All through the house not an MP stirred, in fear of the boot
Question time warmed up early with Scott Morrison evoking eternal shame (for Labor, natch) and ended with expressions of Yuletide affection. So it seemed somehow fitting that between these extreme bookends, even death could find a slot. It came knocking amid the eerie quiet you get when an opposition can’t afford to lose a single person to the Speaker’s boot.
More specifically, death came knocking in the form of an iPad attached to Labor MP Stephen Jones’s hand a moment after a spider appeared next to his colleague Clare O’Neil. For the spider, a bit like for Adam and Eve, fate arrived Apple-shaped.
The quiet was unnerving. Even Josh Frydenberg, whose answers are generally treated by Labor as a target-rich environment, was allowed to mete out methodical towellings unimpeded. Some of the usual hecklers suffered greatly. Jones writhed internally. Julian Hill mulled Christmas shopping options. And Ed Husic distracted himself by purloining his colleague Ross Hart’s computer when Hart ducked out.
“When Ross leaves his Twitter open and Ed Husic is around, this will be dangerous” was the first tweet that appeared on the absent Tasmanian’s account. It was a bit of waggishness that, topically, doubled as a vague metaphor about the proposed new encryption regime.
What few interjections broke this silence were modest ripples of “Shame!” emitted by backbenchers in between attending to Christmas cards. As ScoMo went on about terrorists and paedophiles (an indication of how much he’s enjoying the fumble jamboree of minority government), hope- fully none of the card-writers got distracted in that state of halflistening and accidentally spiced their festive greetings. Any card, though, would have been enhanced by Christopher Pyne’s figurative furniture: “That’s what the Labor Party is doing, dismantling one of the three legs of the stool that has stopped peoplesmugglers and their evil trade.”
Frydenberg, meanwhile, commemorated two former PMs. Tony Abbott was honoured with a pair of repurposed slogans: “big new property tax” and “big new retiree tax”. Then the Treasurer delivered a Julia Gillard Memorial Moment as he said “hyperbowl” — twice, just to be sure.
Most messages arrived in recognisable sentences; one did not. As Bob Katter opened the sluice gates of his word dam, his neighbour Rebekha Sharkie’s face spoke volumes without a sound.
Then at last, pre-Christmas pleasantries. There was a moment of ambidexterity, the PM on one hand chiding Tanya Plibersek for denting the valedictory glow, and Pyne on the other tweeting about the stalled encryption legislation: “Labor has chosen to allow terrorists and paedophiles to continue their evil work in order to engage in point-scoring.”
Naughty and nice, together in one handy place! Or at least until Pyne festively deleted it.
ScoMo wished a merry Christmas even to Bill Shorten — damned earlier as a national security threat — and Shorten reciprocated just as warmly.
Then via a few more festive niceties and habitual hostilities, they were done — in contrast to all that legislation that had seemed so urgent. Like Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, that’s still magically up in the air.