David Hawker was John Howard’s choice for Speaker. You can see why. Rather than ruling the chamber with an iron fist, he uses a leaf of limp lettuce.

It must be agony to take on such a historic and important role, knowing it is completely beyond you. Wearing a black cape doesn’t give him superhero powers.

Debate spun out of control again in Question Time yesterday as the opposition continued to argue against the Government’s industrial relations proposals. Kim Beazley moved a motion of dissent against the Speaker after he ruled against an industrial relations question because of heckling, but the Leader of the House, Tony Abbott, accused the opposition of wasting Question Time.

“The Leader of the Opposition seems to have decided that it is now time to become the muscle-up merchant of this Parliament,” he said.

Hansard (p19) tells a different story:

  • Joe Hockey interjected after the Speaker told Mr Smith to come to his question.
  • Smith responded briefly, then started his question.
  • Costello interjected and Smith responded.
  • The Speaker called Order, then Smith continued responding to the Treasurer’s interjections.
  • The Speaker didn’t sit Smith down as he later claimed, but simply ignored him and called Government backbencher Trish Draper.
  • Later he claimed Smith was asked to come to his question twice, but the Hansard only records one instance of that.
  • The Speaker is inconsistent, unable to keep order and clearly not up to the job.

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (2.24pm)—When did you ever lift a finger for the victims of James Hardie?

The SPEAKER—Order! The member for Perth will come to his question.

Mr Hockey—Sit him down.

Mr STEPHEN SMITH—I’m standing up, Joe. My question is to the Acting Prime Minister.

Mr Costello interjecting—

Mr STEPHEN SMITH—Just wait for it to fall in your lap, Pete.

The SPEAKER—Order!

Mr STEPHEN SMITH—The Prince Charles of Australian politics.

The SPEAKER—I call the member for Makin. The member for Perth on a point of order.

Mr Stephen Smith—Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It was a bit of harmless banter between me and the Treasurer.

The SPEAKER—I will rule on that point of order. The member for Perth was asked to come to his question twice.

Mr Stephen Smith—And I am.

The SPEAKER—He did not come to his question, so I asked him to resume his seat. I have ruled on the matter.

Mr Beazley—On the point of order: Mr Speaker, the member for Perth was responding to heckling from the other side, against which he got no protection whatsoever from you. Now you have the opportunity to right that in this place and to stop acting in a biased fashion.

The SPEAKER—The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw that last remark.

Mr Beazley—I will always defer to the Speaker, Mr Speaker, and withdraw. But I insist, Mr Speaker, that you reconsider your ruling on that matter, given the fact that everybody here saw them heckling the member for Perth constantly and he was responding. He was not initiating; he was responding.

The SPEAKER—I thank the Leader of the Opposition. I will make the point that, when a member is called to ask a question, the member is expected to come straight to their question.