The beginning of a new parliamentary term always sees talk of reforms to the Standing Orders and other aspects of the operations of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The most frequently cited reform is to the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The Opposition can also be expected to complain about the number of days the Parliament meets, whilst the Government of the day will criticise the behaviour of the Senate.
The newly-elected Leader of the Opposition, Simon Crean, has proposed a number of reforms to the operation of the Federal Parliament. Chief amongst these is a plan for an independent Speaker, with an independent Deputy Speaker chosen from the Opposition.
Crean also wants the Speaker to have the power to compel ministers to answer questions, and time limits on Questions Without Notice.
Text of a statement by the Opposition Leader, Simon Crean.
Growing community dissatisfaction with the standard of Parliamentary behaviour is fuelling wider cynicism about politics and government in general.
Most Australians believe the Parliament has become too confrontational and is no longer a forum for genuine debate.
Under my leadership, I want to turn around this cynicism by lifting standards in the Parliament, and Question Time in particular.
As a result I have today written to the Prime Minister proposing the following reforms to improve Parliamentary behaviour:
- A truly independent Speaker, drawn alternately from Labor and the Coalition, regardless of who is in power;
- An independent Deputy Speaker, drawn from the opposing side of Parliament to the Speaker;
- Questions Without Notice limited to one minute, and answers four minutes, with supplementary questions allowed;
- The Speaker given the power to require Ministers to fully answer questions;
- Questions On Notice to be answered within 30 days; and
- Allowing Matters of Public Importance debates to be substituted by debates “taking note” of a minister’s answer
As a demonstration of Labor’s good faith, if these are reforms are accepted by the Prime Minister the ALP will support Neil Andrew remaining Speaker, should he so desire, after the next election, regardless of its outcome.
Reform of the Parliament is clearly in the national interest.
All those committed to our representative democracy have a duty to help restore community confidence in our national Parliament.