Earlier this year, I consciously decided to give Question Time a miss for the year or until it at least resembled a sliver of those things that make up a democracy. Not the chamber of collective juvenile circus performers we have now. Instead, a group of men and women whose words and actions resemble those of people who have never grown up.
However, for some reason or another, I succumbed on the day that the current Speaker Tony Smith sat the Prime Minister on his backside together with Greg Hunt. What a sight they made of sucking on their thumbs while all the other juveniles played games on their phones. You can watch them here.
In it, you will witness just how badly the juvenile types behave. Even Uncle Tony’s futile attempts to put some of them back to sleep for an afternoon nap seems not to affect their behaviour one iota.
Honestly, the House of Representatives during Question Time resembles a kindergarten rather than a showcase for our democracy. Perhaps I’m a little unfair in belittling the juvenile types when I say that, but Smith was deservedly blunt when telling those acting like three-year-olds to get back to sleep or just shut up.
Yes, Mr Speaker Tony Smith told MPs that he was more than a bit cross just after playtime on Thursday.
At least a few of them stopped moaning long enough for him to hear points of order. The Speaker said:
“Obviously, in the course of the last week, I’ve enforced the standing orders vigorously… I intend to keep doing that, and the reason for that was to get an improvement in parliamentary standards.”
Another interpretation might have been: “If you all persist in being such dickheads – you can forget your afternoon naps.”
Smith, for sure, wanted to make his intentions heard in the Chamber. So during Question Time the following week, he sat Prime Minister Scott Morrison on his backside when the Prime Minister failed to heed his warning to return to the substance of a question. Direct relevance indeed.
Both Hunt and the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also found his displeasure with a warning from Mr Speaker that he would use the ushers of the big black rod on their bare bums if they didn’t toe the line.
Anyway, as juveniles do, they all tried to push the line a little too far. Hence, the Speaker gave the flick to those immature little morons who use depressing brainless juvenile Dorothy Dix questions to sledge the opposition. Albo also called them out, saying it’s about time they grew up.
And the Speaker had to endure a prolonged assault on his highchair from the newly chrome-domed leader of the government in the House, Peter Dutton. There was even a rumour that he might challenge for the top job if he matured in time for the next election. There was some doubt, however, over the daily management of his potty mouth.
A few of the juvenile kids have spat their dummies since Porter quit the job. Any wonder why.
Anyway, at the end of the two-week parliamentary session, the Speaker called all MPs together for a dose of honesty to settle them down before telling them that he reckoned his ban on rattles was working. And:
“It has certainly been quieter,” the Speaker noted. “That’s for two reasons: those making the noise don’t stay in the chamber very long, and the vast majority of members have understood the need for an improvement in standards.”
So impressed was the Speaker with the improvement that he gave each member a new toy to play with now that the juvenile biting, pinching, and hair-pulling had stopped. He even gave thanks to the many members, private citizens and those in the public galleries who had approached him, thanking him for at least returning Question Time to some semblance of a kindergarten.
“I thought it was important to make that point as we finish up the sitting week,” he said.
Smith’s decision to take it up to those who think they can throw food at each other across the chamber continuously was going too far. His decision to pull them all into shape by telling them that they were little useless clowns intent on destroying our democracy.
Seriously though, there was a time that the public trusted our politicians to do the right thing while they just got on with life. When politics was a principled occupation – a time when Question Time may have been combative, but it had a purpose. But, unfortunately, the current one has none other than to tell lies or put down the opposition.
So, the question remains: Will these juvenile thugs have their way in the Parliament, or will they learn the difference between manners and civility?
Can Question Time get any worse than the appalling mess than it is? Can it be rescued by those intent on saving our institutions and our democracy?
There is a background to Smith’s attempt to change how the voting public gets but a small glimpse of the workings of their Parliament. A Senate committee had been working on changing Question Time from the thuggish presentation to be slightly less dreadful. The parliamentary committee recommends modest changes in the standing orders – changes that would turn Question Time from a bull pit into a wild dog pit. In other words, not much at all. Bloody little brats need to get a hold of themselves and understand that there are ladies present.
Katherine Murphy in The Guardian explained it this way:
“Smith presumably knew the whole complex was so heavily invested in being appalling that those changes had little to no chance of being adopted, so he decided to set about resetting the spirit of question time using the authority of his office as Speaker.
I strongly suspect the Speaker thinks the problem with behaviour between the hours of 2 and 3pm on sitting days isn’t a function of deficient standing orders. I suspect he thinks it’s a function of two things: MPs choosing to behave badly, and presiding officers more worried about not offending powerful people than about being custodians of important institutions.”
The current Speaker is an honest man desirous of reforming Question Time to resemble something like it was intended. Consequently, people like Katherine Murphy and I are of the same ilk.
I’ll leave the final word to Murphy:
“Smith’s crusade to improve the status quo may or may not work. But the point of drawing attention to it is to provide a level of reassurance to readers that there are people around who would like to change the culture, even modestly.”
Note: I make no apologies for calling those men and women intent on bringing down our democracy “babies” or “juveniles.” But, unfortunately, that is what they act like.
My thought for the day
The right to vote is the gift that democracy gives. Suppose a political party is not transparent in supplying all the information necessary to exercise this right. It is destroying the democracy that enables it to exist.
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