FORMER Speaker David Hawker says he never witnessed a day in Parliament as vicious as Tuesday’s fiery debate between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
Mr Hawker said he watched the coverage of Ms Gillard labelling Mr Abbott “sexist” and a “misogynist” on the television news.
“The most difficult period in Parliament for me was when the WorkChoices legislation came in because the opposition was very difficult to handle,” he told The Standard yesterday.
“One of the things I tried very hard to do while I was in the chair was to try and keep the temperature down but, at the end of the day, the Speaker can only do so much and, if the leader of an individual party doesn’t choose to go that way, it’s difficult.”
He said despite whether people agreed with him or not, former prime minister John Howard always carried himself with decorum in the chamber.
“It’s always been a robust Parliament and most of the time people know where the line should be drawn. The leader has to set the tone.”
The former Liberal member for Wannon said this week’s events demonstrated that beleaguered Speaker Peter Slipper should never have been given the nod for the prestigious role.
“I said this would end in tears,” Mr Hawker said. “It was inevitable.”
He said Mr Slipper was under pressure to resign. “He had no choice. He should have done it a long time ago.”
The Speaker’s role involved gaining the respect of members and being able to uphold the dignity and propriety of Parliament.
“It was an unfortunate time for the role of Speaker in the Parliament and it must bring the name down but these things can be rebuilt.”
Mr Hawker served as Speaker between 2004 and 2008.
Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said the whole mess involving Mr Slipper was the result of Ms Gillard’s poor judgment.
“It was a bad decision at the time and sadly it led to the deterioration of the Parliament,” he said.