23 Dec 2018
Adam Langenberg | The Sunday Mail
LABOR frontbencher Tom Koutsantonis is South Australia’s naughtiest MP, booted from State Parliament by Speaker Vincent Tarzia once in every three sitting days.
Mr Koutsantonis is clearly relishing his second stint in Opposition during his 21-year parliamentary career, being ejected by Mr Tarzia 19 times across 2018’s 53 sitting days.
He’s the MP by far the most regularly thrown out of the Lower House, well ahead of Liberal backbencher Sam Duluk, who was ejected 10 times.
Twenty MPs were kicked out a total of 85 times, with five of them booted more than five times each. Opposition MPs make up four-fifths of the ejections, expelled 69 times compared with 16 handed out to government MPs.
Labor’s Stephen Mullighan (eight ejections), Chris Picton and Leon Bignell (seven each) were also frequently punted by Mr Tarzia.
The Speaker issued 461 warnings and 207 second warnings, both necessary before an MP is kicked out.
Mr Koutsantonis said Mr Tarzia was “doing his best” but occasionally had to boot him to “protect the Liberal Party from intense scrutiny”.
“If I was in the Government, I’d want me expelled from Parliament, too,” he said. “They don’t like the idea of a formidable Opposition.
They don’t like the pressure from me and Stephen Mullighan and it’s a deliberate practice to kick me out.” Mr Tarzia said Mr Koutsantonis was “very enthusiastic”.
“The standing orders of Parliament support respectful debate intended to achieve outcomes,” he said.
“Applying the rules serves as a reminder for MPs to focus on their common goal of community improvement.”
Mr Duluk said Mr Tarzia’s interpretation of the standing orders was “very strict but very fair”.
“And I always respect his rulings gracefully,” he said.
But Mr Koutsantonis said Mr Duluk’s constant ejections were because he and Mr Tarzia were jousting to enter the Cabinet.
“My guess is they’re both vying for the next Cabinet position,” he said.
“Vincent Tarzia is from the moderate faction and Sam Duluk is from the Right so it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Sam has been kicked out a lot.”
No MP was booted from the Upper House by President Andrew McLachlan, largely because its standing orders mean ejected MPs cannot return that day, and ejection requires the consensus of a majority of the 22 MLCs.
By contrast, Mr Tarzia alone decides who he throws out, and for how long.
Upper House crossbenchers have been approached about a proposal for Mr McLachlan to have the option to boot MPs for a shorter period.
Treasurer Rob Lucas has guaranteed it will happen only if it has the support of all parties.