In my secularism on Saturday post, I drew attention to Opposition leader Mr Abbott's decision to renege on the deal he signed up to with the Independents to provide a 'pair' to the speaker, and the lack of integrity that this demonstrates.
Despite the Solicitor-General's clear advice that pairing raises no constitutional problems, others claim otherwise. So herewith the actual advice the S-G provided:
"The question is:
Is there any necessary constitutional impediment to a pairing arrangement between the Speaker of the House of Representatives and another member from an opposing political party if that arrangement has a fixed operation irrespective of any particular vote?
...My answer is:
No, subject to two provisos. The first proviso is that the arrangement could not give to the Speaker a deliberative vote and could not deprive the Speaker of a casting vote. The second proviso is that adherence to the arrangement by the other Member could only be voluntary."
The first proviso clearly rules out some of Mr Oakeshott's ambitions. Clearcut.
The second proviso points out the obvious: all pairing arrangements, past and present, are voluntary. That's because you couldn't pass a law binding the vote of an MP.
But equally you can't force them to vote.
One can however enter into a 'politically and morally binding' agreement on the subject. As everyone thought Mr Abbot had....
The S-G particularly notes that "I do not think it matters for this purpose how formally or informally an agreement or arrangement might be expressed."
You can read the full text of the opinion here.
And I stand by my original position: there is more to 'manliness' than participating in ironman competitions; and Catholic politicians, just like everyone else, must demonstrate integrity in their dealings.