More on the Speaker


The debate about the Speaker is still going on. The Opposition is being painted by the Government as reneging on a deal. The opposition claims that there are constitutional issues. For an example of one story, see here.

Unsurprisingly, the Government has suggested that they would put forward a speaker from their side with pairing. As noted in the previous blog, this is hugely beneficial to the Government. The opposition is opposing pairing – which makes sense unless they had the Speaker. So the alterntives without pairing are:

  1. The government puts up the Speaker without pairing. This leaves them with 73 votes (versus 74 for the Coalition) plus the two conservative independents. It places the coalition in a strong position – they only need one of the independents to defeat any legislation. So this option probably makes the parliament unworkable.
  2. The opposition puts up the Speaker without pairing. This gives the government more control of the House of Representatives (74 to 73) but makes for a more stable parliament and the opposition have the ‘second prize’ of controlling proceedings (as Sam noted in his earlier comment).

So what should the opposition be doing? They could offer to accept pairing so long as they appoint the Speaker. But they appear to have moved past this at present, despite it being the best outcome for the opposition. If there is no pairing, then the opposition can either try and force the government to appoint a speaker or appoint one themselves. This really depends on how soon the Coalition want another election and how much bad publicity they think they will get from being obstructionist. A Labor Speaker with no pairing means a new election sooner rather than later.

Of course the worst outcome for the Coalition (and the best for the Government) is if the opposition backs down, allows pairing and get a Labor Speaker. But this could still happen.

5 Responses to "More on the Speaker"
  1. Have to say that when it comes to “how much bad publicity they think they will get from being obstructionist” Abbot seems to have calculated correctly.  The ABC made much of it, quite rightly, but in the Age it’s a page 8 report and an apologia on the opinion page.

  2. Abbott seems to be betting that any ‘outrage’ over the issue of pairing will be short-lived. If Gillard and Labor get settled into any form of stable legislative arrangement then the benefits of incumbency accrue to the Government. Obviously that’s not in Abbott’s interests if he wants to be PM sooner rather later.

    Then again, Labor should not be surprised by the outcome. They were always facing this situation the moment they cobbled together their coalition. No surprise that politicians from both sides are trying to maximise their advantages (or minimize their disadvantages).

  3. No, the worst outcome for the opposition would be if one of their older backbenchers nearing retirement was lured by the money and status, or even by disaffection with their party or a genuine concern for stable government, to defect and become an Independent and a Deputy Speaker.  That gives the opposition one fewer seats than a backdown would have, plus it highlights divisions within the opposition.

    It was a major blunder by Abott to do what he has without talking to all potential defectors first.

  4. I know it’s part of the ‘game’ but does anyone else find our politicians more exacerbating than usual? I mean we’ve had parliamentary democracy for over a century now and it seems the liberals politicians haven’t worked out you need speaker to actually debate policy. For humanity’s sake more policy less political games please.

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