For many a long day, the matter of the bias, the favouritism and the partisanship of the incumbent Speaker in the House of Representatives has been a talking point.
I myself have been in the Federal Lower House and/or tuned in to the broadcasts (both radio and television) of the conducting of the Parliamentary Sittings – and yes, mainly for and at Question Time.
As would have others, I have witnessed some very poor presidings. I will go on the record and assert that the very worst, most blatantly biased, Speaker I ever witnessed was the Labor Speaker – “Leaping” Leo McLeay. He was utterly appalling in his rulings and, I thought, very inadequate in the playing of a moderating role.
But, others will recall (almost) as equally bad Conservative Speakers over the decades. The problem of unfair, biased, partisan Speakers comes about because the Majoritarian Party (or Parties when it comes to the Coalition) of the Day elect /appoint two of their own as Speaker and Deputy Speaker. It goes without saying, the Government of the Day then proceeds to “Lord it” over the Parliament and invariably gets its way – because it “holds sway” – The Speaker and Deputy Speaker are two of “their own”.
Not one country comes to mind where the people elect two of “their own”, as it were. But, apart from the uniqueness of a popularly/directly elected Speakership and the expected commensurate even-handedness which would be the by-product, what a thoroughly ‘Republican’ gesture – the giving of even more sovereignty to the Australian people!
Utilising the New South Wales optional preferential voting system, eligible Commonwealth-enrolled candidates from across Australia, who for at least five years (say) were not card-carrying members of a federally-registered Political Party could, with access to electoral funding but therewith a restriction on the amount they could spend, stand for election to a four year fixed term of the House of Representatives as one of the two Speakers – the one gaining the maximum share of the optional preferred vote becoming the Speaker, with a higher salary structure etc and the one who came in second becoming the Deputy Speaker.
It would be anticipated that more than ten candidates would contest a popular/direct election such as this and so, if it came to replacement of either or both of the two duly elected Speakership persons (for whatever reason), the AEC (or the High Court sitting as The Court of Disputed Returns) would be able to, on countback, appoint replacements thus obviating the need to conduct “by-elections”.
As indicated clearly above, too much peoples’ sovereignty can never be enough! A system such as this would be more involving of the people in the democratic processes.
PETER CONSANDINE © 2005 and © 2012