Television cameras show Opposition Leader Tony Abbott running for the exit at Parliament House yesterday.
WHOLE families lie slaughtered in Syria, rape and pillage continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 5.5 million have died, the world averting its face since a war began in 1998, millions are suddenly unemployed in Europe, manufacturing jobs are collapsing in Australia … and what has us riveted in our Federal Parliament?
The Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues all but fall over themselves in a risible rush to escape voting in the House of Representatives.
Was there an Australian who could still bear to watch what passes for the national political debate who did not throw up their hands in despair at the televised revelation of this unprecedented spectac
Manager of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne is suspended from Question Time by Acting Speaker Anna Burke. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Here was a wretched vision for the world: politicians in struggling Ukraine might brawl for the cameras, but in Australia, the world’s strongest economy, they run from the democratic process.
Tony Abbott, the leader of an opposition in the ascendancy, a man who once won a boxing blue at Oxford, couldn’t flee fast enough. He didn’t make it out of the doors before they were locked, and, as he hammered vainly upon the unyielding exit, he found himself ordered to resume his seat by the Deputy Speaker, Anna Burke.
The manager of opposition business, Christopher Pyne, who has famously described himself as wearing a skin as tough as a rhinoceros, managed to burst free. When asked later about his getaway, he joked that he was as fast as a gazelle.
Thomson’s gazelle, perhaps, a nervy creature from the African plains given to springing and high-speed zig-zagging at the merest shadow of menace.
It was, of course, a Thomson, Craig, who provoked the opposition’s stampede.
Thomson, little more now than a broken crossbench exile from Labor, had done nothing more than to offer his vote to the Coalition on a matter of next-to-no import. The opposition wanted to wail, as usual, about Australia’s debt, something most nations would offer their first-born to enjoy, and the government wanted to gag the debate.
Thomson, still with a surprise or two up his sleeve, felt moved to join the other independents in their customary opposition to government gags.
It was too much for Abbott and his colleagues.
They might normally embrace any extra number that could grant them advantage, but they were desperate to escape the ignominy of being associated with Thomson’s vote, which comes loaded with the baggage of a union credit card that allegedly found its way into places even less salubrious than today’s Parliament.
Abbott has been thumping the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, for accepting what he considers is Thomson’s tainted vote and crowing that he’d never accept such a thing.
Now it was being foisted upon him.
He, Pyne and a clutch of equally flighty colleagues couldn’t imagine anything more creative than running for the doors to ensure Thomson’s vote would effectively mean nothing.
Abbott, who retreated to his office to avoid further voting once he could get out of the House, later accused Thomson of indulging in a stunt. Pot. Kettle.
Unsurprisingly, question time later devolved into a spiteful contest shedding little light and less honour upon anything and anybody.
Burke became so exasperated and dispirited she reminded MPs to remember Greg Wilton, a Labor backbencher who committed suicide 12 years ago. She said she had visited the late Mr Wilton’s sister at the weekend, and had found the family distressed at the current level of political discourse.
”I’m just cautioning us all to be a little more considerate,” Burke said.
It was the single moment of the day that Australia’s political practitioners had the wit to appear abashed.