LIBERAL MLA Jeremy Hanson was suspended from the Assembly for three hours this afternoon after he refused to withdraw dissenting comments accusing Speaker Shane Rattenbury of being biased.
The comments were made after Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne asked the speaker what was the difference between an overruled question Liberal MLA Brendan Smyth had asked Chief Minister Katy Gallagher about the government’s support of non-government schools, that referred to a statement Gallagher made at an ACT ALP conference in 2006, and a question asked by Labor newbie Chris Bourke about the impact of the recent ICRC electricity price increase on the ACT compared to NSW increase.
Dr Bourke re-read the question when Hanson interjected.
“On your ruling, Mr Speaker, your previous rule that Mr Seselja’s question, or was it Mr Smith’s, was out of order, that directly relates to education in ACT,” he said.
“I don’t see how it can be that you say what is in order because it relates to electricity and the other is out of order because it relates to education.
“They both have aspects to them that don’t relate to the portfolio.”
When Rattenbury acknowledged the comments but stood by his ruling, Hansen replied with:
“Well it’s inconsistent,” Hanson said. “You’re biased.”
“I’d invite you to withdraw that Mr Hanson,” Rattenbury said.
“I won’t withdraw that Mr Speaker.”
“So you decline to withdraw?”
“Yes I do decline to withdraw.”
“I give you more credit than that Mr Hanson.”
Mr Hanson’s suspension from the Assembly took a vote of 11 votes to 6 votes – both Labor and Greens voting for the suspension.
Speaking to Hanson, minutes after the three-hour suspension he remained calm saying he declined to withdraw his comment on a matter of principle.
“I wasn’t going to withdraw on a matter of principle,” he said.
“There’s got to be latitude in the questions. That is the point of the Assembly and the point of question time is inquiring and asking ministers questions so it’s inappropriate ruling by the Speaker, which is why I called it bias.”
He says it’s quite clear the Government do not want to discuss private education in the chamber.
“It still begs the question,” he said.
Hanson was last suspended from the Assembly on December 8 for refusing to withdraw allegations Gallagher lied about complaints concerning bullying in the Canberra Hospital’s obstretics unit.