Speaker David Hawker can’t control the
House the Representatives – but he’ll happily help Red China oppress its enemies,
it seems.

At the end of Question Time yesterday Carmen Lawrence drew the Speaker’s attention to the presence of two prominent
visitors in the Gallery – former Canadian minister David Kilgour and Edward McMillan-Scott,
the Vice-President of the European Parliament:

Since you seemed
not to be recognising them, I drew their presence to your attention. Unfortunately,
you did not see fit to pay them the credit that is normally given to such
visitors. In that light, may I ask you why you did that and why other guests have
been given appropriate treatment when these people have not.

Hawker looked even more uncomfortable than
usual, then gave a classic non-answer:

I thank the
member for Fremantle. As she is aware, the decision on who will be recognised
has to rest with the chair. While there are not firm guidelines, there are
clear rules, if you like, that I try to follow. Given precedents have existed
for many years, I continue to follow them.

Lawrence wanted to know more:

Mr Speaker, I
ask a further question of you in relation to your answer. First of all, can you
inform the House, now or at a later stage, what those guidelines or rules might
be that apply and how it is that, in particular, Mr Edward McMillan-Scott, the
Vice-President of the European parliament and a Conservative MEP, I might say,
was not given appropriate treatment in this House and the appropriate
courtesies extended to him. I ask further whether indeed government ministers
may have had some role in your decision.

Hawker replied “Can I make it quite clear to the member for
Fremantle on her last point that I have not had anyone approach me on that
matter.”

What’s the subtext here? Why weren’t Kilgour and McMillan-Scott
recognised?

Well, it might have something to do with the fact that they are
visiting Australia urging a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics while China
continues to oppress members of Falun Gong.

Peter Fray

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