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Australia: Questions Raised Over Possible Independent Speaker for Parliament
Source: abc.net.au
Source Date: Thursday, September 16, 2010
Focus: ICT for MDGs
Country: Australia
Created: Sep 19, 2010

Australia's Opposition is casting doubt over a significant part of the parliamentary reform agreement signed with the Government and Independents last week.

The agreement was part of the deal driven by Independent MP Rob Oakeshott.

He's now put his hand up for the Speaker's role, provided he can still vote on crucial issues.

The agreement on new parliamentary procedures says the speaker can be "paired" with an MP from the opposing side to ensure the outcome of a vote isn't affected, but the Manager of Opposition business Christopher Pyne now says that can't happen.

"The Constitution, Section 40, makes it perfectly clear that the speaker does not have a deliberative vote, only a casting vote," he said.

The Government says Mr Oakeshott would be a good candidate for speaker, but it is seeking legal advice on how it would affect his ability to vote.

Constitutional expert Professor George Williams says there is nothing in the constitution to prevent Mr Oakeshott taking up the post, but there are practical problems.

"I think there are some concerns about the workability of Parliament if we are to have a speaker who is to take part in parliamentary business and be entitled to a pair," he said.

"It's not without question that it can be done but it will be more complicated and will require some new procedures and it will also require a lot more advanced notice to deal with these things appropriately."
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