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Attempting to tame the juveniles in the play pit – or at least their stupidity – is a thankless task

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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  1. Terence Mills

    The problem is that the Speaker is nominated by the government of the day and after Smith Chastised Morrison for not answering a question it took it to the next level and Smith may be removed.

    For those who missed it, Morrison was blasted by the speaker for (again) not answering
    a question :

    Speaker to Morrison : I’m asking you to return to the question,’’ the Speaker said.

    “Happy to do that, Mr Speaker,’’ the PM said.

    “I don’t care whether you’re happy or not. You need to return to the question,’’ the Speaker replied.

  2. Barry Thompson.

    Until they dispense with Dorothy Dixers and allow questions only from Labor,Greens and the Independents, it will not improve.

    It was a pleasure to see The PM put in his place,but that should have been done ages ago.

  3. leefe

    Smith has allowed the current situation to evolve, by not pulling members (principally those from the misgovernment benches) into line from the start. SOP from the LNP.

  4. wam

    I wonder if smith is game enough to confiscate the phones and disallow the ‘I move the member not be heard’??
    There is a need for dorothy dixers and a laugh or two.

  5. Phil Pryor

    There was once an old joke about moving the country dunny aside, planting a tree in the stinking poo pit and naming it and dedicating it after the P M. So apt today… Smith shows that he, and there would be many, is sick of the hollow and devious nonentity backstabbing bastard in the top spot, a disgrace to the nation, an example of utter stupidity and a monumental example of greed, ambition, selfcentredness and futility gone mad. It is a time of gross lying as the egotistical perverts of politics, commerce, media, money manipulation and mining strive to up themselves, pose and present, thieve and control, push for dominance, resent others, deny all, and lie to live how they choose. Bugger society…it is a sick farce of voting, of democracy, of stability, the future, the planet.

  6. George Theodoridis

    My guess is that Smith has had enough of this bullshit-govn’t and that he’s about to resign. These are the farts he directs in their general direction before he finally defecates and evacuates.

    Wait for it!

  7. Kerri

    To relieve the parliament of Dorothy Dixers all they need to do is rule out any MP of asking a question of their own party members.
    I mean what is the party room for?
    If they can’t get the answers they want from their front bench during party room meetings then how what sort of organization is their party?

  8. John lord

    Kerri. If they want an answer all they have to do is pick up the phone.

  9. David Stakes

    Question Time was for asking questions on Government performance, mainly from the opposition benches. Now its a pantomime of Dorothy dixers and Government sledging of anyone of an opposite view. Sooner this whole show is renewed into what it shoud be the better. Time for an independent elected speaker ..

  10. Kerri

    John Lord precisely my point. If they can’t get answers from their own side before entering the house then how screwed up is their party system and what are the front bench hiding from them?

  11. wam

    Kerri and lord,
    I think you, miss the point of a dorthy dixer?
    It is merely an advert, they don’t want answers they get seen with their name on the box and the minister gets a chance to bullshit and brag.

  12. Barry Thompson.

    Wam,we know that is what its for,that’s precisely why it should not be allowed.

  13. Terence Mills

    Wam the Dorothy Dixer is a rehearsed or planted question prepared by the whip (enforcer) given to an unsuspecting backbencher with the instruction to ask it of a government Minister of their own political party : there are a few backbenchers who have outright refused to participate in this charade but most go along with it.

    The question usually ends up with ‘ is the government aware of any alternatives’ and this is usually an opportunity to rubbish the opposition policies. The Speaker has, of recent times, been demanding that any alternative be ‘a government alternative’.

    I think we all agree that the Dorothy Dixer is a mind numbing and excruciating aspect of our parliamentary procedure and should be banned : Question Time should really only be for the non government members to question the government in my view.

  14. corvusboreus

    Perhaps it would be more constructive if smirking jerk, fat phuq and slimy prick moderated their behavior and language when conducting parliamentary business on our behalf.
    Then again, watching wankers in suits dribble dixxers and sling sledges is almost as entertaining as getting drunk to watch the footie and yelling abuse at the ref.
    Actually, phuq it, Tony Smith needs to be sacked as speaker.

  15. wam

    Thanks, Terence,
    Kerri and lord were on about answering a question, as if the question was important and that provoked my answer.
    As you say, there is not need for an answer because, as I was trying to say, the point of a DD is publicity, on TV, Hansard and for sharing a ‘look at me in the house’ video, on Facebook etc, for a back bencher and opportunity for a minister, not to garner an answer.
    Labor also share the occasional question to a backbencher for the same purpose, don’t they?
    I find it shameful to see a labor senator, Marlandirri, standing alone whilst making a point on cashless card for Aborigines. Where is the labor support? Bet when pollies talk of hours in the house they add her effort to their claims of being overworked?

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