Today’s Question Time was like a bad mystery/horror movie in which the only interest was who would be the members of the Liberal front bench left standing. The sending off for one hour got started pretty early after Harry Jenkins issued a “general warning”. This came after Chris Pyne wanted to make sure everyone in the chamber knew that he had got up to H in the dictionary as he called the PM a “Harridan”. According to the first dictionary google gave me this means “A strict, bossy, or belligerent old woman”. You could tell Pyne thought he was oh so clever because when he withdrew the remark instead of withdrawing, he said “I withdraw the word harridan” – you to really make sure everyone heard it.
It is a pity Pyne had never sat in any of my English Lit tutorials where I told students that those who use big words in an attempt to appear intelligent, merely come across as someone who is using big words in a vain attempt to appear intelligent.
Jenkins, if he had any sense, should have booted Pyne straight away, but instead he warned everyone and so booted a half dozen Lib MPs.
First gone was Tony Smith – no loss, he hasn’t said or done anything of note since… (look I have my people working on finding the answer to that, we’ll get back to you at a dater to be specified later).
Next gone was Julie Bishop – for the crime of tabling a CD of Obama saying the a cap and trade would cause prices to “skyrocket”. Unfortunately Julie Bishop did not indulge in song:
Because that would have energised things somewhat.
Chris Pyne however quickly leapt to Bishop the Younger’s defence and Jenkins realising that he had made a little rash decision that was a little rash, let her stay.
Next gone was Ewan Jones, followed quickly by Sophie Mirabella. Absolutely no one cared that the Member for Indi would be absent for an hour. Many wanted longer.
The big scalp of the day was Joe Hockey who was sent off next to the change rooms for an hour. This was followed by the Member for Forde, Bert van Mane, biding the house adieu for 60 minutes. The day’s catch ended with that intellectual leviathan Peter Dutton taking the walk. No doubt he and Mirabella could have reflected on that other time both were absent together from the House – during the apology to the Stolen Generation…
There were other mysteries to solve – for example why did the PM take a Dorothy Dixer that referred to the “top 1000 big polluters paying for the carbon they create”. For mine it devalues the argument of the carbon price – it is not a mechanism which picks on specific companies it just puts a price on carbon and caps the amount of emissions (meaning that companies that emit carbon can trade carbon permits). Referring to the top 1000 companies is not the look of a market based scheme – but rather something dopey like Abbott’s direct action scheme. Sure talk about big companies paying – or big polluters paying – but don’t put a number on it, because in reality the system won’t work that way.
Other mysteries to solve were why two questions on immigration were asked by Michael Keenan and Bronwyn Bishop, and why the only question Shadow Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, asked was to Kevin Rudd?
Even more of a mystery was why Tony Abbott asked a supplementary to Keenan’s question asking Gillard to guarantee that none of the asylum seekers involved in the riots on Christmas Island would be ever allowed entry in this country. Given the answer is the Migration Act doesn't allow her to do so it is rather a mystery that Abbott would be so pig ignorant of the fact. Obviously he isn’t – he just wants to be able to go on Alan Jones etc and say she should rule it out. At that stage both Abbott and Jones would delicately avoid mentioning that if we get to the point that leader of a democratic country were able to guarantee something that was actually governed by judicial process it would be rather contrary to living in a democratic country.
Rather a conundrum to unravel as well was why Scott Morrison sought to table a document referred to by Bronwyn Bishop in her question to Chris Bowen given he didn’t have the nerve to ask it himself – perhaps Bowen’s fiery response was the answer – though given Kevin Rudd’s answer to Morrison’s question was also cutting, perhaps Morrison should stick to Bowen. Rudd may have been deposed as PM, but in the chamber he is still a class above the likes of Morrison.
Another puzzle is why the Liberal think praising Rudd for his work on Libya is in their favour. Rudd is doing what a Foreign Minister should do and doing it well – and the Lib’s praise of him only serves to reinforce that (and also does not put Julie Bishop in a great contrast). If they think this increases leadership tensions then they are pretty silly. Rudd is finished in leadership. But he obviously loves being an active Foreign Minister. Good on him.
Finally, then there is the real mystery of why the issue of whether or not the Bible should be on the national curriculum got asked of Julia Gillard. The reason of course was due to the PM’s statement yesterday on Australian Agenda (a show watched by almost nobody that apparently is now setting the agenda) where this was related:
Now, I know people might look at me and think that’s something that they wouldn’t necessarily expect me to say, but that is what I believe, and you know, I’m on the record as saying things like I think it’s important for people to understand their Bible stories, not because I’m an advocate of religion – clearly, I’m not – but once again, what comes from the Bible has formed such an important part of our culture. It’s impossible to understand Western literature without having that key of understanding the Bible stories and how Western literature builds on them and reflects them and deconstructs them and brings them back together.
Now I completely agree with her about understanding Western Literature and the Bible. When I taught English Lit, those student who knew the Bible had a major advantage over those who didn’t. The Biblical allusions throughout the work of writers like TS Eliott, Joyce and Lawrence meant if you knowing the Bible gave you a head start. As one who attended Sunday School and had read the Bible a couple times (well the interesting parts at least), I remember being pretty stunned that there were some in my tutorial groups who were pretty ignorant of fairly basic Biblical stories like Noah and the flood, or the Tower of Babel.
That doesn’t mean Year 8s need to know it, but I’ve never been against teaching parts of the Bible such as Genesis which contains so many of the foundation myths of our culture from a literature/cultural point of view because if you are going to study English literature you really should know them. But that of course is a long way from having compulsory Bible lessons for kids.
What I don’t agree is her sense that because she was brought up in a conservative explains why she is against gay marriage:
I do find myself on the conservative side in this question, and I find myself on the conservative side because of the way our society is and how we got here. I think that there are some important things from our past that need to continue to be part of our present and part of our future.
I had a pro-union, pro-Labor upbringing in a quite conservative family, in the sense of personal values. I mean, we believed in lots of things that are old-fashioned in the modern age. We believed in politeness and thrift and fortitude and doing duty and discipline. These are things that were part of my upbringing. They’re part of who I am today.
It’s a pretty odd reason for someone to argue for anything – “because I was brought up that way”. Surely we should at least question what we were brought up to think – we may often come to agree with those things, but we don’t come to that point (or we shouldn't) purely because that was what our parents told us to think. The PM when advocating pro-Labor policies doesn't argue them because she was brought up that way – she argues for them for grown-up reasons. So too I think should people argue on the issue of gay marriage.
I do think sections of the political spectrum give Gillard more heat on this issue than she deserves. She deserves heat on this issue equal with that which Tony Abbott gets. Both advocate the same policy – those who think the ALP is some bastion of gay advocacy are living in a bit of a dream world. Gay marriage is outside the political spectrum – if it ever does happen you know it will be done through a conscience vote.
I only ask that those advocating the staus quo – whether it be Abbott, Gillard, Rudd, Bishop, Turnbull, etc etal – explain how the lives on heterosexual people will be in any way affected. The only person I know who has attempted that was Bruce Billson last year when he said in Parliament:
But the important thing is that if we are to move forward with this recognition we cannot do so by diminishing the sense of right and designation that people who have married have chosen for themselves. It is quite ironic that this charge for rights is being pursued by diminishing the rights of those who have chosen to designate their relationship a traditional marriage. I do not understand that logic. People who have entered into a marriage as it is defined and recognised under the law, whether it be by way of tradition, custom, conservatism or religious orientation, have done so consciously, knowing that that is the designation they have sought, that that will be the designation they will secure and that the nature of the relationship they have entered into will be recognised as such by the broader community. We should not seek to remove that from people who have chosen that pathway and have operated within the current definition of marriage, which I agree with.
Yep my marriage apparently would be devalued if gay people could get married. At least Bill gave a reason, but geez, if that’s the best they can do…
Just before anyone else decides to comment on the issue – my suggesting studying the Bible is good for those studying literature does not mean I don’t think they need to study other foundation texts – eg Greek mythology. When I was first studying the Romantic poets, I found I really needed to go back and read the mythologies. When I studied the Modernists, I needed to know both them and the Bible – take Joyce’s Ulysses for example. I’m also talking pretty higher level stuff here. Year 11 English Student don’t need to know it (but again I bet you could tell the ones who do).
I also never understand why people think if someone suggests the Bible should be studied for cultural reasons that that means they don’t also think other sacred texts should be studied. I wish for eg, when I was in high school I had been taught some aspects of what is in the Koran because I often feel woefully lacking in my understanding of Islamic culture, and funnily I think understanding other cultures – including their beliefs, is actually a good thing. When I was in Year 6 we were given a very basic background on Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. It is a disgrace I think that the one page worksheets I did in Year 6 on each of them was the sum total of my knowledge of those cultures provided to me by my education system.