Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to put his handpicked Speaker Bronwyn Bishop “on probation” demonstrates, as perhaps little else can, his contemptuous disregard for our Parliament and its processes.
As Speaker, it is Bishop’s job to discipline all MPs, thus setting the tone for parliamentary behaviour, and using the authority of her position to ensure that behaviour is within the guidelines and traditions of the Westminster system.
There is already considerable discontent abroad concerning the incompetent and biased manner with which Bishop has performed her powerful job. This latest scandal surrounding her dodgy use of taxpayer funds to enhance her lifestyle and feed her apparently insatiable sense of self-importance and entitlement ought to be the last straw.
It is unclear, at least to me, exactly what Abbott means by declaring Bishop to be “on probation.” Her expenses will be scrutinised for a period of three months perhaps? She will be obliged to stay away from helicopters and limousines for six weeks? How, exactly, is a Speaker of the House of Representatives put “on probation” and more importantly, how does a Speaker “on probation” retain any authority at all over any MP in that House?
A Speaker “on probation” cannot possibly remain a Speaker. A Speaker “on probation” has lost all her authority. A Speaker must be above being put “on probation” by her Prime Minister. The very idea is an insane notion that makes absolutely no sense in any known universe. It demonstrates Abbott’s utter contempt for the Westminster system he claims to revere.
Abbott assures us that Bishop is “contrite,” however, Bishop has given the public no indication of contrition at all.
Obviously, Abbott considers his Speaker to be at fault, otherwise there would be no talk of “probation” in the first place. The errors Bishop has made disqualify her from the extraordinarily demanding requisites of her position: a Speaker of the House of Representatives cannot authoritatively carry out her duties while “on probation,” and a Prime Minister who believes that is a satisfactory solution is demonstrating his profound contempt both for Australian voters, and the Westminster system of government over which he presides.
It’s time. For both Bishop and Abbott to go. Every day they remain is a further insult to this country and to our system of governance.