A Funny Thing Happened in Parliament Today...
Senators Bill Heffernan, Fiona Nash, Nick Xenophon and Christine Milne hold out meat pies during a press conference in 2010. Source: AAP
With all the posturing in federal parliament, it’s easy to miss the cavalcade of zingers, burns and mishaps that occur on a daily basis.
Over the years we’ve seen some cracking one-liners flung across both chambers of Parliament:
‘Don’t give me orders you Belgian waffle.’
‘Sit down, this isn’t the Wiggles.’
‘I’m actually witnessing in my mind a political colonoscopy.’
The number of classic moments of hilarity and face-palming stupidity that have occurred over the decades are too many to count. This week Advoc8 has compiled some of the best.
Disabled toilet doors slide
In 2002 the Member for Fisher, Peter Slipper, had not yet shot to fame for his political manoeuvres and run in’s with staffers. However, he still found time to make a name for himself. In 2002 Vietnam veteran and Labor Member for Cowper, Graham Edwards addressed the House to explain that a Member of the Government had thought himself locked in one Parliament House’s disabled toilets and called security in some distress.
Edwards finished the short speech by saying ‘Mr Speaker, could you please inform the Member for Fisher that the doors for disabled toilets in Parliament House ‘slide to open’.
Props that don’t work
Parliamentarians often believe a good prop is useful in making a point, however, it’s very easy to get it wrong. Former Family First Senator, Stephen Parry, thought it was a good idea to dance through the Federal Press Gallery, dressed as a giant bottle to promote recycling. It wasn’t.
Former Member for Lynne, Rob Oakshot agreed to a photo opportunity to promote the need foreign aid to provide adequate sewage in the developing world. Unfortunately, his decision to climb a ladder and sit atop a giant toilet was not the best idea. The press and punters had a field day writing inappropriate captions!
The master of ill-advised-propery was Bill Heffernan. His most daring feat was to brandish a replica pipe bomb during a Senate committee hearing (the AFP were not happy), while other notable props included pies and live pigs.
Watch what you wear
The cameras are always ‘on’ in Parliament House and any wild wardrobe choices are always picked up. Of course Pauline Hanson made world headlines when she entered the Senate wearing a full burqa.
However, it’s hard to forget Former Member for Mackellar, the Hon. Bronwyn Bishop, who once wore an interesting ensemble that included what looked like a colourful beauty pageant sash from shoulder to hip. One Labor front bencher called out ‘Miss Young Liberal 1968’.
The entire House erupted in laughter. Of course Bronnie took it in her stride.
Man through wall
Visitors to Parliament House are often struck by the vast number of artworks dotted around hallways. Each artwork has a small square glass plaque beside it announcing the name of the piece and the artist.
Sometimes, staffers don’t get on. One altercation in the Ministerial Wing in the early 2000’s resulted in one staffer shoving another completely through a plaster wall. Before the damage could be repaired, some sneaky sod affixed a small square post-it note which read
‘Man Through Wall’ by ‘Name’.
No list would be complete without mentioning the acid tongue of Paul Keating.
Some of his best lines include describing his opponent’s debating skills as ‘being flogged by a warm lettuce’ and describing another as being ‘all tip and no iceberg’. Of course his most famous line was delivered to then Leader of the Opposition, John Hewson in 1992.
Mr Hewson: ‘…why won’t you call an early election?’
Prime Minister Keating: The answer is, mate, because I want to do you slowly.’