The Speaker's Time Is Up

Posted by Des Menz in Politicians, Bias, and Entitlements - July 21, 2015

The Speaker of the Australian Parliament, Bronwyn Bishop, has been exposed for huge travel expenditures since assuming the role in 2013 when she was anointed to the top chair in the House of Representatives by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

At various times I have watched "Parliamentary Question Time" on ABC TV. I have seen the performance of the Speaker. It is nothing short of blatant bias towards the Coalition Government. Favouritism. Loathing of the Opposition. Coseting of the government side.

This bias is another symptom of the decay of Australia's parliamentary system. A Speaker must be impartial and there should be no limits on this impartiality, otherwise, as is the case today with Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, democracy suffers a corroded exterior. And we know what happens when that corrosion continues on its inward ways.

Bias … an accusation brought on by the Opposition with considerable foundation.

A strike rate of 98.25% (at July 2015) of ejected victims from the Opposition benches. This is NOT impartiality, it is bias.

This happens from both sides of the Parliament when they are privileged with forming government.

Constant ejections of MP's from Parliament by Speakers is a blight on the system, and it needs to be exorcised.  So, there's something fundamentally flawed with the Westminster system of Australia's Parliament in the way that the Speaker remains an active part of the government benches. This is not impartiality. It's wrong, it needs to be fixed, and soon.

We shouldn't hold our breaths though. The Australian political class doesn't embrace change, unless it's for themselves.

The role of Speaker is much more than the general public understands, but the current Speaker Bronwyn Bishop has stupidly brought a wildfire of attention her way with the exposure of a huge taxpayer funded travel bill since she assumed the position in November 2013.

Aside from the fascinating detail about the performance of Mrs Bishop and the profligate spending around various travels, there is another big issue that has not gained sufficient traction - "ENTITLEMENTS".

It seems that politicians, on entering Parliament, think that they are "entitled" to taxpayer-funded "benefits" such as travel costs to private functions, travel of family members (Business Class) for “reunion” with a spouse/parentexhorbitant overseas travel junkets, and the like. 

This is another disease of Australia's parliamentary system, and it is little understood by the general public.

According to Wikipedia …

"An entitlement is a government program guaranteeing access to some benefit by members of a specific group and based on established rights or by legislation."

Speaker Bronwyn Bishop is failing Australia's democratic system.  She has ;

  • not distanced herself from the Coalition Government since taking up the Speaker's role in Australia's Parliament in November 2013
  • is not able to control the parliament
  • has a failing acuity
  • has poor judgement 
  • shows bias towards the government, and therefore is not showing impartiality

(see "Bishop should resign over incompetence not bias")

But it is her lack of insight and poor judgement that has come into sharper focus in recent times. This has also raised issues about parliamentary "entitlements”.

I have had enough, so I wrote to Bronwyn Bishop. 

And then I sent a letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Let’s see what they have to say.

Here is my letter to the Speaker.

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Bronwyn Bishop MP                                                                                                      20 July 2015

PO Box 6022

House of Representatives

Parliament House

Canberra  ACT  2600


Dear Mrs Bishop

What has transpired in recent days about your use of what you refer to as travel “entitlements” 

has prompted me to write to you.

It is time that every politician in Australia stopped thinking that the taxpayer is there to 

subsidise their unprincipled, unethical, and at times illegal behaviour. It is intolerable that you 

and other politicians feed off the taxpayer in so many ways and yet at the same time deny those 

in great need of assistance.


It is appalling that you think that an “error of judgment” has been made about your abuse of 

taxpayer funds for a private trip to Geelong. Similarly, the $90,000 cost of your two week trip 

to Europe last year is disgraceful. It is equally appalling that you spent more than $310,000 in 

overseas travel in 2014. Were these huge spendings, sufficient to create at least six jobs, “errors 

of judgment”?


If you think that these sorts of expenditures are part of your office, and are within the “rules”, 

then it’s about time those rules were changed to reflect normal societal standards. You are in 

parliament to serve the people of Australia, not to rip them off!


If you think that your case is different from others that have preceded you about the mis-use 

of parliamentary expenditure, or of excess expenditure, then you have made a very big error of 

judgement. 


The problem with politicians and their “entitlements” is that they think it is a right once they 

enter parliament. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had “entitlements” in life? What sort of society 

would we have? This “entitlement” rubbish is a symptom of the decay that is rippling through 

Australian society. 


You are in a very privileged position, and your behaviour must be seen by everyone to set an 

example about reducing expenditure, particularly when we are all told that the national budget 

is in a mess, and that there is “debt and deficit” everywhere. This is such hypocrisy from you 

and other politicians.


And I won’t go to the other huge problem of your Speakership - blatant bias - that is emblematic 

of the disdain that you have for that role.


You have let down the people of Australia, and accordingly you should step down immediately 

from the Speaker’s chair. You should follow your Coalition predecessors who were required to 

resign from the Ministry in order meet higher expectations under John Howard than you have 

under Tony Abbott. You would know these cases well; their names are in the public domain. 

These cases go on … and on … and on. 


The public is very cynical about the behaviour of politicians (regardless of which political party 

they are from), their largesse, and the perception of not being in touch with the ordinary person.


Will you have the moral fibre to stand down and apologise for the abuse of taxpayer funds? 

Will you then admit you failed to observe the importance, fairness, and austerity of the 

privileged role as Speaker?

Will you then campaign to limit ALL politicians' “entitlements” in the interests of a better 

parliament and better society?


I look forward to your reply.


PS : I am neither a Liberal, National, Labor, Greens, or any other political party voter or 

supporter. I am the voice of the disaffected "progressive centrists” if any tag should be pinned 

to me. 


Sincerely

Des Menz

Armagh SA

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Care to make a comment? 

What do you think the Speaker should do? Or PM Tony Abbott?


UPDATE - 21 August 2015 

No reply was forthcoming from the now former Speaker. She stood down as a result of the controversy surrounding her.

© Des Menz 2014-18
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