Federal parliament is no place for the meek, but how it is managed is becoming a source of bitter disagreement as waves of ALP politicians are ejected while their Coalition counterparts are seemingly immune to censure.
Halfway through the current term of government, MPs are being thrown out of the chamber almost 50 per cent more often than during the previous parliament, and they’re mostly from the Opposition.
Statistics show that Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop and her deputy Bruce Scott have ejected more MPs so far since 2013 than during any other full term of parliament since 1993.
In fact, while Mr Scott has ejected only one MP, the Speaker and her deputy are well on their way to ejecting as many MPs during this period of government as the past two parliaments combined, which together made 427 ejections.
Ms Bishop has already set a daily record, booting 18 Opposition MPs in a single session on November 26, 2014.
Australian National University professor John Uhr said that after the bitterness of the minority government of Julia Gillard, Ms Bishop has come in as an “enforcer”.
But he said the Opposition was a “willing participant” in being ejected from the parliament.
“In some ways the opposition are easy people for her to discipline because they don’t mind becoming casualties. They’ve got no higher or better job to do other than go back and have another coffee at Aussies and plan for tomorrow’s question time,” he said.
“There’s a kind of strange partnership between the Opposition and the Speaker to kind of bring each other down, in a way.”
However, one parliamentary source told The New Daily that being thrown out of parliament reflected worse on the Speaker than the MP.
The main offenders
Labor’s Wakefield MP Nick Champion has been ejected the most of any MP at 49 times since 2013, which is nine short of the total number of ejections recorded for the 38th parliament from 1996 to 1998.
The Opposition’s MPs were ejected 361 times for the one-hour period mandated under Section 94a of the parliamentary rulebook, the Standing Orders. Government MPs have been ejected six times under the same rule, parliamentary records show.
Meanwhile, six of the Opposition’s MPs were ejected for 24 hours under section 94b while Andrew Laming was the only government MP booted under the rule after his political stunt damaged some of the parliament’s furniture.
The Leader of Opposition Business Tony Burke accused the government of “arrogance”, when a question related to Nationals Deputy Leader Barnaby Joyce was ruled out of order before it was completely heard.
“We are at this point right now, Madam Speaker, because of the arrogance of this government and because of the way you have used your position in that chair to prevent questions from being asked,” he said.
“Over the last few weeks, Madam Speaker, more and more, you have been ruling questions from the opposition as being out of order.
“Madam Speaker, there is no way on earth you knew whether or not a question that you had not heard was out of order.”
Speakers of all stripes have ejected opposition members much more frequently than members of the governments.
Australian parliamentary records show that historically, nine opposition members are sent packing for every one government member.
The reason for the discrepancy is arguably not partisan politics writ large, but a willingness on the opposition’s benches to behave in a way that attracts the sanction from the Speaker.