An item in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday brought to mind some classic moments from Australian Parliament and Australian politics . . .
REES GETS A CORRECTION
Let no one say our politicians are not alive to nuance when it comes to setting the record straight. Consider the following exchange (brought to our attention by Craig Baumann, the member for Port Stephens) which took place this week in Macquarie Street.
MP Chris Patterson had been praising the government's campaign finance amendment bill for making union campaign contributions included in the parties' expenditure cap, when he said: ''This is the loophole that the former corrupt Labor government used to ensure that the feathering of its own nest continued for 16 years.''
The former Premier, Nathan Rees: ''Point of order: The member knows that that sort of language is over the top, and I ask you to direct him to withdraw it.''
Acting Speaker (Gareth Ward): Order! As I cannot direct the member in relation to his language, I do not know the point of order that the member for Toongabbie raises.
Rees: To elucidate, the member called the former government ''corrupt". That is unparliamentary.
Acting Speaker: Order! It is up to the member as to whether he wishes to withdraw his comments. I cannot direct him to withdraw the commentPatterson: I am happy to say that the former Labor government used the loophole to ensure the feathering of its own nest, and that that continued for the past 16 years.
Rees: That's far better!
This reminds me of the story I heard many years ago that a Member of Parliament described the Member for Blaxland as having the brains of a sheep.
The Speaker: “Order! The Honourable Member will withdraw that remark.”
MP: “Very well, Mr Speaker, I withdraw. The Member for Blaxland does not have the brains of a sheep.”
In a Sydney Town Hall debate in 2000, Gough Whitlam explained that he had never dropped the “C-bomb” in Parliament, despite his widely recognised capacity for colourful language.
In Gough's words:
“The nearest I came to doing so was when Sir Winton Turnbull, a member of the Cavalleria Rusticana, was raving and ranting on the adjournment and shouted ‘I am a Country Member’,” the former Prime Minister recalled.
“I interjected ‘I remember’.
He could not understand why, for the first time in all the years he had been speaking in the House, there was instant and loud applause from both sides.”
From Barry Cohen, Whitlam to Winston:
A fire-and-brimstone speaker in the House whenever the Labor Party raised his ire, Bob Katter Snr was nevertheless well-liked by his colleagues on both sides of the House. Many of us, however, were surprised when in a Cabinet reshuffle by Sir William McMahon on 2 February 1972 he was appointed Minister for the Army. At about the same time, his wife died. Although I sent him telegrams on both occasions, when I found myself standing next to him in the men’s urinal in Parliament House some days later, and not sure whether he had received the telegrams, I decided to raise both matters with him again.
“Bob,” I said, “Congratulations on your appointment and my sincere condolences on your tragic loss.”
“Yes,” he sighed, looking wistfully towards the heavens, “It took a bit of the gloss off it.”