Peter Slipper, draped in black in a manner most young voters will not see outside Hogwarts, has dramatically altered the style of the Speaker’s office.

I am very much influenced by goths and the film Men in Black. Pic: Gary Ramage

All occupants of the chair consider the job important. Slipper believes that previously discarded layers of trappings and ceremony are needed to make the point.

Predecessor to this Prince of Pomp was Harry Jenkins, who was more a “People’s Speaker”, a Labor lefty whose natural mode was of informality. But his love of Parliament has been genuine and deep.

As Slipper plans his processions and upgrades his clobber of office, Jenkins has made clear he wants to fight for parliamentary reform, and to make the humble back bencher a vital element of its operation.

He has radical objectives at a time when many voters believe MPs don’t earn their pay and spend too much time having a bludge in Canberra. Jenkins wants them in the national capital more often.

He believes executive government - the Prime Minister and ministers - prefer MPs to stay in their electorates as long as possible talking up the leadership and its policies, robbing them of their role as legislators.

Jenkins says back-benchers should spend more time in Canberra being active participants in the creation and passage of legislation.

“Regrettably, I am in a minority of people in this place who thinks that we should alter the balance in our work,” Jenkins told the House of Representatives yesterday.

“I believe that our role as legislators is just as important as our role as local members. The work that we do here is just as important as the work that we do in our electorates.

“It is a reflection of the undue influence that the executive of the government exerts on back bench members of this place that we have this balance such that people are encouraged to go back to their electorates to do their work there, because their important work is back in the electorate.

“I see this place as the House of Representatives. I come here to represent the people who have elected me. There is much that is worth while that happens in Canberra while the Parliament is sitting that we should devote more time to.

“And not by lengthening the hours in the weeks that we are here but perhaps by making sure that people understand that our role is to be here in Canberra and that we should be here more often.”

While in Canberra, he wants back benchers to make their views on issues known without having to worry they will be depicted as undermining a leader.

“I hope that we get to a stage such that as a vibrant parliament we see that the role of the backbencher, especially when in government, is to question and to be involved in policy development,” Jenkins said.

“The media place pressure on us by saying that if we have a slightly different view to the leadership or to the minister then that is the end of the Earth and that it is great disunity.

“It is ridiculous to think, for instance, that in this current minority government that a caucus of about 100 people would all have the same view.”

Jenkins might have an interesting partner in his passionate campaign - Peter Slipper.

For eight years Speakers have been attempting to rename the Main Committee of Parliament - the overflow chamber - and whether it was his robes or his powers of persuasion, Slipper has achieved it.

It will be called the prosaic Federation Chamber, which doesn’t seem like much after an eight year campaign. But Jenkins appreciated the victory.

And he has also backed changes to Standing Orders which Slipper has brought about in his brief time in office.

“I applaud your success, Mr Speaker, in getting a modicum of agreement so far,” Jenkins told Slipper yesterday.

Maybe the Prince of Pomp and the People’s Speaker will form a unity ticket.

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58 comments

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    • Gregg says:

      04:38pm | 08/02/12

      All he needs to do now is intercede a bit earlier to keep ministers on the track of actually answering what they have been asked.
      Interestingly, he did pull a few ministers up in question time, including the PM who’ll go off on a rant about anything other than answering a question.

    • Sarah says:

      08:53am | 09/02/12

      ” including the PM who’ll go off on a rant about anything other than answering a question.”

      Thanks Gregg - couldn’t agree more and your line put an image into my head that gave me a good chuckle.

      She’s utterly hopeless, isn’t she?

    • Duh says:

      07:12pm | 09/02/12

      A politician not answering a question? Surely not. How long has this been going on?

    • St. Michael says:

      04:43pm | 08/02/12

      “I hope that we get to a stage such that as a vibrant parliament we see that the role of the backbencher, especially when in government, is to question and to be involved in policy development,” Jenkins said.

      ‘Question and be involved in policy development’ doesn’t mean squat unless you can vote against your own party’s legislation without being thrown out of the party.  Both sides of politics in Australia observe the rule of ‘stand with us or be out of the party’, albeit the Liberals are a lot more subtle about it.  And with this sort of model, it ultimately comes down to powerbroking factions, which, again, both sides of politics observe albeit the Liberals are a lot more subtle about it.

      On the other hand, that sort of system would leave us with a Parliament looking a lot like Congress in the US,  which is basically one amorphous mass of self-interested leeches who do neither what the electorate want nor what’s in the country’s best interests—oh.  Wait.

    • nihonin says:

      05:48pm | 08/02/12

      St Michael, you’ve described exactly the type of parliament we now have.  What a shamozzle it is too, not that I’m advocating the observance of party lines, but both parties do need to allow their MPs to vote as their constituents would expect, without the threat of expulsion, that’s not representing the ‘people’  to me.  Then and only then, would we have a true democracy, not the crap we hear from the rusties on both sides.

    • St. Michael says:

      06:10pm | 08/02/12

      @ nilhonin: I’d argue democracy by random selection would actually serve as a better form of representative democracy, but I haven’t got the time to go into the model right now.

    • Bertrand says:

      06:41pm | 08/02/12

      I generally agree with you for once.

      Although, I think Jenkins’ comments were more saying that backbenchers should speak up and aim to contribute to the legisaltion’s formation, rather than that they should simply vote against it.

      I can imagine a system where the development of legislation is a much more organic process, in which all legislators work together to develop a bill, rather than the current model where a single minister working with cabinet takes control. Under the Jenkins model you could still have all members from a party voting as a block, they would simply be more involved in the earlier stages of the legislation.

    • nihonin says:

      04:46pm | 08/02/12

      I didn’t know Dr. Van Helsing was the speaker.  What role does Christopher Lee play in parliament?

    • TChong says:

      05:43pm | 08/02/12

      hes a happy lookin chap, isnt he ?

    • nihonin says:

      05:50pm | 08/02/12

      No he isn’t TChong, all thats missing are the stakes and holy water.

    • LJ Dots says:

      05:01pm | 08/02/12

      Caption: Slytherin finds new Seeker.

    • St. Michael says:

      06:11pm | 08/02/12

      No, Slytherin loses a sneetch.

    • nihonin says:

      06:14pm | 08/02/12

      Lord Voldemort, needs to see his tailor, pronto, to keep up with Pete the Chits.

    • sandra says:

      05:08pm | 08/02/12

      Slipper is about slipper only and would make a good mate for Thompson given his Kings cross taxi receipts. To push Jenkins out for this grub was the final straw for me-how low labor goes to cling to power—just look at slipper and you see how low!!

    • Bruce says:

      11:39pm | 08/02/12

      @sandra

      How strange. You and Tony Abbott were quite happy to have Peter Slipper’s vote for the last 18 years while he was a Coalition MP. Thanks for taking hypocrisy to the highest level. He’s an Independent now, by the way, so suddenly deciding to hurl insults at him after all these years on your side is bound to really impress him.

    • sandra says:

      05:24pm | 09/02/12

      actually BRUCE—I have not ever met him so have not hurled insults at him- plus you dont know who I vote for or support so using the usual shrill Gillard - like bully boy insults doesnt work. Slipper is slippery and only about slipper—I am entitled to my opinion- plus he is not in YOUR electorate and YOU obviously know nothing of his history—OR you are a simple rusted on red!!!!.,

    • Bruce says:

      07:08pm | 09/02/12

      @sandra

      “I have not ever met him so have not hurled insults at him”

      What do you call “Slipper is slippery and only about slipper”, or “would make a good mate for Thompson”, or “this grub”, or “low”? Is that “praise” in your opinion, which you’re entitled to?

      What makes you think he’s not in my electorate? I know his history. He has been a Coalition MP for 18 years.

      p.s. Insulting me impresses me as much as insulting him is bound to, and Blind Freddy can see who you vote for or support, by the way.

    • nossy says:

      05:24pm | 08/02/12

      Speaker Slipper was a wonderful Liberal - well he was until he did a Malcolm Fraser and resigned from the Liberal Party!  hahaha Ahhh the Libs crook one day - hopeless the next, and led by a chap even more unpopular than Gillard !  ohhhhh how sweet it is!

    • Kurisu Sonsaku says:

      05:55pm | 08/02/12

      30% primary for Labour - Tones is sleeping well tonight..

      Even sweeter

    • nihonin says:

      05:59pm | 08/02/12

      nossy, I would like to refer you to the post above yours by sandra.  This isn’t politics for the country, but politics to stay in power.  Both parties could parachute from a snakes behind, with their machinations.

    • nossy says:

      06:58pm | 08/02/12

      @nihonin   my point exactly my wise nihonin - the day before Slips resigned from the Liberal Party ( ala PM Fraser) both you and Sandra would have shouted his praises from the rooftops - alas a day later not so - theres a word for that nihonin and it starts with “H” and ends with “Y”.

    • nihonin says:

      05:11am | 09/02/12

      @nossy, sorry mate, ‘both you and Sandra would have shouted his praises from the rooftops’, nah I laughed out loud, at the ineptitude on both sides of the house, concerning Peter Slipper. 

      ‘theres a word for that nihonin and it starts with “H” and ends with “Y”.

      Yeah, it’d be ‘Hooray’ for voters who aren’t members or sycophants of political parties.

    • TimB says:

      07:18am | 09/02/12

      Post from last night has appeared to vanish into The Punch’s every hungry void. So again:

      Nossy I defy you to find one single post, from me, Nihonin or any known Liberal supporter on the Punch, that praises Slipper.

      Slipper *specifically*. General comments about the Liberal party as a whole do not count.

      Just *one* post. Bet you can’t.

    • Bruce says:

      09:01am | 09/02/12

      @nossy

      How funny are these Liberal hypocrites? “We never praised Peter Slipper” they suddenly declare ! Yet they were happy to have his vote while he was a Coalition MP for 18 years. Their hypocrisy will impress him just as much as their insults to him and the other Independents.

    • TimB says:

      10:46am | 09/02/12

      Bruce, the Libs have been trying to get rid of Peter Slipper for years. The issue was he was grandfathered in for preselection.

      And BTW I’d be quite happy if Gillard went insane one day and offered her vote to the Liberals. But there’s nothing at all that says I have to like her because of it.

      It’s called pragmatism, not hypocricy. I suggest you look both words up in a dictionary.

    • Bruce says:

      11:27am | 09/02/12

      @Timb

      What a load of hypocritical crap. The Coalition could have expelled Peter Slipper any time they liked. And get your facts straight. He’s an Independent. He hasn’t joined the ALP. Keep insulting him, though. It’s worked wonders with the other Independents.

    • jf says:

      11:57am | 09/02/12

      Bruce says:12:27pm | 09/02/12

      “The Coalition could have expelled Peter Slipper any time they liked.”

      So you’re saying that an organisation should just punt people on suspicion rather than allowing them recourse to natural justice?

      Slipper was under internal investigation for general grubbiness (and possibly fraud) at the time he resigned from the LNP. Had the investigation brought down adverse findings against him, he would have been expelled. Had it not, he would have been right.

      You can draw your own conclusions as why he chose to resign from the LNP and join the Government ahead of the conclusion of the investigation.

      BTW, how’s that ALP investigation into Craig Thomson going? After all, the official one seems to be taking quite some time. Hopefully the police one won’t take as long and he will be exonerated quickly and free to get on with the job for which he is paid handsomely.

    • TimB says:

      12:05pm | 09/02/12

      ” And get your facts straight. He’s an Independent. He hasn’t joined the ALP”

      Did I say he had? I’m 100% sure I didn’t.

      Is this the best you can do? The extent of your ‘argument’, making up things I never said, and claiming hypocricy when you don’t know the meaning of the word.

      Sad.

    • Bruce says:

      04:52pm | 09/02/12

      @Timb

      Peter Slipper is an Independent. He has NOT joined the Government. You’re either totally uninformed or a liar.

      If you’re not trying to pretend that he’s not an Independent and has joined the ALP, what was that bizarre analogy about the Prime Minister offering her vote to the Liberals supposed to mean?

      p.s. “And get your facts straight. He’s an Independent. He hasn’t joined the ALP”

      Did I say he had? I’m 100% sure I didn’t.”

      “You can draw your own conclusions as why he chose to resign from the LNP and join the Government…”

      Everyone is 100% sure you did now.

    • Bruce says:

      06:56pm | 09/02/12

      @Timb

      Correction. Everyone is 100% sure that jf did now. You’re just trying to pretend he did. You hypocrites were happy to have his vote while he was a Coalition MP for 18 years.

    • jf says:

      07:43am | 10/02/12

      Bruce says: 07:56pm | 09/02/12

      “Correction. Everyone is 100% sure that jf did now.”

      Apart from the fact that I’m not TimB, I said he had joined the Government not the ALP. Or do you believe that Bob Brown, Oakeshott and Windsor are members of the ALP?

      That pretty much goes against their spin, but if you say so…

      “You hypocrites were happy to have his vote while he was a Coalition MP for 18 years.”

      He wasn’t under investigation for the majority of 18 years. Interesting that you are such an advocate of guilty until proven otherwhise and such a fan of denying natural justice and a fair trial - I guess that’s just how the left roll.

    • Bruce says:

      09:25am | 10/02/12

      @jf

      Which part of the word Independent don’t you understand?

      Peter Slipper is an Independent. He has NOT joined the Government. You’re either totally uninformed or a liar.

    • jf says:

      12:28pm | 10/02/12

      Bruce says:10:25am | 10/02/12

      “Peter Slipper is an Independent. He has NOT joined the Government.”

      Lighten up Francis.

      Are you telling me that only ALP members of parliament make up this government. Are you saying that Tony Windsor, also an independent is not part of this government?

      Slipper is the government appointed Speaker. He has cast his lot with Government and is part of it.

    • Bruce says:

      02:44pm | 10/02/12

      @jf

      Which part of the word Independent don’t you understand?

      Peter Slipper is an Independent. He has NOT joined the Government. You’re either totally uninformed or a liar.

    • jf says:

      02:42pm | 11/02/12

      Bruce says:03:44pm | 10/02/12

      “Which part of the word Independent don’t you understand? “

      Are you really saying that you think that because a member is independent that they can’t be part of the Government.

      If only you were right and idiots like Oakeshott would be relegated to the irrelevance they deserve.

      Sadly you are wrong and, from the very formation of this government there were at least three members of this government that were independent.

      On Slipper, It is a fact that when he accepted the role of Speaker that he gave the Government an extra vote. It is a fact that he negotiated his role with the government.

      So, petty semantics aside, Slipper is very much a part of this government and thus part of the problem.

    • Bruce says:

      08:52pm | 11/02/12

      @jf

      Nobody could maintain such an obvious lie, so it has to be totally uninformed.

    • Kurisu Sonsaku says:

      05:56pm | 08/02/12

      Finally, Nosferatu got a day job.

    • Donny says:

      08:58pm | 08/02/12

      An interesting read nihonin. Some great links inside the comments as well.

    • Gregg says:

      10:10pm | 08/02/12

      no tricks zone!, no kidding but the truth will dawn on the supporters sometime or other, probably a lot later than sooner unfortunately.

      ” It needs to be pointed out Vahrenholt and Lüning are not skeptics; they are lukewarmers who have not been able to find any evidence of a coming climate catastrophe. They believe that man should switch to renewables, but do so in a rational manner: “Work fast, but don’t hurry.”

      They may not have been skeptics but very soon will be the most senior of skeptics.

      Meanwhile, what will Australia be doing about new base load power generation?

    • Chris L says:

      11:32pm | 08/02/12

      No need for a dictionary nihonin. Prestidigitation is an art described in the Dragonlance setting (from Dungeons and Dragons for non-geeks). Lucky I stumbled upon that eh?

    • Paul says:

      12:37pm | 09/02/12

      @ nihonin: It was only a matter of time. Flannery, Milne et al should be jailed for fraud.

    • Womens boots says:

      09:48pm | 08/02/12

      For eight years Speakers have been attempting to rename the Main Committee of Parliament - the overflow chamber - and whether it was his robes or his powers of persuasion, Slipper has achieved it.

    • Chris L says:

      11:26pm | 08/02/12

      I suspect his meaning is that the work in the electorate is more about building up publicity (nowadays) but if they have more of a voice in Canberra their work could (maybe) have more influence on behalf of their electorate…. or maybe I’ve forgotten my politician’s BS filter.

    • Joan Bennett says:

      07:05am | 09/02/12

      Democracy by random selection doesn’t work for me.  Mainly because majority of humans use their emotions to make decisions rather than reason.  If humans were mostly rational creatures, I’d be all for it.  But I don’t want to be governed by anyone who watches reality TV or gets married.

    • murray says:

      07:25am | 09/02/12

      Oh dear.  We need government spending less time legislating, not more.

    • P. Darvio says:

      08:55am | 09/02/12

      Slipper juts needs a pair of round rimmed glasses and a wand…….and a list of spells to keep those pollies under control

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_spells_in_Harry_Potter

      Which ones should he cast on Gillard and Abbott?

      I know why they call it “Question Time” - Yes that’s correct - Question Time….because there never seems to be any real Answers to those Questions - If Slipper got Question Time renamed to “Question AND Answer Time” I might be more impressed.

    • Borderer says:

      09:12am | 09/02/12

      i find it hard to do this but I actually have to a) agree wth Peter Slipper and b) agree with a Labor party back bencher. I can’t believe it either but let me elaborate.
      Slipper is right in the respect that the speakers role should be have more pomp and trappings, it takes the politicians back to their school days and re-enforces the authority of the position. Being more relaxed and casual means that the position is treated casually and not necessarily responsibly. the speaker should keep questions on track and not allow the petty BS that is the current standard to continue.  Now do I think Slipper is a good choice? No, not even close, his conduct is deplorable, his appointment is much like many labor party decisions, motivated by maintaining power and therefore rotten at its very core.
      Jenkins wanting politicians to spend more time in Canberra is to be commended, if policy was developed more organically, particularly the big game changers we might have less situations of “Group think” than we presently have and certainly no poorly thought out snap decisions that result in many of the absolute clangers we’ve recently had.

    • colroe says:

      11:38am | 09/02/12

      Slipper, whatever his politics, is an embarrassment.  I find it hard to accept that he is reasonably intelligent.  He looks like a complete dill.  Could someone please enlighten me?

    • William says:

      07:21pm | 09/02/12

      @colroe   Certainly. Please post a link to a photo of yourself so that we can see if you look like a complete dill.

    • Grinz says:

      04:12pm | 10/02/12

      William !!!  GREAT remark - concise and funny AS ... good on you.

    • Ross says:

      12:57pm | 09/02/12

      All politicians in this country are an embarrassment they are all more interested in retaining or obtaining their seats than the well being of our country . They do deals to retain power not to implement policy that would be of service to us . That is why we got the last election result,and will in all likelihood, we will get again .Regardless of who is the speaker. Personally I would like him dressed like a Swiss guard.

    • P. Darvio says:

      01:24pm | 09/02/12

      And he’s wearing a bow tie today…!!!

    • St. Michael says:

      03:14pm | 09/02/12

      Cause every girl’s crazy ‘bout a Sharp. Dressed.  Man.  *riff*

    • poa says:

      02:13pm | 09/02/12

      “I come here to represent the people whon elected me”...thats why I became Speaker..to add a vote to Gilard’s minority government.
      To all extents and purposes he IS an ALP MP.\
      Is that what your electorate expected when you ran as a Liberal Pete?
      I didn’t think so either.

    • Tim says:

      07:28pm | 09/02/12

      Wrong. He’s an Independent.

    • scumbag says:

      03:56pm | 09/02/12

      Peter Slipper ought to cool it, get a Speakers robes like this, .....http://www.google.com.au/imgres?q=court+jester+dress&hl=en&gbv=2&biw=1440&bih=817&tbm=isch&tbnid=j0WnW63yPcW5KM:&imgrefurl=http://www.echidnasontheloose.com.au/product.php?productid=18306&docid=XNz6altRACD8xM&imgurl=http://echidnasontheloose.com.au/images/P/Jester_web.jpg&w=300&h=360&ei=SF8zT7_3CpDomAWdl5mEAg&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=172&vpy=276&dur=1145&hovh=246&hovw=205&tx=124&ty=124&sig=106724197379989221355&page=1&tbnh=138&tbnw=113&start=0&ndsp=33&ved=1t:429,r:8,s:0 ....to get some levity into an otherwise shitty House of Reps.

    • Paul says:

      04:02pm | 09/02/12

      The reason so many of the writers loath Slipper is he did what good Libs should do, desert Abbott and his thugs who are driving parliament and politics to the area they dwell in.
      The reason the Libs will hate him is because he will be an effective speaker who will prevent Pyne and his fellow bottom dwellers from dragging Parliament into the gutter.

 

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