Geoff Shaw Suspended By Victorian Parliament; Ken Smith Votes With Government To Defeat ALP Expulsion Move

Geoff Shaw, the member for Frankston in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, has been suspended until September 2, after the former Speaker, Ken Smith, voted to defeat a move by the Labor Opposition to have Shaw expelled.

Napthine

Just before 8.30pm, an amendment to expel Shaw, moved by the Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews, was voted on and tied 42-42. It was defeated on the casting vote of the Speaker, Christine Fyffe, who accidentally voted in support before correcting herself.

Napthine’s original motion was then carried on the voices. The Speaker then named Geoff Shaw, as required by the motion, and the member for Frankston was suspended.

The support of Shaw’s arch-enemy, Ken Smith, has ensured that the government has some breathing space over the next few months. In the lead-up to today’s debate, Smith had said he would support the ALP’s move to expel Shaw.

Shaw has until September 2 to repay around $6000 for improper use of his parliamentary vehicle and fuel card. He is also required to apologise to the House. Failure to do so could result in his expulsion in September. [Read more...]


Denis Napthine Moves To Suspend Geoff Shaw Until September 2

The Victorian Premier, Denis Napthine, has given notice of a motion he intends to move tomorrow that would result in the suspension of Geoff Shaw until September 2.

Napthine

The motion seeks to have the Speaker “name” Shaw. It suspends him without pay for 11 sitting days. It requires Shaw to repay $6838.44 for improper use of his parliamentary vehicle and parliamentary entitlements. It instructs him to apologise to the Legislative Assembly and to the people of Victoria.

The motion provides for Shaw to be expelled if he does not comply with its requirements.

Napthine gave notice of the motion after the Legislative Assembly today passed three Appropriation Bills that constituted the government’s Budget. He also held a press conference to explain the government’s intentions.

Earlier, at the start of Question Time, the government refused leave for Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews to move a motion to bring on an immediate consideration of the Privileges Committee report on Shaw. The ALP wants Shaw expelled. Andrews described Napthine’s move as a “wet lettuce”.

Attention will now turn to the former Speaker, the Liberal member for Bass, Ken Smith, who has indicated he will support Labor’s move to expel Shaw. [Read more...]


Busting The Budget: Greens MP Condones Blocking Of Appropriation Bills By Senate

A NSW Greens MP, David Shoebridge, has advocated a parliamentary process that could see the Senate block the government’s Appropriation Bills, a tactic not employed since the constitutional crisis of 1975 that resulted in the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

ShoebridgeShoebridge today released a paper titled: “Busting The Budget – How to Stop the Abbott Budget”. The former barrister, who has been a member of the NSW Legislative Council since 2010, says the Senate could demand amendments to the Budget, as allowed under Section 53 of the Constitution.

Referring to Section 53, Shoebridge says: “In other words, the Senate can demand the Supply Bill be amended by refusing to pass it unless amendments are made. It can provide those amendments to the House of Representatives and force the Abbott government to either accept the amendments or see the budget voted down.”

Shoebridge says most functions of government would be able to continue, even if the Senate refused to pass the two Appropriation Bills. He says public servants are contracted to the Commonwealth and would receive the “necessary wages payments in due course”. He says: “The effect would be to delay the payment of public servants for the period of any impasse in the Senate.”

Shoebridge says the Senate can “choose the grounds on which to fight the budget” by refusing to agree to cuts to local government, social welfare, education, health and the environment. He says this will “force the Abbott government to either agree to these fair amendments or see its entire budget defeated with the consequential shut down of much of the government”.

What is Appropriation?

Governments cannot spend money without the approval of Parliament. Section 83 of the Constitution says that “no money shall be drawn from the Treasury of the Commonwealth except under appropriation made by law”. [Read more...]


Speaker Bronwyn Bishop Reports Kevin Rudd’s Resignation To The House

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop, today reported to the House that she had received the resignation of Kevin Rudd as member for Griffith.

Bishop

Rudd’s resignation was received on November 22. Under Section 37 of the Constitution, a member may resign in writing to the Speaker.

Parliamentary practice and convention requires that the Speaker inform the House of resignations and other matters relating to the operation of the chamber.

Rudd’s departure brings a formal end to a parliamentary career that began in 1998 and included two periods as Prime Minister.

Under Section 33 of the Constitution, the Speaker is empowered to issue a writ for the by-election to fill the vacancy in Griffith. In practice, the government will decide when it wishes to hold the by-election.

The by-election is most likely to be held in early February, prior to the first sitting of the House for 2014. A period of 33 days must elapse following the issue of the writ before the poll can take place.

  • Listen to Bishop’s announcement (28s)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Watch Bishop (38s)

A Scenario For Tony Abbott And A Motion Of No-Confidence

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s intention to give notice of a no-confidence motion when Parliament returns this week has always been a potentially messy business.

A brief explanation: the government controls the Notice Paper in the House of Representatives. This is the document which outlines the order and timing of debate, including the order of legislation.

Whilst there are set times when the Opposition can bring on debate on particular issues (such as in regular Matters of Public Importance), if it wants to move a specific motion it needs to first move a motion for the Suspension of Standing Orders.

Abbott

Abbott attempted to do this during Question Time on March 21, whilst the government was preoccupied with the leadership spill that wasn’t. He sought to suspend standing orders in order to move: “That this House declares no confidence in the Prime Minister.”

The motion was carried by 73 votes to 71 but was defeated because a suspension of standing orders requires an absolute majority of 76 votes.

Abbott then announced that he would give notice of a no-confidence motion when the House resumes tomorrow. He didn’t say whether it would be no-confidence in the government or the prime minister. The difference is technically significant but may not necessarily be crucial to the outcome of any vote. [Read more...]


Dissolutions, Prorogations and a Mea Culpa

I learned a timely lesson earlier today.

Sitting in my car after leaving an appointment, I looked at Twitter to see if any there was any news of interest.

A number of media outlets and journalists were tweeting that a 19-gun salute was about to take place, at 4.59pm to be precise, outside Parliament House in Canberra.

Then I managed to forget things I used to know and proceeded to make a fool of myself. Well, I could argue only half a fool, but that’s a bit like being half mad or half pregnant.

I took issue with statements by others that the prorogation of Federal Parliament was about to take place. I was wrong. The Parliament was prorogued at 4.59pm. Here’s the explanation from the Parliamentary Education Office. Thanks to @2ricz.

Before dissolving the House of Representatives, the Governor-General issues a proclamation proroguing the Parliament. Prorogation is an ancient power of the British Crown adopted in the Australian Parliament as the means of bringing a session of Parliament to a close. A prorogation may take place separately from an election, but this rarely happens now except for ceremonial purposes. For example, in 1974 and 1977 the Parliament was prorogued when the Queen visited Australia which enabled Her Majesty to attend and open Parliament. When an election is called, the Prime Minister usually announces a dissolution and prorogation of Parliament at the same time before they are formalised by the Secretary to the Governor-General in a public ceremony in front of Parliament House. After the Parliament is prorogued and the House of Representatives dissolved, bills and other business before the House of Representatives and the Senate lapse and will need to be reintroduced. The government becomes a caretaker government and, by convention, does not make major decisions. The sittings of the Senate are terminated, but Senate Committees may still operate.

I took issue with statements by others that the Parliament was dissolved at 5.00pm. I was right. The House of Representatives was dissolved at 5.00pm but the Senate wasn’t. The Senate is only dissolved when there is a double dissolution and that hasn’t happened since 1987.

I took issue with the assertion that Parliament was “deferred”. I was right. As @ljLoch tweeted, whilst that might be a nice concept, Parliament is never deferred.

The lesson? As that old saying goes, sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.


Black Saturday Bushfires: Moving Speeches In Parliament For Victims

The House of Representatives was the scene today of a moving condolence motion for victims of the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was not in attendance, having stayed in Melbourne, but his deputy, Julia Gillard, visibly affected, gave a magnificent speech to a silent chamber. She was followed by the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, who delivered an equally impressive and moving speech.

Audio recordings of all speeches are shown below. Click on the relevant PLAY button to listen.

  • Julia Gillard – Deputy Prime Minister

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Malcolm Turnbull – Leader of the Opposition

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Wayne Swan – Treasurer

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Julie Bishop – Deputy Leader of the Opposition

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Robert McClelland – Attorney-General

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Warren Truss – Leader of The Nationals

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Steve Gibbons, Member for Bendigo (ALP)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Sharman Stone, Member for Murray (Lib)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Catherine King, Member for Ballarat (ALP)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • David Hawker, Member for Wannon (Lib)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Harry Jenkins, Speaker & Member for Scullin (ALP)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Members also spoke about the Queensland flood situation:

  • Wayne Swan – Treasurer

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Warren Truss – Leader of The Nationals

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Tony Windsor – Member for New England (Ind) – on behalf of the independent member for Kennedy, Bob Katter.

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.