Q&A student protest sets a Pyne example

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Australians should not be outraged by a rowdy student protest, directed at Christopher Pyne, disrupting Q&A on  Monday night, says senior correspondent Barry Everingham, as they were just following Pyne's example in Parliament.

VIEWERS OF the top rating ABC Q&A program were served up on Monday night an incredible display of outrage by a group of university students not too happy with Christopher Pyne’s Micawber like attitude to their future funding.

In a well-orchestrated, and mostly intelligent demand for answers, they arguably went too far and the broadcaster was forced to temporally abandon the transmission while the studio was cleared of the demonstrators.

Needless to say, there were howls of outrage from the usual right wing suspects and even viewers who sit in the middle of the political road were unimpressed. But in the cold hard light of day, it would be well to ponder on the example set by what, in another day and age, would be quaintly called 'their elders and betters'.

Let’s start with Tony Abbott himself — no stranger to trotting out his pugilist style, which goes right back to his university days.

It has been alleged that his displeasure with a female opposing his quest against her for the presidency of a student body was such he punched a hole in a wall quite near her face — thankfully missing her.

Those demonstrating on Monday night would have been aware of their Prime Minister’s unedifying behaviour and, who knows, may have thought:

“Well, if it’s good enough for him…"

So, fast forwarding to the brunt of their anger on Monday night, Christopher Pyne himself, whose performances in the Parliament have earned him the reputation of holding the record of being ejected from the House more than any other Member.

And it should never be forgotten that John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull would not wear him in a fit and neither leader would consider elevating him because of his out of control behaviour and, at the same time, the fear that perhaps some alleged aspects of his private life might not be acceptable to the voters.

It was up to Tony Abbott to brush those fears and allegations aside and elevate him to dizzy political heights, which did nothing to dampen Pyne’s ego driven behaviour and, if anything, made him even more outrageous than ever.

Pyne of course is not the only conservative seeker of attention, which would not have escaped Monday’s students.

There is the case of the former Abbott frontbencher and House disrupter, the foul mouthed Sophie Mirabella, who was rewarded for losing her once safe seat of Indi by Abbott appointing her to a highly paid directorship with a submarine manufacturer.

Mirabella, along with House Speaker Bronwyn Bishop – more about her later – and Tony Abbott absolutely disgraced themselves by posing in front of the outrageous anti-Gillard 'Ditch the Bitch' and Bob Brown’s Bitch' Alan Jones inspired placards out Parliament House.


When students see their “leaders” throwing dignity and discretion so freely to the winds, it should come as no surprise they believe they have a right to put their case wherever it suits them.

They too would have noticed the Liberals continual bleat that Julia Gillard was unfit to be prime minister because she was single, unmarried, in a relationship and "deliberately barren" (thanks Bill Heffernan, you're all class).

Gillard’s detractors forgot to mention that the only woman Abbott thought fit enough to elevate to his Cabinet, Julie Bishop, shares Gillard’s status. She too is single, in a relationship and childless. But in the jaundiced eyes of the Liberals, that’s different.

Then came the coup de grace in the let’s get down into the sewer department — Alan Jones' caught on tape assertion at a young Liberals dinner that Gillard’s father had “died of shame” because of his daughter’s prime ministership.

When Abbott repeated the words in Parliament, saying Gillard should be "dying of shame" over then Speaker Peter Slipper, that was enough for the then Prime Minister. Gillard came out all guns blazing, hitting Abbott right between the eyes with her magnificent Misogyny Speech, which held the House, the nation and, through social media, half the world in thrall as it went viral.

But not Speaker Bishop, who sneered: if it’s too hot in the kitchen, she should get out!

Now, the students would be followers the House of Representatives, which is presided over by the Speaker, who traditionally is bipartisan and treats all Members equally.

Bronwyn Bishop destroyed the rule book – known as Standing Orders – and has rewritten the convention by being the most partisan Speaker Australia has ever seen.

She gives the Government members and ministers carte blanche in general – and Christopher Pyne in particular – free rein to disrupt the House.

She allows Pyne so much leeway, it outrages Opposition members to the point of exasperation until Bronwyn throws them out over some insignificant alleged infraction. Bishop the Elder's latest trick was to “name” one of the  most distinguished members of the opposition front bench, Mark Dreyfus QC, for saying "Madame Speaker".

How offended she must have been at being called by her proper title.

So, before the general public gets too precious about student misbehaviour, perhaps a good look should be taken at the way the conservative side of politics goes about law making.

It might put a few things into perspective.

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John Graham's art is available for purchase by emailing editor@independentaustralia.net. See a gallery of John's political art on his Cartoons and Caricatures Facebook page.

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