Matt Price has a way with words, so let’s use his
to describe an interesting day in Canberra yesterday:
Malcolm Turnbull picked
a really, really bad day to speak at the National Press Club.
The ambitious wannabe could have been
donning designer underpants on his head demanding a five per cent flat tax
while declaring jihad on Peter Costello yet
not raised an eyebrow, such was the freneticism around parliament yesterday.
Eleven Labor MPs were ejected from the
House. And, yes, that’s a record. But it was a sorely trying day.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Leader writers who usually huff and puff
about parliamentary standards are being understanding. Take the Herald Sun, for
Its effort is called Bulldozing Democracy. It reads:
The House of Representatives will have
five days to analyse 1,257 pages of complex industrial legislation and related
material that could fundamentally change Australians’ lives.
A Senate inquiry into the new
legislation will have, effectively, just one day.
The Government’s bulldozer attitude to
this important legislation is being read as contempt for the democratic
Certainly, it is the antithesis of what
Prime Minister John Howard
promised – that his government would not abuse its new-found control of the
David Hawker has not been a particularly distinguished Speaker, but he probably had
little choice to do anything other than what he did yesterday.
The trouble is that the ALP had few
The Howard Government is bulldozing
democracy. You don’t dump one lot of major legislation then move straight onto
debate, let alone foreshadow the appearance of a second set of bills on a crucially
important topic less than three hours later.
Just after 9:00am,
Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews dumped 1,250 pages of workplace
relations legislations and explanatory memoranda.
The Labor Party isn’t called the Labor
Party for nothing. This is legislation that strikes at its raison d’etre. They
were already stroppy about the bills. Point number one.
In one of those “cock up or conspiracy”
moments that seem to thrive in the public sector, non-Government members were
denied copies of the legislation. Even after $55 million in ads, no-one really
knew what the fine print contained. IR shadow Stephen Smith
claimed this breached standing orders, but Hawker ruled against him. Point
The opposition was told the legislation
was available online. Sure. They could tie up their printers for a couple of
hours – and collate a couple of kilos of paper. Point number three.
Labor ruled dissent from the Speaker’s
ruling. Copies of the legislation began to appear. But Wilson Tuckey, ever
the peacemaker, accused Smith of pinching a pile of papers that arrived in the
House. Point number four.
At 11:45am, the Prime Minister suddenly called his
terrorism press conference. It turned out the significance of this was to
change a “the” to an “a” in legislation. But everyone thought it was to
distract from the IR laws. Point number five.
Mr Speaker had no choice, but does that explain why everyone was a little toey by
PS And please don’t ignore Malcolm. His speech was good. Very good.