Are we stuck? (Australian Parliament)
November 23, 2011 6:16 PM   Subscribe

Aus Politics: No-one wants to be speaker, where to from here?

I'm watching the livestream from Parliament, and it looks like every member is going to get nominated for speaker (at least, every Labor member), and every member is going to decline the nomination.

What happens if we have no-one to take the job?
posted by pompomtom to Law & Government (9 answers total)
Response by poster: Oh, OK scratch this.
posted by pompomtom at 6:18 PM on November 23, 2011

Maybe you missed Slipper being nominated by Labor?
posted by lrobertjones at 6:23 PM on November 23, 2011

Response by poster: I missed his acceptance..
posted by pompomtom at 6:28 PM on November 23, 2011

To belatedly answer the question: I believe it depends. If the Speaker steps down, then they normally request the government to authorise the Chairman of Committees to act as temporary Speaker.

If this isn't the case (e.g. they die suddenly in office), or the Government refuses the request, then I think the Clerk of the House is empowered to perform all the procedural duties of the Speaker (and, I believe, also participate in normal votes - though that may cause some problems).

There's some detail here.
posted by Pinback at 8:51 PM on November 23, 2011

wouldn't have happened without Slipper's agreement. Jenkins was pushed, he didn't jump. nasty politics.
posted by wilful at 8:57 PM on November 23, 2011

Pinback, you are incorrect.

The Standing Orders are if there is no Speaker then the House must select a new Speaker, with the motion overseen by the Clerk of the House. It doesn't matter if the Speaker resigns, dies, or loses his or her membership of the House, the process is the same. The Constitution and Standing Orders are such that no business of the House can be progressed until a Speaker is elected.

As for what happens if a Speaker cannot be selected, if all the usual political wrangling could not produce one person with a majority of House votes to become Speaker, the only solution would be for the Govenor General to dissolve the House of Representatives and issue writs for an election as per Sections 5 and 32 of the Constitution. Presumably the Prime Minister would advise the Governor General to call the election, but it would not be absolutely necessary. While the Governor General could technically do a lot of things, if the House is really so perfectly divided that it can't achieve a majority decision on who will be Speaker then an election sooner rather than later will be required.
posted by kithrater at 9:05 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

If that's the case, kithrater (and I've no reason to imagine it isn't) it's interesting, if unsurprising, that Abbott didn't have the balls to pull the pin on the election grenade.
posted by coriolisdave at 10:48 PM on November 23, 2011

Abbott doesn't have the numbers to pull the pin on an election grenade. If he did, with the polls running the way they are at the moment, do you really think he'd hesitate?
posted by flabdablet at 12:50 AM on November 24, 2011

Yes, it would only go to an election if the House repeatedly failed to elect a Speaker - there's no automatic mechanism that rules you must elect a Speaker in three goes or the writs go out. Rather, convention is that a Government which doesn't have the confidence of the House resigns, and if a new Government cannot be formed, an election takes place. There is probably no more devastating example of not having the confidence of the House than being unable to select a Speaker.

If the Government broke with convention and refused to resign in such a scenario, then it would be appropriate for the Governor General to act unilaterally and either appoint a new Government or dissolve the House.
posted by kithrater at 7:58 PM on November 24, 2011

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