Lively debate commonly descends into jeering, belittling and name-calling by elected leaders, and the Queensland Parliament has never been a stranger to rambunctious politics.
Ratcliffe Pring ( pictured), the Member for North Brisbane from 1870-72, served as Queensland’s first attorney-general. A skilled barrister and seasoned politician, he also had a reputation for impulsiveness and a quick temper. During the parliamentary session of January 10, 1872, Pring, observed to be the worse for liquor, began constantly interjecting as the Member for Clermont, Oscar de Satgé, was speaking. Charles George Henry Carr Clark, Member for Warwick, protested. According to Hansard, Clark said Pring made “extremely offensive and personal remarks in regard to the honourable member for Clermont”, before implying that Pring was intoxicated.
The Speaker attempted to restore order as the two men argued unabashed. “If he will come out from this place for five minutes, I will settle all things,” Pring challenged Clark, later referring to him as “the dirty wretch” and threatening “I will kick you”. A defiant Clark retorted: “Any person who knows me knows I am not afraid of anyone in the House or out of it.”
Pring rose and appeared to be leaving the House, when suddenly he lunged at Clark and exclaimed, “Come outside, and we will settle it!” The Speaker demanded Pring be arrested. “I take you in charge,” declared the sergeantat-arms, to which Pring (apocryphally) responded, “Do you? You will have to catch me first!” and took to his heels.
A warrant was issued for Pring’s arrest. Pring sent a letter of resignation, hoping to end the matter, but on January 22, two police sergeants arrested him in Dalby and detained him at the Criterion Hotel. They were later instructed to release him without charge.