Labor accuses Bronwyn Bishop of being ‘most biased Speaker’ in history

Manager of opposition business Tony Burke seeks to move a no confidence motion against Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop. Photo: Andrew Meares Mark Dreyfus reacts as he was named by the Speaker during question time in Parliament House Canberra on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares

Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop during question time. Photo: Andrew Meares

MPs vote on a procedure division on Labor’s no confidence motion against Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop. Photo: Andrew Meares

Prime Minister Tony Abbott talks with Speaker Bronwyn Bishop during question time. Photo: Andrew Meares

The Pulse Live: Judith Ireland blogs live from Parliament

Labor has attempted to pass a motion of no confidence in the Speaker of the House of Representatives Bronwyn Bishop.

Accusations of bias, incompetence and inconsistency were levelled at Ms Bishop by manager of opposition business, Tony Burke, who launched his strongest attack yet on the Speaker in Parliament’s question time on Thursday.

Mr Burke’s unsuccessful motion – it was always destined to fail given the government controls the numbers in the House of Representatives – continues a campaign by Labor to strip Ms Bishop of the Speakership, with Labor ministers arguing she is the most biased Speaker in history.

Addressing the Speaker, Mr Burke said: “As of the action that you took today, 98 people have now been thrown out of the House by you. Every one of them from the opposition. Ninety-eight-love. No Speaker in the history of federation has a record like that.”

“Everyone in Australia knows bias when they see it,” Mr Burke added. “You were effective as a warrior for the Liberal Party, but that is not the job you chose to take on.

“And yet in the Speaker’s chair you have continued to act as though enjoying the victory for your own side is your job.

“The Parliament deserves more than that and the Parliament cannot have confidence in a Speaker who refuses to be impartial.”

Government leader in the house Christopher Pyne, in shutting down the suspension motion, countered that Labor ministers had a problem with strong women and were bullying Ms Bishop.

After Ms Bishop ejected shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus from the House, Mr Burke rose to condemn her impartiality. Labor MPs said Mr Dreyfus was ejected simply for referring to Ms Bishop by her title “Madam Speaker”.

Mr Pyne replied that Labor was engaging in “shabby” tactics and should be “congratulating” Ms Bishop for her performance and grateful that she had not treated them more harshly.

Mr Pyne said that unlike Mr Burke, he did not whinge at poor treatment from the Speaker when he was in opposition.

“I am no sook,” Mr Pyne said to uproarious laughter in the chamber.

“I have been Manager of opposition business for five years.

“I was manager of opposition business for three years in a hung parliament. I hold the record for being ejected from this place by Speakers in the Parliament. I never complained.”

“I didn’t stand up like a great big sook like the manager of opposition business did today and say like one of my four children that I have had my toy taken away from me.”

Labor’s transport spokesman Anthony Albanese seconded the motion of no confidence. Mr Albanese said it was “sad” that Ms Bishop had “chosen the low road of partisanship rather than the high road of independence”.

“There are millions of Australians who voted for us on this side and they also deserve to be represented and not treated with contempt from the chair of the House of Representatives,” Mr Albanese said.

Predictably, Labor’s motion of no confidence in the Speaker failed with 83 members voting against and 51 voting for.

It is a common occurrence for oppositions to accuse the government-appointed speaker of being biased. While bias is difficult, perhaps impossible, to measure objectively, so far 100 per cent of the MPs Ms Bishop has ejected from the House have been Labor members.

Since Parliament began taking records, opposition members have been punished about 90 per cent of the time, according to analysis by the Parliamentary Library.

During the 43rd Parliament (Gillard/Rudd Labor government) 89.2 per cent of the 278 disciplinary actions were against the Coalition. In the 41st Parliament (Howard government’s fourth term), 95.5 per cent of the 223 disciplinary actions were against Labor MPs.

In the last Parliament, then opposition leader Tony Abbott accused speaker Peter Slipper of ”vile sexism and bias”. On October 9, 2012, Mr Abbott moved a motion of no confidence against Mr Slipper. The motion was defeated by one vote (69 to 70), but Mr Slipper resigned that day.

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