Speaker concerned at threat to independence

The speaker of Queensland’s Parliament today voiced his objections to proposals to change the way Parliament is administered and managed, accusing MPs behind the changes of “discourtesy”.

Mr John Mickel said the Committee System Review Committee had proposed that Parliament be managed by a committee chaired by the leader of government business in the House and including nominees of the Premier and Deputy Premier among its six members.

“These recommendations have far-reaching consequences for the role of Speaker and the sovereignty of Parliament. The speaker is specifically excluded from the new management committee of the parliament,” Mr Mickel said in a statement to MPs at the beginning of today’s sitting of parliament.

He questioned the reasoning behind the proposal, saying there were never concerns raised about the way the Parliament was run during his meetings with the Speaker’s Advisory Committee, which consists of representatives from both sides and the Independents.

Mr Mickel said: “No one was aware that the review committee was considering changes to the way Parliament is managed and administered.”

He was concerned that the committee did not seek a widening of its terms of reference to authorise its inquiries and legitimise its recommendations, and said the proposals were contrary to the way every other Westminster parliament was run.

“The transfer of management responsibility for this parliament to the new Committee of the Legislative Assembly, given its composition, in my view represents a serious violation of the separation of powers that underpins our democratic system of government.

“I believe very strongly that the best interests of the Parliament are served by having an independent impartial Speaker chairing the management committee.”

Mr Mickel responded to critics who said he had been discourteous.

“I have been criticised for showing discourtesy to the committee by speaking out against its recommendations in December last year — recommendations, mind you, that in my view did not fall within the committee’s terms of reference. However, what courtesy was shown to me or, more importantly, to the office I hold?”

One Response to “Speaker concerned at threat to independence”
  1. Mickel’s argument here is poor, although in a state like Queensland we should of course be wary of a state government that says “Don’t you worry about that!”.

    His point about “separation of powers” is just silly. The Executive and the Legislature are of course deeply intertwined under the Westminster system, and the former dominates the latter. The idea that the Speaker is usually independent and impartial is a poor joke; in Australian parliaments the Speaker has been for many decades generally a loyal servant of the Government. The rare exceptions are when someone is made Speaker because it’s politically unsafe to leave them jobless.

    The proposals to remove the management of the Parliament from the Speaker to a committee dominated by the executive may well be different to how every other Westminster parliament operates, but that doesn’t in itself prove the proposals are good or bad.

    As for his observation that the new committee has consequences for the sovereignty of Parliament, that’s just silly. Parliament is not the Speaker, it is the entire chamber (in Queensland) and if it adopts the new proposals by majority vote it has, by definition, asserted its sovereignty over its own meeting-place.

    Mickel seems to think his office is important to democracy. It isn’t. What is important is that citizens get good information about what the Government is doing and are ready to challenge it when it goes too far. Compared to that great duty placed upon everyone in a democracy, this seems to be a spat between privileged people who can’t agree on how to divide up the spoils of victory.

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