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"Many citizens will no longer hold any faith in the political system"
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"Many citizens will no longer hold any faith in the political system"

Amanda McClintockA change of Speaker in Australia’s House of Representatives has provoked a storm of controversy – the ramifications of which will play out during 2012 reports Amanda McClintock, 19, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Queensland.

It seems that the fabric of the Australian political system is starting to fray at the edges after seeing the events that have unfolded of late.

In November, Labor MP Harry Jenkins opened the final day of parliament with his resignation from the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives. With a comfortable position on the backbenches ahead of him, the question was left as to who would replace him.

The position was in turn passed to MP Peter Slipper, the Deputy Speaker, the controversial Sunshine Coast representative who has been under investigation for the misuse of government funds (which he denies). He defected from the Liberal Party to take up the position, causing uproar amongst political commentators and the opposition.

Shadow Treasurer MP Joe Hockey commented: “Peter Slipper was sacked by [former Prime Minister] John Howard from the ministry. The Liberal Party was in the process of removing him from the Liberal Party. 

And Julia Gillard formed the view that he is a man of such fine character that he should be appointed ahead of every other Labor MP to hold the highest parliamentary office in Australia.”

One of the major questions remaining is the pressure that may have been put upon MP Jenkins in regards to forgoing his role as the Speaker to allow Slipper in. With another Labor member on the bench again and one less Liberal to vote against the government, Prime Minister Julia Gillard increased her wafer thin majority from one vote to three votes, releasing the pressure for an early election.

Predictably the government has come under scrutiny for the decision and whilst Mr Slipper has held the position of Deputy Speaker for sometime now, there have been questions as to whether he should hold it. According to political commentator Mungo Maccallum, his competence is hardly an issue for scrutiny given the reality of the role.

“In the Australian Parliament the Speaker’s job is not so much a high office as a sinecure. It is very well paid and the perks are terrific, but it does not entail much onerous work: on the rare occasions that hard decisions are needed, the Speaker invariably takes the advice of his clerks,” Maccallum said.

“In the past it has almost invariably been the gift of the government of the day to one of its loyal and long serving members who has not been sufficiently talented to make the ministry; a consolation prize for has-beens and never-will-bes.”

Although this may be considered a justification for Slipper’s appointment to the role, it hardly changes the fact that the opposition are now looking at a much harder battle to maintain any power in the house and it will certainly be interesting to follow the changes in the government that we are assured to see.

Over the next few days the motivation for these actions are sure to become more widely known, despite a reluctance from both the government and Slipper to comment further. In 2012, it seems that there will be plenty of excitement to look forward to on the political front, but a lack of any positive forward movements for the Australian population.

One thing however is for sure. There will be many citizens who will no longer hold any faith in the political system. We can expect to see some changes in the near future if any party is looking to win back the public.

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About me:

“I am a working-class girl, full-time university student and mental health advocate from sunny south-east Queensland.

“Living in a small country town after growing up in the city only increased my passion for making a difference in my community and further afield, and for speaking up about the issues that matter most. Youth have a voice and it needs to be heard. Stand Up, Speak Up and Be Heard!”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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