Harry Jenkins has ended the parliamentary year with a surprise, announcing he will resign as Speaker today:

In a statement to Parliament, Speaker Jenkins said he’d divorced himself from party political matters in order to carry out his duties in a non-partisan manner. “In this era of minority government I have progressively become frustrated at this stricture,” he said. “My desire is to be able to participate in policy and parliamentary debate, and this would be incompatible with continuing in the role of Speaker.”

Which is no huge deal if that’s all there is to it. But with the rift between Deputy Speaker Peter Slipper and his party widening of late – the LNP is presently considering disciplinary action against him – the suspicion exists that the government has reached an arrangement with him. If so, the return of Jenkins to the floor would enable the government to win confidence motions 76-73 rather than 75-74. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Events are moving quicker than my iPad typing speed. Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The Liberal MP, Peter Slipper, is likely to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives after Labor’s Harry Jenkins resigned this morning, shocking the Parliament on its final sitting day for 2011. Labor MPs will be asked to approve Mr Slipper’s nomination at a special caucus meeting scheduled for 10am.

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Peter Fray
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