Foul language and personal attacks have become the Coalition’s modus operandi in the year’s final week of parliament, as ministers desperately try to deflect attention from the scandals engulfing the government.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Tony Smith reprimanded Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce for using Question Time on Tuesday to quote bad language and descriptions of obscene acts.
Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg decided to get personal when he couldn’t answer a question from Greens MP Adam Bandt.
Meanwhile, the Senate voted to establish an inquiry into Attorney-General George Brandis’ handling of the Bell Group liquidation saga amid allegations of a secret, corrupt deal with the WA government over owed monies.
The Senate also decided on a further inquiry into the banking sector, to hear cases of rip-offs and financial misconduct direct from the victims.
And Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull dodged questions about speculation of an imminent cabinet reshuffle.
With just two more sitting days scheduled before the long summer break, parliament has resorted to farcical classroom antics, with the government leading the descent.
The lower house public galleries were filled with visiting school children during Question Time, but that didn’t stop Mr Joyce from delivering his planned attack on union leaders, supposedly quoting some saying “effing” and “sucking off dogs”, to which the Speaker sat him and told him he had “strayed beyond what’s acceptable”.
— Joel Fitzgibbon (@fitzhunter) November 29, 2016
When Mr Bandt asked Mr Frydenberg about the government’s plan to transition away from coal, the minister mockingly apologised to the Greens deputy leader for having accused him of sipping lattes while putting his sandals up on a table in Brunswick.
“I take this opportunity to apologise to the member for Melbourne,” he said.
“Because I found out he’s not a latte man, he’s a mocha man.”
Cringes all round, but not that Mr Frydenberg noticed as he continued his personal attack.
“And they weren’t sandals, they were thinking man’s sandals – you put your Birkenstocks up on the table,” he said in reference to the popular footwear.
Mr Bandt subsequently said Mr Frydenberg had no plan and no answer so was happy to “go the questioner”.
“For this government, ‘plan’ is just another four-letter word,” he said.
Labor got cheeky and asked the Prime Minister if he would express the same kind of confidence in Senator Brandis as he did in former ministers Mal Brough, Jamie Briggs and Stuart Robert – all of whom received the PM’s support in the final sitting week last year before being subsequently dumped from his frontbench over the break.
“Of course I do,” Mr Turnbull replied.
At an earlier press conference, the Prime Minister refused to rule out a ministry reshuffle either before or after Christmas – amid speculation first revealed by The New Daily that he is considering tweaking his frontbench.
Instead, he praised his government’s achievements and ended the conference when questions about a reshuffle continued.
Senator Brandis’ future continues to dominate the political debate, with the Senate demanding answers over whether he instructed then solicitor-general Justin Gleeson not to pursue a political argument in the High Court – which would have deprived the federal government $300 million, but make it easier for the WA government to jump Bell’s creditors’ queue to claim $1 billion.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said Senator Brandis could not get away with trying to blame everything on former treasurer Joe Hockey, who was initially involved in correspondence over the issue.
“There is a reason why Senator Brandis is failing to disclose the facts of this matter,” he said.
“It is because he is up to his neck in this scandal, as are several other senior members of this government
“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull may not care to find out the truth about a dirty deal which could have denied the Commonwealth $300 million which it was owed. Labor does.
“If Senator Brandis is still in parliament by the end of this week, Labor expects him to voluntarily appear in front of this committee.”