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Speaker For The Dead


I chose the above title because I am a fan of Orson Scott Card and the Ender series of sci-fiction he wrote. It’s a provocative tale.    

A young boy is selected by the military and told, along with others, that they are training. In fact, they are not training. They study tactics and play them out with the main computer in what they believe are simulations. However, their tactics are being used in a combat with another race.    

Ender is the most brilliant of the boys and he uses a tactic that leads to the obliteration of the enemy by destroying their home world. But again, I digress! I suggest you read the series if you can get it. It’s really very good and the main aspect about it is the understanding of ethics.    

Now the role of Speaker in parliament house is not a Speaker for the dead per se, I think the title is apt as the eulogy being given here is to an archaic aged way of doing things.    

When Mr Rob Oakeshott put his hand up for speaker yesterday, something triggered in my brain. So I got on to Peter Martin’s wonderful site and located a copy of the reforms signed mainly because the major media sources seemed to ignore the important aspects of the reform and instead concentrate on the time a question can be asked and answered.    

I enclose a link to the reform below from Peter Martin’s site.    

From the agreement: 


2.1 Independence
The role of the Speaker will be independent of Government

If the Speaker is drawn from a political party then the Deputy Speaker will be drawn from an alternate political party and both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker will:    

  •  abstain from attending their respective party rooms; and     
  • when in the Chair, be paired for all divisions.   

If the Speaker is non-aligned, then the same pairing arrangements will apply.  The Speaker and Deputy Speaker can participate in Private Members’ Business but cannot vote. Members of the Speakers Panel will be temporarily paired when occupying the chair during votes.   


And in that last section lies the crux. If Mr Oakeshott is successful, he will still be able to extract a pair as per the non-aligned Speaker arrangement signed off on. They constitution is clear

Voting in House of Representatives

                   Questions arising in the House of Representatives shall be determined by a majority of votes other than that of the Speaker. The Speaker shall not vote unless the numbers are equal, and then he shall have a casting vote.

However! Neither will the drawn pair.

So what does this all mean and why are the Coalition dead set against Mr Oakeshott’s bid?

I believe it is this. Currently, party to party, both major groups have 72 votes. They then have the numbers of aligned Independents.  If a ALP speaker is chosen, then the pairing from the Coalition gives both parties a 71 each count.

But if the Speaker is an Independent, then he is entitled to a pairing as per the reform. However, does this mean the pair will change depending on how he votes on a policy OR does it mean a pair from the party he has not supported to govern! If the latter then the numbers become this. ALP 72. Coalition 71 (One paired with speaker, removed from the cabinet room as per the rules of Speakers, and not entitled to vote unless it is a casting vote).

No wonder the Coalition are spitting chips.

Thing to note about this post. I am not a lawyer, I am not a Constitutional expert, and I’m not a political tech head. My assertions could be totally false. It may require the pair to be chosen for each bill, in which case the government is given a clear indication on how the Speaker will vote BEFORE they submit a policy to the floor. Interesting. If the speaker is paired based on how the Independent has aligned themselves, then it is a permanent post and will also have the privileges of the regular speaker, but for all intents and purposes, politically gagged.

Speakers of whatever alignment, according to the reform, can participate in Private Members’ Business but are not entitled to a vote. So that will be interesting too!

Can’t wait for September the 28th, 2010! Looks like who ever the Speaker is, some may be mourning the old way of doing things.

A. Ghebranious   2010           All Rights Reserved

PS: If you think I’m wrong, please correct me

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