June 16 is Bloomsday, that day when all things James Joycean are celebrated and the great novel Ulysses is enjoyed by many in between a few pints of Guinness. I am one of those who believe it is the greatest novel of the 20th Century, and for my thoughts on Ulysses itself see my Bloomsday post of last year. But for this year I have decided to go a much more self-indulgent route.
For those who have never read the novel, you might find the following a tad confusing (quite possibly those who have read it will as well), and you might do best to skip to the real On the QT blog below.
But for the two people in the world who love Ulysses and also avidly watch Question Time (c’mon there has to be a least one other person!), I present Question Time through the lens of Ulysses.
Stately plump Harry Jenkins came from behind the speakers chair, bearing a copy of the standing orders on which his bookmark and pen lay crossed. He held the book aloft and intoned:
– Pater noster qui es in coelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum.
Halted, he peered down to his left at the dark straight bench.
– Come up, Abbott. Come up you fearful, Jesuit.
The ineluctable modality of Question Time: at least that if no more, thought through my own answers. Hansard of all things I am here to read, interjections and exclamations, the click of Julia’s tongue, the rustle of Kevin’s pages. If that is all I shall hear then I shall hear no more.
Lindsay closed his eyes to hear the crack and shrill of the opposition front bench as they strode across the green carpet to the dispatch box to make a point of order. The snotgreen carpet.
– On relevance, Mister Speaker!
– Order! Order! Order!
I too was once there. Will I be there again? Will I be left on the shelf, shelved like mining projects that never were, left behind, left alone by voters because I wasn’t left enough as the Greens, the Greens, the scrotumtightening Greens.
– The Minister for Finance!
– Thank you Mister Speaker, and I thank the Honourable member for his question, because it allows me to draw the Houses attention to the latest comments by the economic wunderkind of the Liberal Party, the Member for North Sydney.
And is this all there is? What’s that, a lesser PJK? Never to reach the highest height? Why couldn’t I have got them to keep the ETS? Why do we have to be so stupid with asylum seekers? Is this to be my fate? Listening to the oral dribble of Wilson Tuckey?
– The Minister for Finance!
Coming after me. Hope there’s no more points of order.
– They say Philip Ruddock was the best Minister for Immigration? Do you know that? And do you know why?
– Why Tuckey? He asked, beginning to frown.
– Because he never let them in!
A coughball of phlegmy laughter came from his throat.
– He never let them in!
Question Time, said Lindsay, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
Mr Kevin Rudd with relish walked through the inner organs of Parliament House on the way to Question Time. He stopped at the door of Julia Gillard’s office pondering whether to go in.
Desolation. Comes to all of us in the end. One minute popular next moment not.
He walked in, she was at her desk. Oh thanks Kevin, she says pointing to the drink in his hand. I’m parched. She drinks and motions to him to look at something behind him.
Following her pointed finger he looked at the mass of magazines and newspapers on her couch. He took up a Time magazine. No? Then a heavily marked copy of The Australian.
– No, that speech of yours.
Quarterly Magazine, the Marr essay on him.
– It must have fell down, she said.
The speech lay on the floor. Must have fallen down as she read the Quarterly essay…
– Show here, she said. I put a mark in it. There’s a phrase I wanted to ask you.
She took a long drink of his water that he had meant for himself. As she found the phrase.
– Program specy what?
– Here, she said. What does that mean?
He leaned down and read where she had circled his words in red pen.
– Programmatic specificity?
– Yes. Who’s he when he’s at home?
– Programmatic specificity, he said frowning. It’s from the DFAT by way of ANU. On the question of what it means, can I just say that it goes to the heart of the way in which we as a nation undertake to develop the manner and programmatic nature of programs which have specifically been specified to come into being.
– Oh rocks! she said. Tell us in plain words.
I was just passing the time of day at the pub watching nothing but Question Time when I damned near wanted to put my eye out with my pen when I caught sight of Julie Bishop on the opposite benches waiting for the proceedings to begin.
– Lo, says I to the Citizen. Did you see that? Begob if I nearly did blind myself when I sees her white suit and smug expression.
– And those eyes, says the Citizen, She’s no Julia.
And the first order of the day, taken down and recorded for all eternity and maternity by Hansard is from Tony Abbott ex of Oxford, formerly of Priesthood, who rises to his feet and begins to intone in the direction as you would expect at the Prime Minister seated opposite surnamed Rudd, first name, Kevin.
And would you believe it but be buggered if he doesn’t want to ask about the resources super profit tax.
– What’s that? says Kevin, you think that a winner do you?
And wouldn't you know it but he takes to talking about it as though the world was hanging on his every word, talking about this and making hand motions about that and referring to the Clive Palmers and the mums and dads and working families with their chippies and their chalkies and all the glories of the labour movement as though he was there on the picket line with us leading the charge.
Well you wouldn’t credit it but then Abbott first named Tony, lately out of Warringah, gets up and says to Jenkins Jr, son of the former speaker in the time of days Hawke and Keating (bless them, praise them and sanctify them to all the hosts of heaven and earth), on a point of order that Rudd must be relevant to the question and in doing so he invokes the names and sayings of all the great Liberal Party heroes and heroines of antiquity, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies Knight of the Order of the Thistle Knight of the Order of Australia Order of the Companion of Honour Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science Fellow of the Royal Society Queens Council Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports Constable of Dover Castle, Lord Archer, Lord Monkton, Sir John Kerr, Harold Holt, the Harold Holt Public Baths, Malcolm Fraser pre 1975, John Gorton, Ainsley Gotto, Mata Hari, Philippe Pétain in WWI, Winston Churchill in WWII, Wee Willie Winkie, William McMahon, Sonia McMahon, Sonia McMahon’s dress, Andrew Peacock, Shirley McLain, L Ron Hubburd, Enron, the Smartest Guys in the Room, Malcolm Turnbull, the man who broke the heart of the Australian people, Malcolm Fraser 1975-1983, William the Conqueror 1066, The Old Man and the Sea, the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Alan Jones, Mark Ella, Mal Meninga, Maralinga, Bennelong, John Howard, Janette Howard, Adam and Eve, Moses, Noah, Torah Bright, Steve Bradbury, Steve Waugh, Don Bradman, Babe Ruth, Ruth Cracknell, Crackers Keenan, keen as mustard, Bill Lawry, Laura Norder, interest rates at record lows, Peter Costello, the man who invented asylum seeker boats, Philip Ruddock, the Ghost who Walks, Alexander Downer, Alexander Downer’s Dad, Alexander Downer’s Granddad, Thomas Playford, Gary Player, Gary Hart, Hart to Hart, Simon and Simon, Cagney and Lacey, Matlock, Solo One, Dave Sullivan, Tom Croyden, Tom Rafferty, he who has the gold makes the rules, Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Packer, James Packer, Jodee Rich, what goes up must come down, what goes around comes around, every little thing she does is magic, Pauline Hanson.
– And be buggered, says I, but Jenkins the younger tells him to sit down and says there is no point of order.
– On a point of order, says Chris.
– On point of order, says Julie.
– Oh Mister Speaker! says Joe.
– No point of order, says Jenkins the younger.
And then after a series of interjections and outerjections the proceedings returned to the normal order of service as Rudd gets up and lets fly with his sayings and ponderings and all the while we’re wondering when he’ll get to the point and come the raw prawn he out of nowhere starts to shake the sauce bottle which is all rather amazing seeing as he is dead.
– What dead? says Annabel.
– Dead as you can be, says Dennis.
– Kevin Rudd? says Laurie.
– Been dead now for some weeks, says Dennis.
– But I just saw him up at the dispatch box, says Annabel.
– Then you did see a ghost, says Dennis.
– Who’s dead? says Kerry.
– But dead? He can’t be, says Annabel.
– Dead? says Laurie.
– Kevin Rudd? He no more dead than you or I, says Kerry.
– Maybe so, says Dennis, but Newspoll took the liberty of burying him on Monday.
And then the floor was given over to Julia to allow her time to address the room and to give her account of the proceedings thus far.
– About time, says I, and there is general agreement on this issue moved, seconded and passed without need for recourse to a vote.
– We’ll hear some sense and reason now, says the Citizen. May God and Gough and all the saints in Trades Hall bless her.
Then before she did but utter five words, who do you see rise up but bloody Bronwyn Bishop, resplendent in all sartorial splendour evoking memories of the NSW CWA AGM circa 1951 attended by Gladys, Mabel, Mavis and Deidre (apologies by Irene).
– I refer to the section 89 of the practice, says the Bishop, and as well section 64 of the Australian Constitution 1901, Clause XIII Statute Law Revision Act 1863 and Statute Law (Ireland) Revision Act 1872, Section 1 Crown Proceedings Act 1947, the Butler Act, Roe v Wade, Donoghue v Stevenson, the Warren Commission, the Costigan Royal Commission, and the minutes of the Bonnie Doon Golf Club bi-monthly Finance Committee meeting.
– No point of order, says Harry Jenkins the younger.
– On a point of order, says Chris.
– On a point of order, says Julie.
– Oh Mister Speaker! says Joe.
– Why not a point of order? says Dutton.
– No point of order, says Harry, and the member can leave the chamber for one hour for being an idiot.
– No fair Joolia gets away with everything, tweets Dutton once he is out the room.
– And I belong to a party too, says Julia, that is hated and persecuted. Also now. This very moment.
God, she near burnt the souls of the opposition bench with her gaze.
– Are you talking about the new media? says Abbott.
– I’m talking about The Australian, say Julia.
And then Rudd as easy as you like rises to his feet and lets spread forth with such lifeless and lack of wonder all manner of circumlocution and verbal Diaspora as to make the Citizen slam his beer down on the bar as he listened.
And begob with a cry the Citizen did roar at Rudd to stop and would have ran into the House and near chased him across the lake and up Constitution Avenue all the while screaming and hurling abuse and anger with Rudd having to flee for his life were it not for the fact that the ABC coverage ended at that time and the publican switched the television over and the session was closed with the view of the glorious vision of Entertainment Tonight which served to raise our joy and cause the heavens to open up with rapture at the wondrousness of celebrity in a manner not seen or read since the weekend of the Budget Estimates Economics Committee 2009 wherein we heard the words of the great man Dr Ken Henry Ph.D., A.O.M., Q.C., O.M., G.C.M.G., T.V., E.T.S., C.P.R.S., A.B.C., S.B.S., N.B.N., D.B.C.D.E., D.E.W.H.A., D.E.E.W.R., A.L.P, L.N.P., W.H.O., U.N., A.P.A.C., A.P.E.C., O.P.E.C., M.S.N.B.C., C.N.N. and P.I.G.S. as he strode forth on the wonders of the economic stimulus plan.
You never saw the like of it! There was a Lindsay not of Melbourne but of Lohan, and lo there was a mighty wonder as we heard the trivialities of the life of the rich and famous and ye verily we did sit comforted that nothing that had occurred in Parliament House that afternoon would be noticed by a vast majority of the populous and when we saw talk of the new dress of Lady Gaga we did shout Aba! Adoni! And the thoughts of Question Time left our minds at an angle of forty five degrees at such a speed it were like a shot off a shovel.
What was asked?
The questions ranged across a broad rang of subject including taxation, vexation, expectation, regurgitation, sanitation, assimilation, education, absolution, ejection, health, wealth and war.
Where any answered?
Did this surprise anyone?
Only those who had never watched Question Time before.
Were there any suggestions of a change of the proceedings?
Yes. The Speaker did remind the House that should they wish to make the answers more relevant they need only change the Standing Orders.
Is this likely?
Who were the star performers?
Gillard, Tanner and Rudd.
Who will be reported as being the star performers?
Abbott and Hockey.
What words will be used to describe their performance?
Attacking, challenging, mounting pressure, repeated.
What words would an objective person use to describe their performance?
Insipid, dull, uninspired, pointless.
Was anyone forced to leave the chamber?
Yes, Peter Dutton (for being an idiot), Wilson Tuckey (for being himself) and Christopher Pyne (for being permanently indignant).
Who was answering a question when this occurred?
What was the issue?
The Building the education revolution spending.
Did the opposition appreciate her answer?
No – Dutton, Tuckey and Pyne found no humour in her relating the inaccuracies of various articles in the day’s media, Julie Bishop was only concerned about the authenticity of Julia’s pearls (she declared that they were fake), and Tony Abbott sat with a vacuous grin on his face taking nothing in.
Were any Ministers troubled by any of the questions?
Will it be reported that no ministers were troubled?
No – they were all under attack.
Howe many points of order were made?
14 – 5 by Pyne (pre-ejection), 2 by Abbott, 2 by Bishop – Julie, 2 by Bishop – Bronwyn, 1 by Hockey, 1 by Wilson Tuckey (frivolous, resulted in immediate ejection) and Kevin Andrews (no one quite why he did though).
Was there a motion to suspend the standing orders?
Was there any momentum built up prior to the opposition moving this suspension motion?
What did Malcolm Turnbull do during this time?
He played with his ipad.
Did this impress anyone?
Only those who were impressed when last year he was proudly playing with his now discarded Kindle.
What was the mood of the Government front bench?
Confidence, they feel they can best anyone on the opposite side.
Concern, the polls have not been good.
Scorn, Abbott seems completely oblivious to his hypocrisy
Humour, Tanner and Julia both produced good one liners.
Boredom, when listening to Kevin Rudd’s fourth Dorothy Dix response.
What was the mood of the Opposition front bench?
Overconfidence, they think they will win the next election.
Ignorance, they think the electorate will vote for Tony Abbott to become PM.
Mendacity, they believe the Liberal Party is the party of free markets despite opposing any pro-market policy.
Boredom, when listening to Kevin Rudd’s fourth Dorothy Dix response.
Exasperation, they can’t believe their long preludes to each question keep allowing Ministers to avoid answering the question.
Was Kevin Rudd seen to be doing anything of note?
Yes, he was arranging a large number of papers in front of him, and making a copious number of notes.
Did his answers to the opposition inspire confidence in his leadership?
Yes, he was solid and fiesty.
Will it be reported as such?
Is he worried about Julia Gillard?
No and yes.
Should he be?
Yes and no.
Does Question Time matter to anyone?
Why do we bother then?
Because it matters to those for whom nothing else matters.
What was the direction of Rudd after the events of the day?
Exit by way of behind the Speaker’s chair, then right along the corridor back to his office.
What is his demeanour?
Happy, because he has performed well in Question Time.
Disappointed, because this won’t be reflected in the polls.
Frustrated, because this is still his first term.
Annoyed, because everyone knows he will still win the election.
Angry, because people are pretending that he won’t.
Is he weary?
Yes, he has been up since early in the morning to do the breakfast radio shows.
Will he sleep?
Not for many hours yet.
What will he do now?
Many things he could do, some things should do, a number of things he would do, and not enough things he needs to do.
Will he rest?
Not until after the end election.
Yes because he never did a thing like that before as to answer a question in Question Time him without his can I just say and his on the question of and his you know something since when we were younger and he chased us among the rose gardens in the political wilds of 2007 when the voters were young like mountain flowers and we were the flowers of the mountain and we wore a TShirt that said Kevin 07 and we had to put up with the lines from Mr Costello and Mr Howard and the Shanahan conglomerate about how Kevin couldnt drive the economy bollocks to them look at how we got through the global recession though they give you no credit as though it was dumb luck that we still have low unemployment and you cant blame that on the stimulus with all its houses burning down though less than ever before but what does fact and truth matter when there is a narrative to run and I think back on my time and wonder at the men I have known and where are they now with Gough and his time for us all now it is time to turn on the lights with Fraser before Bob Hawke was bringing Australia together and I was singing lets stick together lets see it through in 1987 and wondering what the hell is incentivation and why the answer was not Andrew and they have all come and gone and gone and come but the media remains and now they want to say the the schools are all overpriced and undersized like the eleven years under Howard when I used wonder if there would ever be a time when I would be proud of my Prime Minister and then he apologised and all the world was good and great and this was a new era and even though Brendan Nelson would tell tales of woe and hardship of Taragos and wheelchairs we would all be happy and we would all be disappointed because we all expected too much and he asked us for too much and were it not for the recession we didn’t have we would now be wondering why we shouldnt be looking across the chamber at the man on the other side which would be Turnbull were it not for the Grech affair that shows you cant trust a man when he promises you the world and says he can deliver but the world did deliver something in Copenhagen but it wasn’t enough and so Tony Abbott now tells us that he is the one to trust but don’t trust what I say because what I say you cant trust and you can trust me on that oh for the love of God I say just give me some truth all I need is some truth we live here imagining if there will ever be a time when we will run through the political fields in joy and smelling all the flowers while we can like when we were younger and when he said to us we were the flowers of the mountain and we agreed and we smiled with wonder and then he said to us with his eyes that he was from Queensland and was here to help and to ask us to vote yes and we asked him with our blogs to ask again yes to say vote for me yes and we walked into the voting booth and we thought well as well him as the other and that night as we watched Maxine bring down John our hearts were going like mad and the crowd was cheering like it never has and yes we said yes we voted yes. Yes.