Since the shenanigans of Good Friday in the Victorian Parliament many may be asking why hasn’t the ACL spoken out and condemned the actions of the government or the opposition?
In reality, even the question saddens me.
What has happened to integrity and a time honoured sense of Aussie fairness?
Last week started with a sick Parliamentarian, Dr Carling-Jenkins MP, in hospital and on record as being opposed to the Fire Services Bill, a bill which caused so much passion about a significant issue in Victoria to boil over.
If the government gave Dr Carling-Jenkins a pair due to her obvious illness then their bill would have been defeated.
(A pair is an arrangement where the absence of one MP who is unable to vote in Parliament, for good reason, is offset by the non-voting of another who takes the opposite position on an issue).
But… they didn’t.
Come Thursday night and without pairing Dr Carling-Jenkins, the government realised they could try to push this bill through the upper house and so moved to extend the sitting through Good Friday.
Unprecedented…is there simply no regard for rest and holy days anymore? Next MPs will be required to sit on Christmas Day if political opportunity is worth it.
The government’s clear intention was to complete the debate on each of the 178 clauses and bring the bill to a vote while they had the numbers.
A couple of Liberal MPs were not happy and requested to be paired so they could observe Good Friday. A position which is completely understandable and they should be applauded for taking the stand.
Unfortunately ‘the stand’ didn’t last.
The Liberal MPs returned to the chamber, compelled by their party, returning the government’s unfairness in extending the sitting, to unfairly vote the bill down whilst their opposite pairs remained out of the chamber.
Many wonder why so many Victorians are disenchanted with politics. I think last week unfortunately lays bare why.
Everything is thrown to the side in search for the ‘WIN’.
The informal pairing arrangements used in the Legislative Council will undoubtedly need to be revisited and clarified.
The pairing rules ought to be structured to allow for an MPs absence due to ill health or other hardship to be offset in a fair and consistent manner. This should ensure that the will of the Parliament is reflected in future Parliamentary votes.
But there is something deeper at play. Why is it that when a WIN is up for grabs, fairness, integrity, compassion for the ill and parliamentary process is all thrown out the window with bipartisan ease.
Yes, I am clearly saddened by the current state of affairs but the answer is not to become disenchanted and disengaged. That won’t change anything.
Instead, we are called to pray for our leaders.
And I for one will be doing my best to encourage each and every Member of Parliament to put the common good first and stand up as the leaders that Victoria need so desperately.