Every time I watch the sad spectacle of Parliament on the evening news, I need to have an extra sip of my whisky as I listen to them incessantly abuse and insult one another, making the most dreadful personal accusations and doing their best to turn character assassination into an art form, while screaming at the top of their voices in a manner that degrades the principles on which democracy was founded.
In all honesty, I can’t remember any of them ever making a reasoned and sensible statement about any subject that is before the Parliament. They all vie zealously for the honour of being the one who wins the news headlines as being the most spectacular abuser of the day.
Anyone watching Parliament is entitled to believe that parliamentarians are making it very clear to us that this is the way in which Australians should treat one another in everyday conversation. After all, if our nation’s leaders flaunt insults as an acceptable form of public behavior every day on national television, why shouldn’t we all believe that they are normal people.
If they keep it up, we will have their example repeated in every meeting of any organisation anywhere in the nation as an accepted practice every day. In fact, I am certain that much of the physical violence that happens in our nation has its genesis in the way that Parliament conducts its business.
It must stop before it’s too late. Next time that a death occurs as the result of a verbal argument anywhere in Australia, every parliamentarian who has participated in vitriol should be challenged to consider their responsibility for it, as they have constantly practised the behavior that caused it. That is an extreme statement for me to make, but I have considered it carefully, and I joke not.
And I look back with yearning to my earlier days when I would make long journeys home from the bush and enjoy listening to Parliament on my car radio. It would be a delight to hear great debates on important issues and absorb the quality of the oratory, the depth of the debate and the splendid wit.
These were the days of John Curtin, Bob Menzies, Ben Chifley, Richard Casey, Enid Lyons, Doc Evatt, Gough Whitlam, John Gorton, Fred Daly, Jim Killen and Condon Byrne. In terms of dignity, courtesy, humour and goodwill, few, if any, in today’s parliament are within a bull’s roar of following in their footsteps.