Preamble: Well the time HAS come and the Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP has done the right thing. Today she resigned her role as Speaker. In doing so she made this statement:
I have today written to the Governor General and tendered my resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives effective immediately. I have not taken this decision lightly, however it is because of my love and respect for the institution of the Parliament and the Australian people that I have resigned as Speaker.
I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Mackellar as their local member, the job that has always been my first responsibility despite other positions I have held within the parliament.
I have my own thoughts on the carefully scripted words issued by Bronwyn Bishop and I may share them at some stage. In the meantime I am happy to share the latest cleverly written piece from Guest Blogger Justin Baxter. This was written a few days ago now...they say a day is a long time in politics...I'd have to agree! Feel free to add your thoughts too.
Time to leave the House....
It is widely recognised that the English language is one of the more complex languages on this planet.
Synonyms, antonyms, adjectives, verbs and nouns in conjunction with very specific and regional dialects it is no wonder it can be hard to have ourselves heard, let alone understood.
To the ear, English is actually quite a boring language. Whilst there are regional accents it doesn’t invoke the passion of French or Spanish.
Both of these tongues by tone alone can be guttural but can be as equally exquisite and beautiful to the ear even when we may not understand what the words and sounds mean in our native tongue of English.
Privilege is a word in the English language that has several meanings and can be used in many contexts.
The Oxford Dictionary gives the following meanings to the word privilege:
A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group:
Grant a privilege or privileges to:
Such is the complexity of the English language it is a privilege to be elected to serve the people of Australia in Parliament. Whereupon election, Members of Parliament are afforded certain privileges.
When one considers that the House of Representatives has 150 elected members and the Senate 76 these individuals have had to contest their position at an election.
There were many more that put their hand forward and invested time, effort and personal savings, in an attempt to demonstrate to voters that they would be well placed to represent their constituents. Having passion alone is not enough to get elected so making it through our voting process further demonstrates that being chosen by us “the people” is a privilege.
Once elected, we the people have then afforded other privileges to our elected representatives. Members are provided entitlements and allowances to use appropriately in discharging their duties as a Member of Parliament.
Senators and members receive an annual allowance by way of basic salary of $195,130 (from 1 July 2014)
The research paper at this link explains the legislative basis, fixing and linking mechanisms for the allowance.
No member should be out of pocket for undertaking bona fide work for their constituency.
Within our Parliamentary Chambers there are other positions of privilege, the Prime Minister, the Whip, the Leader of the Opposition but there is no other position of privilege more so than the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The Speaker is the spokesperson for the House (hence the derivation of the name ‘Speaker’) in its relations with the other parts of the Parliament—the Senate and the Sovereign (represented by the Governor-General), the other arms of government—the Executive and the Judiciary, and with other outside bodies and people. In this role Speakers are expected to maintain the authority of the House, and to protect its rights and privileges.
The party with the majority in the House of Representatives has the privilege to nominate the Speaker of the House.
Once appointed to the position of Speaker the incumbent is no longer just the representative of an Electorate. In representing the House the Speaker represents and is responsible to the House and all of its Members, whether in government or opposition. He or she is not responsible to the Executive Government and seeks to preserve the House’s independence from it.
He or she has a duty to ensure our Parliament conducts itself in a manner befitting our Nation. He or she has a duty to ensure all of this is done apolitically and with equity.
I name Madam Speaker and member for Mackellar, I may not have voted for you but when you accepted the role of Speaker you accepted to discharge your role impartially and fairly.
You Madam Speaker have sullied the position of Speaker.
You have treated the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia and the people of Australia contemptuously you have taken the privileges afforded to you by both the people and the Parliament and treated them as your right.
Yes, Madam Speaker you erred but the fact that it has taken 3 weeks to issue an apology speaks volumes.
Your recalcitrance throughout the whole sordid affair goes to the heart of the matter.
The apology is obviously not heartfelt, sincere nor genuine.
It may well have been written on your behalf, by a staffer, with key words used in an attempt demonstrate remorse. You will have had this forced upon you in an attempt to soothe over the voting public; an attempt to "make this go away.’
You Madam Speaker have disgraced the sanctity and independence of the Speaker’s chair in our great Parliament like no speaker before.
I also name the Member for Sturt; it is incomprehensible that any member of the Parliament could defend the speaker’s position and behaviour.
A general member of the House may gain some leeway, but not the position of Speaker.
The Speaker of the House is not a first term member; the Speaker of the House is an experienced member. You yourself know this; you too are an experienced member of the House. You, the Member for Sturt know what is right and what is wrong, you know the rules, or do you?
Noblesse oblige is a beautiful French phrase, even just hearing it invokes feelings and emotions.
This concept was recently put to me, just reading it needed no detailed explanation. However it is not just a phrase but a concept, a concept of behaviour.
Wikepedia lists Nobless oblige as:
A French phrase literally meaning "nobility obliges". It is the concept that nobility extends beyond mere entitlements and requires the person with such status to fulfill social responsibilities, particularly in leadership roles.
The Dictionnaire de l’Académie française defines it thus:
1. Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.
2. (Figuratively) One must act in a fashion that conforms to one's position, and with the reputation that one has earned
I would suggest that in the Australian context ‘nobility’ extends to those of privilege and to those that privilege has been extended to.
Our political representatives have a duty of care to act in a fashion that conforms to their position, the Speaker of the House even more so.
When privilege is no longer viewed as privilege, and privileges are viewed as rights then one ceases to conduct themselves nobly.
And that is why the Speaker of the House should resign her position.
It’s time to leave the House.