were able to move your motion and deal with it within the parliament in an open way and you have your say—although I find it a bit rough to be lectured on morality from you, Member for Watson. I call the honourable the Leader of the House….
The SPEAKER (15:36): What is the point of order?
Ms Plibersek: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask you to reconsider the statement that you made about—
The SPEAKER: There is no point of order. I have sat here and accepted the words that were said about me. The Leader of the House has the call.
Ms Plibersek: You have questioned his morality and you have engaged in debate when you should not.
The SPEAKER: The deputy leader will resume her seat. The Leader of the House has the call.
Mr PYNE: You just do not know how to behave, do you member for Rankin, member for Lingiari, Deputy Leader of the Opposition? It is just extraordinary. You have no manners at all.
Opposition members interjecting—
The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House has the call.
Mr Bowen: Madam speaker, I rise on a point of order.
The SPEAKER: If this is meant to disrupt debate—
Mr Bowen: No it is not.
The SPEAKER: Then I will accept the point of order.
Mr Bowen: I have a point of order on two grounds: firstly, you clearly intervened and participated in the debate; secondly, you clearly reflected on a member of this House. Any one of us would have been asked to withdraw and would have. You should comply, with respect, by the same rules that apply to every other member. Very clearly, you should withdraw that comment.
The SPEAKER: Except me, apparently. The Leader of the House has the call…..

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