Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has been accused of an “unhinged attack” after he shouted abuse at a Labor frontbencher during question time.
There were ugly scenes in Parliament on Wednesday as Mr McCormack and Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon hurled insults over the despatch box before the Speaker urged both men to calm down.
The blow-up unfolded after Mr Fitzgibbon interjected during the Deputy Prime Minister’s answer to a question about the Morrison government’s efforts on behalf of farmers doing it tough.
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“There are many communities in his Queensland electorate, presently beset by drought… sports fields, fields of dreams have turned into dust bowls,” he said.
“People are encountering drought and doing it tough. Regional communities across Australia and especially Queensland have endured plenty in recent times, fires, presently burning, flooding, which caused such damage in the north in February, as we go through these tough times.”
At that point, Mr Fitzgibbon interjected, “but why don’t you do something” – prompting an angry outburst from the Nationals leader.
“I don’t know why you’re yelling. The Member for Hunter. It’s time you came to the table and just behaved yourself occasionally,” he said.
“There are country people doing it tough. You won’t ever stop yelling out. You should behave yourself. You are a disgrace. You know you are!”
At that point, the Speaker Tony Smith sat the Deputy Prime Minister down, ordering him to resume his seat as his microphone was turned off.
“Resume your seat,” the Speaker said.
“I haven’t called you yet. I am allowing you both to calm down for a second.”
Mr Fitzgibbon can be heard responding, “I’m calm,” before making a point of order.
“How is the Deputy Prime Minister’s unhinged attack on me relevant to the question asked. The farmers just want him to do something,” he said.
“The Deputy Prime Minister will cease interjecting. The Member for Hunter is warned, that was an abuse to the point of order.
“I will make an obvious point to the Member for Hunter and others, if you don’t want to goad ministers into those sort of statements, don’t interject,” the Speaker told the pair.