Question Time: 31 May 2007, 2:30- 3:35pm approx.
In an ongoing series of reports from the frontline of Federal Parliamentary Question Time, Norm Francis documents the extraordinary rudeness of Government and Opposition MP’s a rudeness that knows no bounds of immaturity and lacks any intellectualism. Much of this behaviour is captured in the Hansard each day, but, New Matilda brings you some of what Hansard misses.
House of Representatives, Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 2:30-3:35pm approx.
The Government’s attacks on the Opposition now have a consistent theme in Question Time evident from even a cursory glance through Hansard. The tactic does not require any intellectual rigour on behalf of the Government, just a total commitment to hypocrisy, moral relativism, stereotyping and lowbrow catchphrases worthy of the bogan Big Brother generation. The Opposition is content to reciprocate. Neither side seems interested in raising the ethical and intellectual standards of Parliament.
The Government attack relentlessly highlights the intellectual and moral unworthiness of the ALP to oversee the Australian economy and at times seems to question the very right of the ALP to exist! It is an article of Coalition faith that the Liberal Party now owns the economy.
For those irresponsible voters who fail to appreciate the social paradise created by the Howard Government, the Coalition conjures a vision of the Dante’s Inferno that would result if they actually elected an ALP government a nightmarish image of sinister Trade Union comrades planting the hammer & sickle across our beloved coat of arms. According to the Government, the end of Australian civilisation, as we know it, is at hand.
Matters of Public Importance: Broadband
(4:19 pm) Steven Ciobo (Liberal Member for Moncrieff) made the obvious connection between the ALP’s broadband plan and the authoritarian horrors of the USSR. Ciobo said that:
[The ALP broadband plan] almost harks back to the glorious days of the 1970s and the 1980s during the Cold War period, when they would have stood shoulder to shoulder with their communist and socialist friends from the Eastern bloc countries, with their great plans for nation building [page 21 (actual 37)]
Illustrating a devastating grasp of modern ALP ideology, Ciobo drove home his intellectual analysis by proclaiming that the only reason the ALP was interested in broadband was that it would enable a return to
the days when the Labor Party could stand up in front of the Australian people and say, ‘Comrades, we have a plan to build our nation.’
Just in case anyone missed the hidden subtleties of his critique, Ciobo stressed that the ALP was excited about their broadband plan ‘ for no reason other than to be able to hark back to the great Soviet days.’
Refusing to allow the inconvenient (but ultimately minor) detail that the Soviet Union has been defunct since 1991, Ciobo continued:
That seems to be the only rationale that the Australian Labor Party can come up with: the opportunity to have command and control of the Australian economy and say, ‘Comrades, look at what we have done and isn’t it great!’ There has been a flurry of emails between members of the Australian Labor Party and some of their contacts in the Soviet Union and in China saying: ‘Look at the great things we are building in Australia. Fly over and we will show you.’ No doubt that is why they are all excited over there.
With references to ‘command and control’ economies and allegations that ALP members were emailing ‘contacts’ in China and the USSR it was an instructive speech. Ciobo impressively (and on the public payroll) managed to assert that the USSR had not been dissolved for over 15 years, that the Cold War had not ended and that having contacts with China was a bad thing better tell that to BHP-Billiton and the whole Australian economy!
Ciobo clearly stands out as a man of true and uncompromising genius. A natural leader of, well followers!
Question Time “ Economy; 2:45pm
Sure enough, in responding to a question from Acting Leader of the Opposition Julia Gillard, Prime Minister John Howard resorted to similar up-to-date allegories as Steven Ciobo, by cleverly using the word ‘comrade’ as an anti-communist pejorative when extemporising about former ALP National Secretary Gary Gray’s conversations:
Mr HOWARD People like Gary Gray and others may be going around saying, ‘There is a way through on this, comrade
It makes one wonder whether it is actually 1957, rather than 2007. This is a time warp worthy of Dr Who!
NOT CONVEYED BY HANSARD (Question Time)
The constant Government attacks on the evils of Trade Unions, Treasurer Peter Costello’s bogan-friendly comparison of the Australian economy to a finely tuned sports car requiring experienced Coalition drivers, spurious points of order by Manager of Government Business Tony Abbott along with the weakness of The Speaker, David hawker, created an atmosphere of ill feeling in the House. The ALP, however, was more than happy to sink to this level of gutter politics albeit with a certain sense of humour.
Not in the Hansard
Question Time Australia-Japan Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultation; 3:01pm
After a Dorothy Dixer from South Australian Liberal Andrew Southcott (member for Boothby) to the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, a tremendous torrent of abuse erupted from the ALP benches. It was actually difficult to process all the abuse being yelled as he approached the dispatch box. Despite the cacophony one repeated taunt was louder than the others. As Downer ambled to the dispatch box, one could hear the following comments. They were made with a loud patronising and humorously mocking tone:
Come on little boy, come on, etc
Such was the enthusiasm and evident glee of Opposition frontbenchers Stephen Smith and Lindsay Tanner and for that matter most of the ALP benches that it was difficult to say exactly who should be credited with the remarks.
In the Hansard
Downer attacked the logic of The Opposition Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Robert McClelland, who has outlined that the ALP would adopt a ‘Liberal Multinational’ approach to international affairs i.e. a preference for collective arrangements through various international organizations or processes. Downer completely misrepresented the ALP position by implying that such an approach would downgrade important bilateral relations with the US for example.
Should be in the Hansard
In opposition Downer and Howard were highly critical of the ethical and logical merits of Paul Keating’s ill-fated love affair with Suharto’s Indonesia. Despite the Keating/Evans Engagement Policy a commitment to internationalist principles, especially the UN, at least remained. In combination with ANZUS these were well-established foundation blocks of Australian foreign policy. In 1996 the Howard government radically altered this traditional ap
proach by emphasising a clear bias toward bilateral arrangements and adopting an openly critical attitude toward the UN. Even the obvious reality that Australia was actually a ‘middle power‘ was rejected. Alexander Downer dubbed this approach ‘Enlightened Realism.’
In mocking the strategic logic of his Opposition counterpart Downer preened, smirked and quipped like a man with the big runs on the board. Who is to argue with such a record e.g. unquestioning support of President Bush, a total back flip on intervention in the South Pacific, war without end in Afghanistan, defying the UN to support the US in Iraq, the premise of this war proven a total lie, endlessly bloody chaos in Iraq, downplaying the crimes against humanity committed by the TNI in East Timor, Aceh, Ambon, West Papua etc etc, initiating another ethically challenged security pact with Indonesia ah la Paul Keating, the legal travesty of David Hicks and the Australian Wheat Board scandal .hmnn . if this is enlightened realism how bad could liberal multilateralism actually be?
In the Hansard (Workplace Relations Question Time) (3.07 pm)
Responding to another mindless Dorothy Dix question the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Mr. Joe Hockey, purposely walked to the dispatch box. The question was nothing more than a shallow pretence to allow Mr. Hockey to point both barrels at the Opposition.
Not in The Hansard
Mr. Hockey’s designated role, as the Industrial Relations hard man, has been largely ineffective in Question Time. On this occasion the usual taunts he received from the Opposition held an added self-inflicted sting. Amongst the numerous interjections could be heard
‘Bring back Shrek (or) where’s Shrek?’
This was reference to Mr. Hockey’s unfortunate recent portrayal of the famous cartoon ogre on morning television. To be sure this was excruciating viewing.
The ‘Shrek’ taunts caused amusement among the ALP benches every time they were muttered from within the noisy Opposition benches. The Speaker, Mr. David Hawker, frantically tried to uncover their source. Unable to locate the culprit he ordered the next ALP interjector from the House, The Member for Parramatta, Ms. Julie Owens. The vicious comment she directed at Mr. Hockey was I believe:
‘Answer the question.’
Perhaps in contrition for his own actions, and the blatantly disproportionate reaction of The Speaker, the real culprit yelled another loud ‘Shrek’ comment. Only this time, the location of its origin was obvious. Finally The Speaker had found his villain and ordered The Member for Gorton, Mr Brendan O’Connor, from the House ..
Yet again, our politicians in the House of Representatives proudly uphold the dignity of Australian democracy.
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