How did we get a multi-party Westminster system? Part 1

[Charles I in parliament: ‘Attempted arrest of the five members’ by Charles West Cope]

Earlier this year we had a couple of pieces that raised issues about the parliamentary and party system in Australia (‘President Abbott’ and ‘Instant Experts’) and in June we had the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Our system is known as a Westminster parliamentary system and incorporates a multi-party system (or sometimes a ‘dominant party’ system, as when the Coalition governed from 1949 to 1972). Some comments on those earlier articles raised questions about how effective our system really is and mentioned some of the quirks that seem contained in it. I thought that deserved some research as to how the system arose and how our constitution expresses it.

Of course the basis of our system is the English parliamentary system which operates in what is now a constitutional monarchy. England does not have a written constitution: instead, it has taken hundreds of years to develop some written and many unwritten rules (conventions) that determine how Britain is governed.
Parliament developed in the 13th and 14th centuries largely through the desire of Edward I and his successors to wage war. This needed more money than they had from their own wealth [personal royal estates] and they had to levy "extraordinary" taxes, with Parliament's assent, to raise the funds. But each time the King requested assent to a tax from Parliament, it could ask a favour back … and often used the King's desperation for money to get what it wanted.
While the ‘lords spiritual’ (abbots and bishops) and the ‘lords temporal’ (originally earls and barons and later including dukes, marquesses and viscounts) had been called together before to grant taxes to the king, during the reign of Edward I (1272 –1309) it became more common to also call in the ‘knights of the shire’ (two from each county) and ‘burgesses’ (two from each city and town, or ‘boroughs’ as they were known). Those knights and burgesses were usually ‘elected’ but both the franchise and the election procedure varied from place to place. From 1327, under Edward III, that became the norm and from 1341 the Commons (or representatives of the ‘communes’) met separately from the Lords — although most government business still belonged to the Lords. The Commons exercised its power in 1376 when it impeached some of the monarch’s ‘corrupt’ ministers and did so again in 1388 in what became known as ‘The Merciless Parliament’. The Commons complained about being ignored in the king’s discussions with the Lords about taxes and in 1407 Henry IV formally affirmed the right of the Commons to initiate all grants of money — a power jealously guarded ever since.

Petitions to the monarch and the parliament was the common way to present grievances and they would be remedied by a statute (an Act) of the parliament.
… petitioners began to submit their grievances first to the Commons and, based on these petitions, the Commons wrote draft statutes, known as Bills, to be presented to the Upper House.

In 1414, the Commons successfully insisted to Henry V that the King and Lords should not change the wording of any of the Bills submitted by the Commons without its agreement and that no Bill should become … a statute without their assent.
So by the early 1400s the presence of two houses in parliament, the Commons and the Lords, was firmly established and the Commons had gained clear and important roles.

The modern parliamentary system really starts with the Bill of Rights in 1689 which was presented to William of Orange and Queen Mary when they jointly assumed the throne. After listing the crimes of the previous king, James II, the Bill stated, among other matters:
That the pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without the consent of Parliament is illegal.

That levying money for or to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for longer time, or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted is illegal.

That the raising or keeping of a standing army within the kingdom in a time of peace, unless it shall be with the consent of the Parliament, is against the law.

That election of members of Parliament ought to be free.

That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.

And that for the redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to meet frequently.
(A brief aside here: in England, it was tradition that the monarch was not above ‘the law of the land’ and that had been set in writing in Magna Carta in 1215. So it was possible for an English parliament to assert that a monarch should not act illegally — something that could not be done in some other kingdoms.)

I think you will recognise the basis of our current parliamentary system:
  • laws are made by parliament
  • money can only be raised by, and spent with the consent of parliament
  • free elections
  • freedom of debate (the monarch cannot interfere and nowadays rules of slander and defamation do not apply, which is why we sometimes see politicians challenged to repeat a statement outside the parliament)
  • frequent meetings of parliament
There were other matters relating to ‘cruel and unusual punishments’, no fines or forfeitures before conviction, and the right of Protestants to keep arms, which were also to influence the American Bill of Rights a hundred years later.

About 60 years later (in 1748), the concept of the ‘separation of powers’ was spelled out by Baron de Montesquieu when he explained the difference between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary: his ideas drew on ancient Rome but also the system that was emerging in England. In those days it was highly relevant because the monarch (advised by his ministers, who were selected and appointed by the monarch) was still the ‘executive’. We need to keep that in mind because as the Westminster system evolved it actually fused, in practice if not in law, the legislature and the executive.

It was also in the 1600s that nascent political parties emerged although not yet formally organised as parties — more like-minded people grouping together, or factions. In England, they were the Whigs and the Tories and the grouping started over the Exclusion Bill in 1678: there was one parliamentary group (the Whigs) trying to stop James succeeding to the throne after his brother Charles II and another (the Tories) wishing to continue the Stuart line of succession. By 1689, however, they actually agreed that a limited constitutional monarchy was preferable to the absolutism of ‘divine right’ that had been displayed by James II — although some Tories did support later attempts by the Stuarts to reclaim the throne. Over time, the Whigs evolved into the English Liberal party and the Tories into the Conservatives (still commonly referred to as the ‘Tories’).

The rise of parliament also gave rise to the role of a prime minister because monarchs realised that to achieve their aims they would need someone who could command a majority in (or had the ‘confidence’ of) the parliament — but that was to take a little longer to be formalised.

William III (William of Orange) had tried selecting ministries comprising people from different factions (both Whigs and Tories) but soon realised he was better off appointing a unified group. Thus by 1710 Queen Anne could dismiss a Whig ministry and appoint a Tory ministry.

The ministers were still selected by the monarch (most often from the Lords but could include members of the royal household or royal family) but found that to convince parliament of the financial requirements, the power for which had rested with the Commons since 1407, they needed to attend the Commons frequently and were given a reserved seat at the front which became known as the ‘Treasury Bench’ as they were led by the Lord Treasurer (a title the British prime minister still theoretically holds).

A development in those early years (in 1713) was what in Britain was ‘Standing Order 66’ which states that the Commons will only vote regarding money on the motion of a Minister of the Crown. That was intended to prevent ‘ill-conceived’ money bills being introduced by any member of the parliament and continues to this day (now Standing Order 48 in the British parliament).

Robert Walpole is often recognised as the first prime minister in England (1721 – 1742) but he was still selected by the monarch — although ‘elected’ to parliament from a ‘family parliamentary seat’. He was able to manage the parliament in a way that set the example for the future. At first, the term ‘prime minister’ was an insult implying that the person was placing himself above the monarch as ‘head of government’ — even Walpole denied he was a prime minister. It was Walpole, however, who began conducting most of the business of government in the Commons rather than the House of Lords.

Cabinet government came to the fore during the reigns of George I, II and III largely due to historical accident. (The ‘cabinet’ was an informal name given to the group of ministers that met with and advised the monarch — technically it was a committee of the Privy Council.) George I Duke of Hanover was German, could speak little English and took little interest in English political affairs:
After 1717, George rarely attended Cabinet meetings. This allowed the Cabinet to act collectively and formulate policies, which, provided they were backed by a majority in the Commons, the king was usually powerless to resist.
George II, although initially active in politics (he was the last British monarch to lead his forces in battle), largely withdrew in the last ten years of his reign (1750‒60) and Pitt the Elder effectively ran the government. George III tried to govern as a monarch, being his own ‘prime minister’, and appointing and sacking ministers but then suffered mental debility for the last ten years of his reign (1810‒20) which again left effective governance in the hands of the cabinet. The American War of Independence (during George III’s reign) also contributed. When England lost that war there was a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the then ministry which led to the Marquess of Rockingham reasserting the prime minister’s control over cabinet:
Rockingham assumed the Premiership “on the distinct understanding that measures were to be changed as well as men; and that the measures for which the new ministry required the royal assent were the measures which they, while in opposition, had advocated.” He and his Cabinet were united in their policies and would stand or fall together; they also refused to accept anyone in the Cabinet who did not agree. King George threatened to abdicate but in the end reluctantly agreed out of necessity: he had to have a government.
Although Rockingham was not prime minister for very long, his stance set a basic principle for cabinet government — ‘cabinet solidarity’, which included the prime minister having the cabinet he wanted, not one selected by the monarch. And also the concept that a ‘party’ was entitled to bring to government the ideas it had pursued while in opposition.

Opposition had been a dangerous business during the 1600s as it was seen as traitorous, as opposing the monarch and his government. That idea had waned during the 1700s and in 1826 the term ‘His Majesty’s Opposition’ was first used. Although originally used partly in jest, it became part of the system, recognising a two-party system in which it was constitutionally possible to oppose the government without being a traitor: reflecting this, in the UK the phrase ‘Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition’ is now common.

Although it seems to have been the practice for some time, the convention that ministers should be drawn only from the members of parliament, including the Commons, and not just be selected by the monarch became entrenched from the broadening of the electoral franchise early in the 1800s and particularly the Reform Act of 1832. That Act eliminated the ‘rotten boroughs’ which had allowed people to buy their seat in parliament and monarchs to place ‘their’ people in such seats. Among the problems with ‘boroughs’ was that the right to return members to parliament was traditionally granted by the monarch, so by 1832 their distribution had not kept up with the distribution of the English population — new industrial centres like Manchester and Birmingham had no parliamentary representation. With representation spread more evenly across the country after the Reform Act, public opinion, particularly as expressed at the polls, mattered.
It is significant that Lord Melbourne suggested that it would be impossible to carry on government without the rotten boroughs which the Act of 1832 swept away, so little could he realise the essential character of the new system which was being created. It is significant also that he never fully appreciated the new position; when he resigned in 1841 after an unsuccessful dissolution, regarded by him and the Queen as an appeal by the latter to the people to return her ministry to authority, he advised the Queen to state that she had only parted with her ministers in deference to the opinion of Parliament, though she still had confidence in them. Naturally she did not realise any more than her retiring Premier that in the nature of things the verdict of the electors deprived her of the right to feel confidence in ministers of whom the voters had disapproved, that it was no longer a question of personal integrity or sagacity in a minister, but of his right to represent the will of the people, as expressed by the suffrages of the electorate. [emphasis added]
So after six hundred years of evolution, by the 1840s the essential elements of the Westminster parliamentary system were in place, including a parliamentary party structure. Later broadening of the franchise, during the later 1800s and early 1900s, reinforced those changes and also led to more organised political parties as it became necessary to engage more and more of the population for elections.

Then came Australia …

Any thoughts or questions so far?
Come back next Sunday as Ken continues the story of how we ended up with the system we have and focuses on the federation of Australia and the form of government we inherited from England which relies not just on our Constitution but many of the conventions described above.

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18/07/2015 Ken Thank you for detailing so comprehensively the early history of the Westminster system of government, which we follow here. I look forward to part 2. The system has served us well. It is when its principles are ignored, when the rules are broken, when the privileges that go with high office and representation of the electorate are abused, when corruption occurs, that people take umbrage, and demand redress. How do the people judge? Aussies have a well-developed sense of fairness, often styled as 'the pub test' or 'the sniff test'. Online polls too give an idea of what the people think, at least what those who respond think. The Fourth Estate purports to represent what the people think and feel, but too often represents events and situations according to the wishes of the media proprietors, and is therefore biased. The Fifth Estate represents the views of individuals and groups and can be biased too. Although we are not exposed to the perils of dissent that existed in past eras, and we have mechanisms for open disagreement, it is not always easy to express a view contrary to that held by those in power, and have it heard, let alone acted upon. Those in power can too easily brush aside dissent, and in the process demean the dissenter, as we see day after day in contemporary politics, but occasionally the force of the dissent is overwhelming, where only those tone-deaf to public opinion, only those with a 'tin ear' can ignore the clamour. It is a strange coincidence that the publication of your piece Ken is amidst the furore over the federal Speaker's apparent abuse of privilege, possibly amounting to corruption. If one can judge from the reaction of the media, even the Murdoch media, she seems to be in danger of being judged as guilty of misuse of $5,000 of taxpayers' funds, or even corrupt if she has signed a form claiming her helicopter ride was to carry out her parliamentary duties. She certainly has failed the online 'pub test' in a Fairfax poll where almost 90% of well over 90,000 respondents believe 'she should resign and pay the money back'. Only 5% think 'she has done nothing wrong'. It is in a democracy under the Westminster system that such public dissent can be made and acted upon. Of course we know that even matters as public as this has become can be swept under the carpet, and we have a PM who has the effrontery to do this. The focus of interest now is what the Speaker will do to manage the dilemma in which she finds herself, and how her leader will respond. Interesting times, and a test of the Westminster system that you have described so well.


19/07/2015I am jumping in with an early comment (mini-essay) to provide some explanatory notes and bits and pieces I left out of the main article so as to keep it a reasonable length – after all, whole books have been written about the history of parliament. It is difficult to pin down exactly when some of the changes occurred because they did evolve. There would be steps forward but also steps back before each aspect became firmly established. Thus early kings usually had a key adviser who could be considered as being something like a ‘prime minister’: so such a position was always around but it was not until the 1700s that it became more important in the parliament and particularly after Walpole started conducting government business in the Commons. But then, as explained, George III basically tried to operate without one before the Marquess of Rockingham reasserted the prime minister’s control of cabinet. So it is a long history of steps forward and steps back with few clearly defined points where one can say that was the year in which a certain aspect of our system was set in concrete. The political situation of the king was often also important. When Henry IV granted the Commons the right to initiate grants of money it was partly because he was still trying to justify his kingship after deposing Richard II and placing him in gaol. He needed parliamentary support to consolidate his position. Similarly Henry V needed parliamentary support for his ventures in France and granted the Commons the right to agree to all statutes (1414) only the year before the battle of Agincourt (1415). The first use of ‘knights of the shire’ and ‘burgesses’ was actually in two parliaments called by Simon de Montfort in 1265. He had rebelled against Henry III and calling the parliaments was an attempt to strengthen his position. (He was subsequently defeated by Edward I.) They are considered important because those parliaments stripped the king of unlimited authority and were the first calling of the ‘commoners’. It is considered the genitor of modern parliaments but they were parliaments called in an effort to justify a rebellion and were not “official” so I left them out of my short history as it would have required a long explanation of how and why they came about. Some of the early ‘elections’ were more democratic than later elections — before modern times. At one point, the borough of Preston in Lancashire, allowed all inhabitants over 21 to vote (but that appears to have been unique). It was in 1430 (or 1432 depending which account you read) that the ruling class decided that parliament needed the ‘right type’ of people and introduced the franchise based on 40 shillings worth of property (it didn’t have to be land at the time — that came later). Explaining the history of the franchise would require another full article or two. During the English Civil War (which I did not go into) the parliament obviously asserted itself but an executive was still required which led to the virtual dictatorship under Cromwell. A result of that was the restoration of the monarchy but with more limited powers and that was reasserted in the Bill of Rights after James II had displayed traits of returning to absolutism. So the key was finding the balance between the executive and the parliament and the Westminster system is one way of doing that. Under the American system the executive remains separated and there is a constant tension between the two. In England, that tension had led to civil war so they developed a way to avoid it.


19/07/2015Ad The role of the Speaker has a long history as well. As you know, in England the Speaker is independent and takes no further part in the politics of their party. You could say that that is another of the unwritten rules of the British system that could, or should apply in Australia. But because it is only a 'convention' and because our Constitution only refers to the need for the HoR to elect a Speaker from one of the members before any business can be conducted we have nothing to enforce that 'convention' - and people like Bishop ignore it and also ignore the tradition of independence and impartiality. We do have to be careful that other conventions of the Westminster system are not also ignored - otherwise we are creating another system.


20/07/2015Bob Ellis says he may have weeks to live after liver tests deliver 'very bad' news Amanda Meade Irascible writer and commentator continues to write about politics despite diagnosis of aggressive liver cancer Table Talk: Bob Ellis on Film and Theatre

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20/07/2015Casablanca It is very sad news about Bob Ellis, a long time Labor warrior.


21/07/2015[i]On the other hand, some see the helicopter ride as one of those lightning rods that will continue to seriously outrage the public, a less dramatic version of the knighthood for Prince Philip.[/i] Michelle Grattan. CHOPPERGATE THE VIEW FROM THE FIFTH ESTATE: 1. The smell of kerosene Andrew Elder 2. Speaker of the House should not be a party's political pawn Bede Harris The refusal by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to answer questions about the government's refugee interception policies posed by a Senate committee, citing ''operational confidentiality'', exposes the weakness of parliamentary government as practised in Australia. Our constitution is based on the idea that the executive is responsible - that is, answerable - to the legislature. Yet the weakness in the system is that ministers routinely refuse to answer questions put to them in Parliament and when appearing before parliamentary committees. What can be done to strengthen the hand of Parliament in the face of executive recalcitrance? 3. A disgrace to our Parliament Nick Kenny There are no two ways about it – Bronwyn Bishop is a disgrace...In less than two years, she has ejected over 400 MPs from the House of Representatives – nearly all of them Labor. This outnumbers all the ejections, of all the MPS, in all the parliaments that have sat since Federation, and it took her 101 ejections of Labor MPs before ejecting a single Liberal MP. 4. The Bear Pit called ‘Question Time’ John Lord Question Time in the current Parliament under speaker Bronwyn Bishop has degenerated into a bear pit of mouths that roar with hatred....Her demeanour is obnoxious, threatening and deliberately intimidating... All in all she has so corrupted Question Time that it is has become totally dysfunctional and either needs to be terminated or reconstructed. 5. Liberal Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, grossly incompetent and biased TurnLeft2016 Madam Speaker, I seek leave to move a motion which has not been moved in this form in the House since 1949: That the House has no further confidence in Madam Speaker on the grounds: (a) that in the discharge of her duties she has revealed serious partiality in favour of Government Members; 6. OK Pollies – time’s up. It’s the end of your… Kate M. The age of entitlement may be over for most of us, but many still have a sense of entitlement. And those with that ‘sense’ can be found in the halls of Parliament 7. Bronwyn Bishop and the Valkyrie Winter Bob Ellis THE BISHOP "Choppergate" affair has no precedent in our history, and will end, as John Hewson says, "in tears for a lot of people" if Abbott continues to refuse to "intervene".,7959 8. How Malevolent Buffoonery Became The New Normal Of Australian Leadership Jane Gilmore The most damaging thing this triumph of malignant inadequacy has given Australia is a deathly torpor. It will cost lives and steal futures, but the weight of it will crush all opposition and that’s really all it needs to succeed. However bad things are now, they will almost certainly get worse. A moribund Opposition and an exhausted electorate will not be enough to stop them. 9. Something stinks in Australia! Ross Hamilton 10. Transcript Of Abbott's Assault On Slipper Over Parly Expenses Removed From Liberal Party Website (See also Nos 33 & 34 below) Chris Graham THE VIEW FROM EX-POLITICIANS & EX-APPARATCHIKS 11. Bishop's helicopter flight is a symptom of a broken system Andrew Bartlett If we want to get worthwhile reform of politicians' spending entitlements, we need to do more than revel in individual political scandals like Bronwyn Bishop's helicopter charter. We need a fresh review of the whole system...the problem is not so much deliberate misuse of entitlements, but unclear and overly broad definitions of what those entitlements can be used for. The reason why politicians who find themselves in hot water, such as Ms Bishop, can readily say that they have acted "within entitlements" is because the rules around those entitlements are in many circumstances just too vague or too open ended. 12. Three simple reasons why Bronwyn Bishop has to go Larry Graham There is no worse tool than the political one to deal with how MP's and senior office holders acquit their public expenditure and there is no doubt that an independent oversight body is required. 13. Bronwyn Bishop's survival depends on Tony Abbott's calculations Peter Reith Any breach of the rules or perception of a breach inevitably riles the public and the media is pleased to feed the outrage. The government's reputation is smeared and public respect for all politicians is eroded. 14. Bishop must resign over incompetence, not bias Paula Matthewson Australian politics doesn't enjoy the benefit of an independent speaker, such as in the UK, although our speaker is expected to show "impartiality in the Chamber above all else". The British speaker resigns from his or her party and is generally unopposed at election time. For only once they are out of the reach of their former party can a speaker be truly independent. 15. Former Liberal Leader John Hewson critical of Tony Abbott's response to Bronwyn Bishop expenses scandal Jane Lee, Gareth Hutchens, James Bullen, Rachel Browne 16. Misusing entitlements: why should the parties themselves get off scot-free? Terry Barnes THE VIEW FROM THE FOURTH ESTATE: 17. How much public outrage can Tony Abbott wear for Bronwyn Bishop? Michelle Grattan 18. The ultimate horror for public servants: judging Bronwyn Bishop Michelle Grattan If more serious, the matter goes to a high-level departmental committee chaired by the department’s secretary (currently Jane Halton). This committee may or may not seek an explanation from the parliamentarian.... Bishop and Abbott are gambling that the rules on entitlements will be too broad for the speaker to be declared in breach, and that the news cycle will move on after a couple more days. 19. Bishop helicopter trip referred to Australian Federal Police Michelle Grattan, 20. Bronwyn Bishop's moral compass is all at sea Paul Sheehan The speaker of the House of Representatives was born Bronwyn Setright. Never was there a more urgent time for her to be true to her original name. 21. Bronwyn Bishop's treatment over travel misuse claims different to former speaker Peter Slipper: Labor Eliza Borrello, 22. Bronwyn Bishop's expensive love affair with charter flights began nearly two decades ago James Massola 23. Speaker Bronwyn Bishop on 'probation' for expenses, says 'unhappy' Tony Abbott Fergus Hunter 24. Bronwyn Bishop 'Choppergate' scandal inspires memes Fairfax Media The internet loves a scandal and Speaker Bronwyn Bishop's expenses scandal, which began when it was revealed that she took a $5227 helicopter charter flight from Melbourne to Geelong to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser, is no exception. 25. Labor's plan to blast Bishop out of chair James Massola Labor prepares no confidence motion to blast 'on probation' Bronwyn Bishop out of Speaker's chair 26. Bronwyn Bishop digs in as office confirms she signed her expense report without checking it James Massola 27. Expenses row: Coalition and Labor trade blows over Bronwyn Bishop's future Daniel Hurst 28. If politics can't lock out big money, it's time to get serious about disclosure Katharine Murphy Voters think big business owns the Liberal party and the trade unions own the Labor party. The latest expenses scandal highlights the need for revolutionary thinking on donations and disclosure. We really have to talk about money, and how it’s killing Australian politics. 29. Bishop digs a deeper hole for herself Phillip Coorey And as for the sniff test, Bishop could not disagree more. Hockey, she told the press, "says some funny things sometimes" and then reminded all present of the treasurer's 2014 brain snap regarding poor people not driving cars.... We may never now know whether Bishop declared the chopper ride as "official business". [I]She won't release the form and Halton, who helped cover up the children overboard outrage in 2001, is unlikely to do anything to hurt the government.[/I] 30. Bronwyn Bishop in the deep freeze Fleur Anderson Bishop has seemed impervious to tribulation over her 28 years of parliamentary life....when she failed to appear in her official capacity as presiding officer at Parliament's MH17 memorial in Canberra on Friday, it was clear she'd taken a flesh wound....Nevertheless it would be a mistake to underestimate Madam Speaker's ability to survive the political deep freeze until Parliament resumes on August 10. 31. Speaker Bronwyn Bishop labels travel misuse allegations "a political beat-up" Eric Tlozek WHAT TONY DOESN'T WANT US TO KNOW OR TO REMEMBER 32. Travel expenses: Labor MP asks AFP to investigate Tony Abbott Katharine Murphy 33. Tony Abbott Doorstop: Peter Slipper MP - Liberal Party of Australia This page was removed from the LNP website when the Bishop story broke but fortunately it is available in the archives. (See also No 10 above) 34. Leader of the Opposition: Statement on Peter Slipper Against the Speaker, such allegations go to the integrity of the highest parliamentary office in the House of Representatives. 35. Hansard - House of Representatives Motions The SPEAKER: The question is that so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the member for Watson moving immediately that the House has no further confidence in Madam Speaker.;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansardr%2Fad6e1917-440e-4f90-acad-16d2af135e93%2F0162%22 36. Judge helped start WorkCover: Alan Bishop. 1940-2010. Chris Geraghty Opposites attract? 37. Office and Role of UK Speaker 38. History of the UK Speakership The Speakership under its present title dates back to 1377 when Sir Thomas Hungerford was appointed. EXPENDITURE & ENTITLEMENTS 39. Parliamentarians' Entitlements Paid Department of Finance and Deregulation' The Department of Finance (Finance) has prepared the reports listed below on expenditure against entitlements accessed by Parliamentarians, former Parliamentarians and surviving spouses or de facto partners of former Parliamentarians, in accordance with the relevant legislation. • Parliamentarians’ Expenditure on Entitlements paid by the Department of Finance Includes expenditure, and adjustments, of entitlements (including domestic travel, car costs, overseas travel, Travelling Allowance, office facilities costs, office administrative costs and family travel) for Parliamentarians during the relevant six-month period. It also includes car transport costs as advised by other Departments in respect of Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and Presiding Officers. • Former Parliamentarians’ Expenditure on Entitlements paid by the Department of Finance Includes expenditure, and adjustments, of travel costs and, where applicable, family travel costs and costs of office facilities and office administration for all eligible former Parliamentarians and surviving spouses or de facto partners during the relevant six-month period. • Parliamentarians’ Overseas Study Travel Reports Includes overseas study travel reports, submitted by Parliamentarians, for travel undertaken during the relevant six-month period. These reports are compiled by Finance and are published on the Finance website every six months. 40. Pollies expenses 2012-2014 (interactive database) OpenAus • All parliamentarians expense claims from 2012-2014 • Bronwyn Bishop's expense claims from 2012-2014 • Tony Abbott's expense claims from 2012-2014 • Kevin Rudd's expense claims from 2012-2014 • Julia Gillard's expense claims from 2012-2014 • Bill Shorten's expense claims from 2012-2014 SATIRE + ACERBIC COMMENTS + CARTOONS 41. White Hawk Down (Scroll to cartoon of BB as a helicopter) David Pope 42. The sniff test: an ode to Madam Speaker First Dog on the Moon 43. Choppers & Champagne: The Bronwyn Bishop Diaries The Shovel 44. Turnbull Says It’s Absurd To Charter A Chopper From Melbourne To Geelong: “Why Not Just Use Your Own?” The Shovel 45. Bronnie’s shoes: a fractured fairytale Jennifer Wilson 46. Apparently, Abbott And Bishop Sang This Together At A Liberal… Rossleigh 47. Official transcript of Bronwyn Bishop's speech to Geelong Liberal fundraiser gee,7958 48. View from the Street: So, how long has Bronwyn Bishop got as Speaker, then? Andrew P Street Your news of the day, reduced to a snarky rant.

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21/07/2015Casablanca What a splendid collection of BB links you have assembled this morning. I have looked at a few, but will have to leave the others to later as we begin the road trip from Brisbane to Melbourne this morning.


21/07/2015Tweet: bruce hawker ‏@brucehawker2010 18m18 minutes ago Gareth Evans on Bronwyn Bishop: "Why do so many people take an instant dislike Bronwyn Bishop? Because it saves time."


22/07/20151. Twitter #BishopCollectiveNoun An entitlement of Bishops A bias of Bishops A rort of bishops A coalition of Bishops 94a Bishops 2. Bronwyn Bishop rules new tactic of 'infectious laughter' out of Order (1:55) 3. On-Probation Bronwyn Bishop Restricted To Travelling At $80,000 An Hour The Shovel 4. Bronwyn Bishop has never welcomed the kind of scrutiny she applies to others David Leser After a career of subjecting others to pitiless interrogation, many are tempted to see Bishop’s $5,000 helicopter flight as her political death knell. But Bishop has fallen and risen before, writes her biographer, and her ambition, determination and imperviousness to criticism should not be underestimated 5. Bronwyn Bishop and the history of speaker independence Geoffrey Robinson Seven Speakers of the British House of Commons were executed by beheading between 1394 and 1535. While Bronwyn Bishop, the current ... 6. A truly independent Speaker could renew Australia’s parliamentary democracy Ryan Goss It is almost 505 years ago to the month since King Henry VIII ordered the execution of Edmund Dudley on Tower Hill. His supposed offence? Among other things, that as Speaker of the House of Commons and as a government official, he had “profited greatly from his position”. 7. A weakened political opponent is better than a fallen one Marius Benson Labor is gunning for Bronwyn Bishop and the Coalition is targeting Bill Shorten, but the truth is both parties will be better served if their teetering targets limp on rather than fall 8. The continuing saga of Bronwyn Bishop Ross Hamilton. The Bronwyn Bishop saga continues and deepens. At the same time another pitiful effort is uncovered


22/07/2015Casablanca Thank you for all the BB links and particularly for makjng the link with my piece by providing links relating to the history of the Speakership and how it works in the British parliament. Keep up the great work.


22/07/2015Here is a suggestion from David Hinchcliffe (ex- Labor Leader and Deputy Mayor to the LNP's Campbell Newman in Brisbane) to take the oppose out of our current political system. Hinchcliffe is probably one of the few with the knowledge and experience to actually suggest a way forward from the "out-of-date, adversarial, zero-sum, blame-shifting parliamentary system" we currently 'enjoy'.


22/07/20152353 I like Hinchcliffe's ideas up to a point but there is a point where his ideas have wider implications. If we have, in effect, joint governments how long before voters start taking no notice of parties. They might start voting for the person they think would make the best local member. Nothing wrong with that except how do we then determine who forms the government - who will be its head. Even a 'joint' party government requires a leader or two. Would it lead us towards more independents, again not a bad thing in itself, but we would also need a new method of creating a government. He bases his suggestion on the current party system but I think the outcome of his approach would actually undermine that system and leave us in limbo until we could develop a new system. Need to think about this a bit more.


24/07/2015 ON THE TAXPAYER'S TAB 1. The real problem is partisanship, not expenses John Menadue The real issue at the moment is the damage that Bronwyn Bishop has been doing to our parliament and the lack of trust we all have in our members of parliament. She is a biased and partisan class warrior and quite unsuited to uphold and advance the dignity of parliament.... Tony Abbott speaks often of our constitutional roots in the UK parliamentary system. There are some practices in the House of Commons that we could consider. The first is that candidates for speaker must be nominated by at least twelve members of whom at least three be of a different party to the candidate. This ensures a degree of bipartisan support. Second, the speaker resigns from his or her party and does not attend party meetings. Thirdly, the speaker’s seat is not contested at the next election by a member of the opposition party. 2. Brown Paper Bag Tigers. Tim Lyons The democratic instinct on all this is dead right: not all fundraising is corrupt but there is a real sense in which all of it contains the possibility of corruption. And when dark money meets a faulty moral compass, the result is entirely predictable. 3. Bronwyn Bishop's lavish chopper jaunt might have done punters a favour Noely Neate Joe Blow & Jill Dill are really starting to become educated as to “entitlements” & “official business”.,162 4. Expenses: how legislation was rushed through in 2013 to reduce transparency Peter Timmins FOI coverage of parliament is accepted in the UK, Scotland, South Africa, India, Ireland and Mexico - so why did it take mere minutes for Australia's main parties to restrict parliamentary scrutiny? 5. Investigate politicians' expenses Nick Evershed 6. Tony Abbott loves to spend taxpayers money PhonyTonyAbbott And if Tony Abbott can't control his own spending, why should anyone trust Tony Abbott with controlling an economy? 7. Tony Abbott defends entitlements, saying he won't be changing the system Katharine Murphy 'You don't want members of parliament to be prisoners of their offices,' says prime minister as he resists call for an inquiry 8. Liberals spend $300,000 in three weeks on printer ink Steve Lewis IT HAS been dubbed "toner-gate" - a three-week, $300,000 splurge on printer ink by Liberal MPs to stock up on office supplies for the [2010] federal election. 9. Hockey’s Wife Forced To Raise Rent To Pay For Defamation Legal Fees The Shovel ALP NATIONAL CONFERENCE 10. The six hot topics for the ALP national conference Norman Abjorensen Expect climate policy, union influence and asylum seekers to be among the big issues at the upcoming ALP conference. But aside from the specifics, Labor's broader challenge is simply to define what it stands for 11. Speech to Labor National Conference Julian Burnside 12. Bill Shorten to paint Tony Abbott as out of touch at ALP national conference Malcolm Farr Mr Shorten wants to use the conference, his first as party leader, to reinforce his authority within the ALP and to present policies he hopes will impress the broader electorate. 13. Longing for Labor to reform itself? National conference may not provide it Narelle Miragliotta and Nicholas Barry 14. What opposition? Matt Hurley It appeared in the beginning that Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s modus operandi was to simply shut up, sit still and watch as Abbott destroyed himself in a flurry of gaffes and ill–considered Captain’s Calls....We have since watched Shorten find his voice, and it has been horrific. 15. Leaders only inspire when we feel part of their group Pascal Molenberghs Leaders need to show followers they're with them, but that's no guarantee they will get everyone's support. TURNING BACK THE VALUES 16. Accepting Turn Backs Is About Helping Labor Not Asylum Seekers, Says Refugee Body Max Chalmers Refugee groups slam Marles and Shorten with Labor's Left faction due to debate the policy today. 17. Refugees- from toxic politics to a humanitarian policy John Menadue Asylum seeker policy will be a contentious issue at the forthcoming ALP Federal Conference. 'We should think again about blanket opposition to offshore processing. The important issue is not where the processing occurs, but is it fair and effective, and is it done in cooperation with UNHCR.' 18. IHMS revelations bolster the legal and political case against the detention of asylum seekers Richard Ackland While the leaked documents may not force the government to change course immediately, at least the Australian electorate cannot put its head in the sand and pretend it has absolutely no idea what is going on 19. Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself. And maybe ISIS. And Terrorism. And Muslims. And Everything Michael Brull It doesn't get much dumber than our irrational fear of an enemy on the other side of the planet. 20. Bill Shorten will win support for boat turnback policy, powerbroker predicts Gabrielle Chan It will be a close call but Shorten’s decision to adopt the policy on boat turnbacks will succeed at the ALP conference, Stephen Conroy says 21. We Need To Move Beyond Rhetoric To Regional Solutions For Refugees Paul Power The problem of people seeking asylum is not going to disappear, so greater focus needs to be on solutions at the source 22. How dirty? Victoria Rollison I willing to acknowledge that Labor needs to do whatever they can to get rid of Abbott. And I’m willing to feel very dirty in accepting this reality. POLITICS 23. A solution is ready and available - right here, right now Sean Crawley Occasionally I get the chance to talk politics with real life humans. Mostly this centres around apathy, disgust and frustration, and almost always a total lack of trust in our parliamentary process and our politicians. 24. Villains, jesters and craven kings: are we watching a Shakespearean tragedy in Canberra? Michael Bradley It's easy to imagine politics as a play right now: Bronwyn Bishop as pantomime villain, Mike Baird as the working man, Bill Shorten as court jester and Tony Abbott as the craven king. 25. Political discussions with family and friends: exploring the impact of political distance Klaus Levinsen and Carsten Yndigegn;jsessionid=90C48DB8E9CA627E33CA29D9D83DA365.f04t03 26. Tony Blair tells UK Labour what it needs to win again: someone just like him John Crace 27. Digital didn’t win it, but it did shape the UK campaign Andy Williamson The increasingly normative nature of social tools means that it is a natural outlet for expression. One of many perhaps, but a visible and often more public one....the Tories seem to have benefitted in part by focussing on people not profiles, on individual voters not demographics. 28. From sound bite to web bite Christopher Kennedy and Malcolm Fitzgerald Many Western politicians have been unable to grasp the significant change in power structures brought about by online discourse, specifically the ability to rein in free speech. ‘As the net increases it’s power over politics the content providers who work within the system are going to find it harder and harder to justify their attacks on the freedom of the net.' 29. I want a government that governs for 23 million Australians Roswell I want a government that governs for 23 million Australians. Not for some greedy, aging expatriate billionaire who looks at his country of birth as nothing more than a profit centre.…No, I want a government that governs for 23 million Australians. At best, the current government falls short by about 20 million. 30. Tony Abbott's strategy to bring an end to Egalitarian Australia Tim Dunlop By attacking the institutions of redistribution, closing down democratic debate wherever possible, and demonising his political opponents, the Prime Minister is leading an assault on Australia's commitment to fairness 31. Tony Abbott's rash high-wire attack on fairness is missing a safety net Peter Hartcher The Prime Minister's attack on the Australian sense of fairness is a rash high-wire act and it isn't a crowd pleaser. Inequality is natural. Managing it is political. 32. Why equality of opportunity is neither possible nor desirable David van Mill Rather than hold on to the idea of equality of opportunity, it might be more accurate to say that we don’t really support it because it comes at too high a price. 33. Five ways to reform politics David Hinchliffe It's so tempting to blame Tony Abbott or Bill Shorten or other politicians for all that is wrong with politics today. After 25 years in regional politics, I know for a fact that the problem is not the politician, it's the system that shapes and creates them. 34. Australian public service led by 'aging, white blokes' Phillip Thomson A former high-ranking public servant has questioned Abbott's decision to hire three ageing white men to lead the Australian public service.

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24/07/2015Casablanca What an inticing array of links you have given us this morning. We are just about to leave Narrandera for Melbourne, so reading the links will be weekend reading, to which I shall look forward keenly.


24/07/201535. Labor Meet To Discuss New Ways To Remain Irrelevant The Shovel Labor delegates will meet in Melbourne this weekend, with the party divided on the best ways to alienate their supporter base.


25/07/2015ALP CONFERENCE ISSUES 1. "Where is your spine, Mr Shorten?" Eva Cripps Dear Mr Shorten, I don’t actually know why I afford you the respect of addressing you by title, since… 2. First the booing, then leader's triumph: ALP ritual observed Tony Wright Who would have thought? A deal carrying Bill Shorten through his first national conference as leader, even if there was a scattering of ritual booing first? 3. Shorten joins Abbott on the Dark Side John Kelly There was a certain politeness about Waleed Aly’s critique of our political system in his article this week, “Politics: the… 4. Will Bill Shorten understand the energy consumer must be king? Giles Parkinson By 2030, it will be pretty clear that new-build wind and solar energy will win the technology battle over new-build coal, gas, or even nuclear. If Shorten [...],7977 5. Labor Poised To Go 'Down The Rabbit Hole' On More Immigration Detention Cruelty Max Chalmers Tension is high at the ALP's national conference in Melbourne, with asylum seeker issues dominating the backroom discussions. 6. We Need To Move Beyond Rhetoric To Regional Solutions For Refugees Paul Power The problem of people seeking asylum is not going to disappear, so greater focus needs to be on solutions at the source 7. How Climate Change Could Become A Vote Winner For Labor Again Thom Mitchell A tactical leak ahead of the ALP National Conference this weekend could make climate a winning issue for Labor again after Australia's years in the wilderness. 8. Accepting Turn Backs Is About Helping Labor Not Asylum Seekers, Says Refugee Body Max Chalmers Refugee groups slam Marles and Shorten with Labor's Left faction due to debate the policy today. ENTITLEMENTS + BRONWYN 9. 'Choppergate' puts politicians' perks under scrutiny Deborah Snow and James Robertson It seems the age of entitlement is difficult for some politicians to escape, no matter how loudly the Treasurer declared it was over. 10. Bronwyn Bishop claimed Sophie Mirabella wedding trip as official business James Robertson It was the scandal that quickly swept through a new government. 11. Bronwyn Bishop expense scandal: Speaker defends trips to the opera James Robertson Under-fire Speaker Bronwyn Bishop has defended charging taxpayers thousands for expensive car trips on days when she went to the opera. 12. Entitlements scandal over. Tony Abbott's put Bronwyn Bishop on 'probation' Angela Priestley So far, Abbott has refused to outline just what his version of probation actually means. And that's despite labelling Bishop's travel expenses a, "serious error of judgement"... A cynical person may suggest this has been done in the hope that the media and the general public will move on to other things by the time Parliament resumes in August. 13. We're All In This Together: How Labor Came To The Choppergate Party Chris Graham Angry with Bronwyn Bishop over her diddling of her travel expenses? Fair enough. But save some of that outrage for the other side. POLITICS 14. Politics: the ugly game where the melee rules Waleed Aly Politics is in crisis. Any chance to score a point is greedily grasped, while the good of the nation is the last thing anyone cares about... Politics is at a point of crisis, where no short-term political opportunity can be passed up. And the end result has been the debasement of the whole endeavour of politics. The game's ugly. 15. Politicians: undoing their folded lies Jennifer Wilson It ought to be self-evident that any individual or politician or government or opposition sincerely concerned with the… 16. Labor's unexploded bombs make Tony Abbott's week Laura Tingle To further mess with our minds, the Prime Minister declared he wanted to have "a well-informed and civil national conversation" rather than "a scare campaign". Whatever the policy development process from here, the pragmatic, political realities of the leaders' retreat is that it has given the Coalition an opportunity to reset its policy positions on almost all the issues where it is traditionally vulnerable to Labor, and where it is still in trouble as a result of the budget decisions it took last year. 17. Can Abbott or Shorten ever re-ignite the Light on the Hill? Rodney E. Lever With both Abbott and Shorten hitting rock bottom in the latest poll, Australians feel short-changed compared to the visionary leaders of [...],7971 18. It's been a week of political daring (with some exceptions) Barrie Cassidy Refreshingly, and belatedly, this has been a week of policy initiatives and political leadership. Tax, climate change and asylum policy all got a workout, but inevitably there were some still sticking to old scripts 19. Labor Obsessed Victoria Rollison Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the example of the way the Abbott government communicates with the electorate. Every single policy announcement and comment on pretty much anything that the government does is littered with ‘Labor did this badly so we’re going to do it this way’. 20. Coming soon (for your enjoyment): The final implosion of Menzies' creation Ross Jones As we approach the next election and the end days of Menzies' now-unrecognisable Liberal Party, sit back, grab the popcorn and enjoy.... the coming year...will be a time when we watch, in exquisite slow-motion, the final implosion of Menzies’ creation — the Liberal Party of Australia.,7979 21. Labor taking George Brandis to court over higher divorce fees Jane Lee Senator Brandis recently sneaked through a regulation raising divorce application fees from $845 to $1200 in the Federal Circuit Court and from $1195 to $1200 in the Family Court, despite the Senate disallowing a slightly smaller hike last month. 22. Barnaby Joyce’s undermining over coal Paul Bongiorno This ability to deny reality or redefine it to suit your convenience is, for some, the art of politics. For most sane people, it is simply incredible....The Nationals deputy leader has so irritated his Coalition colleagues with his outspoken opposition to a giant open-cut coalmine in his electorate that they have begun leaking against him. The undermining, if you’ll pardon the pun, is symptomatic of tensions over policy and direction affecting the Abbott government. GOVERNANCE + DEMOCRACY 23. Is Democracy Possible Without Political Parties? Michael Riegner and Richard Stacey What is the possibility of a democratic system where the role of political parties is marginal. 24. How the Rise of the Lobbyist is Corrupting Australia's Democracy John Menadue Lobbying is a 'serious corruption of good governance'. 25. "What about my rights?" Eva Cripps Over the past few decades in all areas of governance, the balance between freedoms and obligations has skewed towards increased government control of the population for the alleged ‘greater public good’, and at the expense of personal liberties. 26. Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page Economic elites and business-based interest groups drive US policy. 27. Listen Up COAG: Five Ways to Reform Politics David Hinchliffe The problem is not the politician, it's the system that shapes and creates them. WOMEN & POLITICS 28. Your all-women political dream team. Go Georgina Dent Gillian Triggs as Attorney General or Immigration, Heather Ridout as Minister for Industry and Science, Gail Kelly for Treasurer... 29. A national political party advocating for women? It’s time Jane Gilmore The Women’s Equity Party is the fastest growing political party in the UK. The party was started by Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Mayer and has just elected Sophie Walker as the party leader. 30. 7 months into 2015 and 52 women have been killed Georgina Dent In January Rosie Batty was announced as the 2015 Australian of the Year. She is the most influential, prolific and articulate anti-family violence campaigner we've ever seen. Nine women were killed violently in January. ENVIRONMENT 31. FactCheck: does coal-fired power cost $79/kWh and wind power $1502/kWh? Verdict As he has readily acknowledged, Alan Jones' statement on Q&A on the cost of wind and coal powered energy are not correct. His claim that renewable energy is having a large impact on residential electricity bills also runs counter to modelling commissioned by the government. 32. Pope 1, Lomborg 0 Daniel Nethery A new website allows scientists around the world to assess the quality of media coverage of climate change 33. Tony Abbott and his mates' new path of climate change obstruction Patrick Keane Tony Abbott and opponents of action on climate change have determined a new path of [...],7969 34. Bravo Australia! Abbott Government gets big tick from U.S. climate change deniers Graham Readfearn Happy days for the Abbott Government, as it gets the thumbs up for its untiring efforts promoting coal and attempting to kill the renewables industry.,7961 35. The Name Game Peter Brent With the next election on the horizon, the pressure is on to give Labor’s carbon policy a name that sticks TELECOMMUNICATIONS 36. Japan moves to close down DSL in favour of FttH Moving towards 2016 Japan continues to show it possesses one of the most advanced telecommunications markets in the world. ECONOMY + BUSINESS + TAXATION 37. The Productivity Commission's figures and the good news they didn't want us to know Ross Gittins Rummaging through the media's rubbish bins this week, I happened upon some good news. According to the Productivity Commission's annual update, the productivity of labour improved by 1.4 per cent in 2013-14. 38. Gridlock could cost AAA credit rating Peter Martin Decisions on 'politically sensitive' spending could put Australia's AAA rating at risk, Standard & Poor's warns. 39. Tony Abbott's GST 'epiphany' has been a long time in the works Daniel Hurst The PM said ‘there will be no change to the GST – full stop’ and then delivered the states a shortfall of $80bn in projected health and education funding 40. FactCheck: is the GST as efficient but less equitable than income tax? Flavio Menezes and John Freebairn Verdict: The Assistant Shadow Treasurer is correct that the efficiency of the GST as a tax is similar to that of income tax. He is also correct that the income tax is more progressive than the GST and that the GST hits disproportionally those in the bottom of the income distribution. 41. Why negative gearing is not a fair tax policy Antony Ting Almost 1.3 million Australian taxpayers use negative gearing. But the policy is inherently unfair. 42. This isn’t reform, it’s more like class war: Hockey on Tax. Tim Lyons The purpose of the tax system is to raise the money the community needs to fund the services and infrastructure we demand – and to do some redistribution based on capacity to pay and needs. 43. Why we fail to get the best out of our free trade deals Bill Carmichael Trade minister Andrew Robb's failure to maximise public input to free trade talks mean that the most important potential gains are being needlessly lost. 44. GST rise on cards as Tony Abbott goes from conflict to consensus at COAG Mark Kenny Mr Abbott - having previously referred to the claimed "wrecking ball" and "python squeeze" of the carbon tax, and claimed Australia was beset by a "debt and deficit disaster" under Labor - now wants civility and respect in national policy discussions, rather than "scare campaigns".


26/07/2015Welcome back Directcurrent. Look forward to your comments in the future.
How many umbrellas are there if I have two in my hand but the wind then blows them away?