Thursday, June 1, 2006
The Australian Labor Party has accused speaker of the Australian House of Representatives, David Hawker (Liberal, Wannon) of failing to be impartial.
During question time today, opposition leader, Kim Beazley (Labor, Brand) asked the government to confirm comments made by Cameron Thompson (Liberal, Blair), which asked for Prime Minister John Howard (Liberal, Bennelong) to explain his role in the failed merger of the Nationals and Liberals in Queensland. According to Mr Beazley, Mr Thompson claims that the president of the Liberal party in Queensland was appointed by Mr Howard and that his actions would have been known and agreed upon by the Prime Minister.
The house’s speaker refused to allow Mr Beazley to debate his question claiming it was not relevant. Mr Beazley argued that his question directly related to Mr Howard in his capacity as Prime Minister and to disallow his question was “shutting down accountability”.
The opposition’s next woe came when Stephen Smith (Labor, Perth) asked the Prime Minister to confirm accusations that the government’s new industrial relations laws (called Workchoices) had placed pressure on the low pay commission to lower the minimum wage of Australian workers. Mr Howard took the opportunity to attack Mr Beazley’s role as Minister for Employment, Education and Training in 1993 saying that he had contempt for the unemployed.
Anthony Albanese (Labor, Grayndler) raised a point of order, claiming that the Prime Minister’s answer was irrelevant. This was refused by the speaker, who said that Mr Howard was attempting to answer a “lengthy question”. Mr Albanese then interrupted Mr Howard as he was continuing his attack on Mr Beazley telling the speaker that the question was very specific and that Mr Howard’s answer was irrelevant. Mr Albanese was ordered to resume his seat, and when he failed to do so was ordered out of the house.
Following Mr Albanese’s ejection, Mr Smith argued that the Prime Minister was not answering his question before also being ordered out of the house by the speaker. As Mr Howard began to continue his answer, Julia Irwin (Labor, Fowler) interrupted Mr Howard. Mrs Irwin was then ordered to leave the house.
The opposition found itself another member short in the house after Julia Gillard (Labor, Lalor) was removed for calling Health Minister Tony Abbott (Liberal, Warringah) an “idiot”. Ms Gillard’s comment followed Mr Abbott tabling a document written by Medibank Private relating to a media campaign to counter negative views on its sale. Part of the document claimed that Medibank Private had “established a hypothetical but possible scenario: Julia Gillard arguing that the sale will mean higher premiums”.
Mr Abbott joked that “Medibank Private sure know the member for Lalor (Julia Gillard)”.
It was Ms Gillard’s second ejection in two days. She was removed from the house yesterday for calling Mr Abbott a “snivelling grub”, the same term Mr Abbott labeled an opposition MP last week without being removed.
Following the house’s question time, Mr Abbott and Peter Costello (Liberal, Higgins) accused Lindsay Tanner (Labor, Melbourne), Wayne Swan (Labor, Lilley) and Kim Wilkey (Labor, Swan) of deliberately blocking a camera’s view of Mr Howard during one of his answers. Mr Tanner said “It’s not our fault he’s short” and Mr Wilkie said that he never raised from his chair and that Mr Abbott needed to “get his facts straight”.
Following her removal, Ms Gillard told reporters that speaker of the house, Mr Hawker had double standards. “We’ve reached a stage … where there are no rules in the House of Representatives,” Ms Gillard said.
“Four Opposition members were tossed out of Parliament today. I don’t think anybody watching question time could say that’s a fair result.”
“We’ve seen double standards in operation all week” she said.
She said that it was not unusual for people to walk around the chamber and talk to each other during question while government members were speaking.
“At the end of the day there is wandering around and chatter in question time,” she said.
“But why is that? Because the quality of what’s coming off the government front bench doesn’t bear listening to” she said.