It’s too complicated, it seems, to report – but the Government’s abuse of its numbers in the House of Representatives to bag Labor’s IR spokesman Stephen Smith deserves coverage.

Manager of Government Business in the House Tony Abbott led Speaker David Hawker astray yesterday and Tuesday, overturning of 105 years of House of Representatives practice and hanging the Speaker out to dry as he copped a dissent motion.

This is the second serious occasion this year where Abbott has put bullying tactics ahead of wisdom and discretion, causing embarrassment to the Speaker, the parliament and the Government. Remember the “grub” comments? Abbott was forced to apologise then. What’s going to happen now? Nothing, it seems – as parliament isn’t being properly reported.

So what happened? Let’s try and keep this simple. On Tuesday, the Government failed to move a substantive motion censuring Smith after a clash over the fine print in an AWA.

At the end of Question Time, the Government tried to gag Smith to stop him explaining details of an AWA. He ended up reading the differences between the collective agreement and the AWA, clause by clause, as items in a suspension of standing orders motion as Peter McGauran jumped up and down like a jack-in-the-box, desperate to stop him. Then he was “no longer heard”. Then five minutes later Workplace Relations Minister Andrews launched a censure motion against Smith where he was able to defend his position at length – but yet the Government didn’t move on to any substantive motion.

And it all got revisited again yesterday.

Labor says the Government’s tactics were erratic. First they tried to gag the opposition, then they allowed Smith to debate the suspension and have a crack. Then they forgot to follow through with a substantive motion to censure Smith – which was sloppy – or didn’t bother because they didn’t care – which is just arrogant. Whatever the reason, the opposition says, the Government has again further eroded the traditions, procedures, and protocols of Parliament.

Peter Fray

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