This morning in The Age there was a story about how rarely women Liberal MPs got to ask questions. It must have hit a nerve, because after Turnbull and Hockey had their goes, they let Susan Ley ask a question – and in doing so she became only the third female Liberal MP to have asked more than 2 questions this year.
Also this morning, Tony Abbott was hitting the airwaves and TV shows pointedly not ruling out boycotting Question Time. It was a typically juvenile threat by Abbott, especially as it was never going to be carried out, and would only serve to make the Libs look like sooks. Australians might not think much of the proceedings in parliament, but they have never taken kindly to people who when things don’t go their way take their bat and ball and go home.
So instead of a boycott the Liberals decided to interrupt Question Time by twice moving the the speaker no longer be heard. This requires a vote and stops everything for about 10 minutes. The first time they did it was while Tanya Plibersek was roasting the Liberals over a “Women’s Issues” page on its website that still referred to John Howard as PM and begins with a 1944 speech by Robert Menzies. The second occurred during an answer by Julia Gillard where she was avoiding answering the question from Susan Ley on the comments by the head of a Parents and Children's organisation by instead reading out a letter from the principal of another school. Either way you can bet your life that both the head of the P&C and the principal involved each have pretty obvious political leanings.
The whole thing was a complete farce as the Libs became rowdier and more childish – Pyne was screaming out “you idiots! you fools!”, Abbott was muttering under his breath at the speaker, and then getting huffy when the Speaker pulled him up on it, the ALP Member of Solomon was kicked out for not doing anything, but volunteering to go anyway. However, just when things couldn’t possibly get more pathetic, up stepped Julie Bishop to ask Julia Gillard a question.
Thinking she was being oh so frightfully clever, Bishop referred to the mention of Menzies in Plibersek’s earlier answer and asked Julia whether she agreed with a speech made in parliament by Paul Keating which criticised the Coalition Government for being proud of the fact that more women were being employed than ever before. Here’s the kicker. Keating’s speech was from 1969!
Yep, Julie Bishop thought Gillard would be embarrassed about something Keating said 40 years ago. The question was so inane, and so poorly constructed as well that the Speaker contemplated ruling it out of order (because it asked Gillard to comment on something said by someone else about the policy of the Liberal Party and not about Government policy), the Government benches however were screaming at him to rule it in order.
Bishop is easily the most pointless member of the Liberal Party front bench. This question was beyond embarrassing. However, worse still, as Julia slapped her answer into the car park for six, Bishop tried to table the speech – yes she tried to get put in Hansard as speech already in Hansard.
Oh, in other news the Government announced it was going to split Telstra into two parts (unless Telstra splits itself). It is a momentous decision. It didn’t even really get a question – the closest was Turnbull asking about the National Broadband Network.