InDaily can reveal Labor whip Michael Brown has written to his Government counterpart Adrian Pederick to take issue with the Liberals’ move yesterday to grant a pair to ill backbencher Jon Gee and then withdraw it for a crucial vote to suspend standing orders, as Premier Steven Marshall launched a spirited defence of his embattled Water Minister David Speirs and a stinging attack on River Murray Royal Commissioner Bret Walker.
“Notwithstanding the granting of the pair and with no prior notice, the Government failed to withdraw a member from the vote and thereby actively disregarded the pair,” Brown wrote.
“In light of the Government’s action, the Opposition has taken the decision to withdraw all pairs granted to date.
“Furthermore, I advise that the Opposition will no longer be assisting the Government with granting pairs.”
Pairing is a standard parliamentary convention whereby if a major party MP is absent from the chamber, the other party agrees to withdraw one of its own members for the equivalent time.
Government frontbencher John Gardner noted that “the Labor Party has gone from granting the Government almost no pairs to no pairs at all”.
“That’s their decision – it’s unfortunate, and an overreaction to a disagreement, but our focus is on the big issues,” he said.
“The Government has a majority – we also have three independents who have been happy to provide pairs.”
Gardner said the “disagreement” was “about the status of a pair for what in effect is a matter that requires an absolute majority present” in the House of Assembly.
“We categorise it as more like a quorum – if somebody is absent because they’re sick and they’re paired with a Government member, that Government member doesn’t absent themselves from a quorum, and never has,” he said.
But Manager of Opposition Business Tom Koutsantonis insists “no Government in Australia has ever breached a pair”.
“It’s never occurred,” he said.
“Because they needed an absolute majority, they issued a pair and then breached it… they should have not issued a pair [in the first place].”
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