Mounting complaints about Speaker’s bias

Question Time today was interrupted for an unusual procedural matter: “For the first time since 1949, an opposition was trying to move a motion of no confidence in the Speaker of the House of Representatives.” As the MP charged with ensuring that parliamentary debates and votes run fairly and smoothly, the Westminster system requires the Speaker to carry out her functions impartially. Shortly after Bronwyn Bishop’s appointment last year, Dr Paul Williams expressed concerns: “her decision to reject the tradition of Speakers staying clear of party room meetings where parliamentary tactics are discussed [means] Bishop will now be privy to Coalition attack plans.” Last week, Professor Peter van Onselen complained that “she has gotten worse”: “Bishop throws Labor MPs out of the chamber with gay abandon. … She enters the partisan debate, throwing quips and smirks into the equation in a way that should be beneath the Speaker.” However, the Opposition’s motion was doomed to failure due to the balance of power in the chamber.