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Parliamentary reform squabble continues in Australia

09-26-2010 10:24 BJT

CANBERRA, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Sunday said the federal government is still looking to honor the agreement on parliamentary reform, despite opposition efforts to trash it.

Abbott and Gillard agreed on Sept. 6 to assign a lawmaker to vote along with the winning party to make up for the speaker, who can't vote. Abbott scrapped that deal on Sept. 23, saying it would violate the constitution.

The move has slowed down the government's bid to negotiate the next Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the lower house ahead of parliament re-convening next week.

Gillard has criticized Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for ripping up the agreement on parliamentary reform, following Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) Alex Somlyay's decision to step away from the Deputy Speaker's job.

"It's deeply disappointing that Abbott would say yes to parliamentary reform ... then trash it when it doesn't suit him," Gillard told Network Ten on Sunday.

The government is holding firm on its plans to present Harry Jenkins as its candidate for Speaker, a role he has held since 2008.

Manager of opposition business Christopher Pyne said the coalition will make good on the promise to provide a Deputy Speaker should Jenkins win the Speaker's role on Tuesday. But he conceded it will not abide by the agreement to pair votes for the Speaker.

"We won't be pairing the Speaker because we believe it's unconstitutional," Pyne told the Nine Network.

Leader of the House Anthony Albanese was not surprised at the backflip on parliamentary reform, noting Abbott had a good track record when it came to reneging on deals.

"He walked away from his position on the CPRS (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme), he told Australians you couldn't believe what he said (and) get it in writing," Albanese said.

"Well, we had the agreement in writing about pairing and he walked away from it."

Meanwhile, Deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop said it was Labor's fault that negotiations with Somlyay became untenable.

"The Labor Party were verballing him and making false claims he had agreed to a pairing agreement which he had not," she told ABC TV on Sunday.

Bishop said the Liberal Party believed pairing the Speaker was a fundamentally flawed arrangement under the constitution.

"No-one in the Liberal-National Party would want to be part of an arrangement that meant legislation passed under such a pairing arrangement could be challenged in the High Court," she said.

Bishop said the coalition had been under pressure to agree to the parliamentary reforms, and had changed its position after receiving advice that the arrangement was not legally sound.

"There was so much pressure for people to sign it," she said.

Editor:Li yang |Source: Xinhua

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