Bronwyn Bishop: 'Sin binning' record breaker

The former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) Source: AAP

As Bronwyn Bishop steps down as Speaker of the House, she takes with her the record for 'sin binning' the greatest number of politicians.

Bronwyn Bishop has stepped down as Speaker, a role considered the most important job in the House of Representatives and one responsbile for ensuring parliament follows proper procedure in an orderly manner.

The Speaker is elected by the House of Representatives and Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that the election of Mrs Bishop’s replacement will be “a matter for the party room”.

“The party room will choose a nominee and obviously the Government's nominee then go before the parliament and the parliament ultimately determines who the Speaker will be,” he told reporters on Monday.

Mrs Bishop resigned from the coveted position on Sunday, after setting multiple records in relation to the use of Standing Order 94a.

The Standing Order allows the Speaker to take action against disorderly MPs, directing them to leave the chamber for one hour, and its use - or "sin binning" - has rapidly increased since its introduction in 1994.

Opposition politicians have historically been heavily targeted by 94a since its introduction in 1994, but analysis of actions taken by Speakers and Deputy Speakers over the past decade has shown that Mrs Bishop was the Speaker most inclined to target MPs from the opposing party.

From her appointment of Speaker on November 12, 2013 to her last sitting day in June, Mrs Bishop has sent out 400 politicians under Standing Order 94a. Of those booted out, 393 (or 98.25 per cent) were Labor politicians, and seven were Coalition MPs

By comparison, her predecessor – Liberal turned Independent Peter Slipper – ordered out a total of 73 MPs during his tenure as Speaker and Deputy Speaker from September 28, 2010 to October 9, 2012. A total of 59 – or 80.8 per cent – were Coalition members.

Other Speakers and Deputy Speakers over the past decade include:

  • Labor’s Anna Burke, who ordered out 119 MPs in total. 112 (94%) - were Coalition members
  • Labor’s Harry Jenkins, who ordered out 251 MPs in total. 226 (90%) - were Coalition members
  • Nationals’ Ian Causley, who ordered out 35 MPs in total. 30 (85.7%) – were Labor members
  • Liberal’s David Hawker, who ordered out 188 MPs in total. 183 (97.3%) – were Labor members

Note: The above chart and totals consist primarily of 94a ejections, but also include 94, 94b and 94e.

Mrs Bishop – who faced down a motion of dissent over perceived bias earlier this year - also holds the record for the greatest number of politicians sent out under 94a in a single day.

Previously held by Mr Hawker in 2005, Mrs Bishop broke the record on November 27 last year when she dismissed 18 MPs under 94a. The preceding two days also saw 12 MPs expelled on each day, also breaking Mr Hawker’s previous record of 11.

Mrs Bishop has sent out 400 politicians under Standing Order 94a with Labor MPs accounting for 98.25 per cent

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described Mrs Bishop as “perhaps the most partisan party political Speaker” that parliament had seen since federation.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Mr Shorten said the “hyper-partisanship” had turned parliament into a laughing stock.

“I hope that Mr Abbott doesn't impose his captain's pick as he did with Mrs Bishop,” he said.

“I hope that he doesn't pick someone from the extreme right of the Liberal Party more interesting in scoring political points than fostering good sensible debate about the future of this country.”

Clive Palmer had been intending to move a motion of no confidence against Mrs Bishop if she did not step down and told SBS that he took issue with her perceived bias as well as expenditure.

“I think the next speaker will be on notice that he has to act a lot differently to what Bronwyn Bishop did,” he said.

“She threw out nearly 400 members of the opposition from parliament for really no reason at all… That doesn’t do parliament any good, it doesn’t help out with democracy.”

The Palmer United Party leader said he wanted the next Speaker to stay out of party room discussions and be left out of debate on legislation.

Mrs Bishop has had vocal support from Christopher Pyne, who previously helped dismiss a motion of dissent against her as Speaker in his role as Leader of the House.

At the time of the failed motion, Mr Pyne said Labor should be “congratulating” Mrs Bishop for her performance.

He has also accused Labor of bullying Mrs Bishop, saying some party members had issues with strong women.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also remained supportive of Mrs Bishop, saying on Sunday that he was “not going to sit in judgment of a friend and colleague”.

The Coalition will meet on Monday to vote for a new Speaker, who will be the fifth in less than four years.

Backbenchers Tony Smith and Andrew Southcott have emerged as favourites to replace Mrs Bishop, while veteran Liberal and former chief whip Philip Ruddock has put his hand up for the job, saying he would “be available” for the position.

Mr Abbott said that he expects "quite a number of good people" to nominate for the position. 

Acting Speaker Bruce Scott is one possibility, though Parliamentary Secretary Steve Ciobo said “it would be great if it could be a woman”.

Sharman Stone had been rumoured to be in the running for the position, but has since withdrawn.

Dr Stone has previously called for the axing of Question Time, which she described as “screaming matches”.

Of the 1,386 people kicked out under 94a since its introduction in 1994, the majority occurred in Question Time. Question Time has been cancelled for the first parliamentary sitting day after the winter break, with politicians to only address the election of a Speaker and a condolence motion on Monday.

There is some question as to whether 94a is effective in maintaining order. Rob Lundie from the Parliamentary Library said “members view it as little more than a slap on the wrist and of little deterrent value”.

Concerns have also been raised regarding the level of control it gives the Speaker, which were also foreshadowed by former politician Wilson Tuckey before its introduction.

“Honourable members would not be surprised that I am not very much in favour of the ‘sin bin’,” he said in 1993.

“I do not really think that would be very wise and, in fact, it would be a situation that might make it just a bit too easy for the Speaker when it is a prerogative of the parliament.”

Mr Tuckey was also the first politician to be sent out under 94a in February 1994, after interjecting three times during a speech by then Prime Minister Paul Keating.

Nick Champion remains the member who has received the most instructions to leave under 94a, the majority given by Mrs Bishop

Nick Champion remains the member with the dubious honour of receiving the most instructions to leave under 94a at 63. The majority of the orders – 44 – were given by Mrs Bishop. Mr Champion was both Mrs Bishop's first and last ejection.

Until the appointment of Mrs Bishop as Speaker, Christopher Pyne held the record for most disciplined member at 45 counts, followed by Anthony Albanese on 34.

No prime minister has been kicked out under 94a, though the then Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan was ordered out of the chamber in March 2012.

The current Prime Minister Tony Abbott was also “sin binned” in August 2012, after failing to withdraw an unparliamentary remark when asked. He was Opposition Leader at the time, and was the first in that position to be sent out under 94a.

Other Opposition leaders - including John Howard, Robert Menzies and Joseph Cook - have been sent out of parliament, but Mr Abbott was the only one dismissed under 94a.

The number of MPs speakers threw out has been updated since this article was first published.

Source SBS

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