Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Speaker Tony Smith have squared off in a particularly rowdy question time, with MPs from both sides of politics booted from the chamber.
“I’d just say to the Prime Minister – he needs to be relevant to the question. He’s had a preamble. He doesn’t get a closing statement. He’s had the preamble,” a clearly frustrated Mr Smith said in one exchange in federal parliament on Tuesday.
“I don’t care whether you’re happy or not. You need to return to the question.”
The confrontation came as Mr Morrison defended his government’s handling of quarantine amid questions about Australia’s coronavirus vaccination program and this week’s Melbourne outbreak of the virus.
“Half a billion dollars [has been] invested in the national resilience facility for quarantine in the Northern Territory,” Mr Morrison said.
“That was the recommendation of the Halton review that went to national cabinet, commissioned by national cabinet, to supplement the support that has been provided in the exercise of public health orders at a state level, as agreed by the national cabinet, to fight this pandemic.”
Question time is renowned for being a robust environment, but Wednesday’s edition was particularly bruising – for both the government and the opposition. Mr Smith also took issue with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, accusing him in scripting insults to Labor MPs …
“I’ve asked the Treasurer to stick to alternative policies. If he wants to give a general character assessment of those opposite, he’ll need to find another time to do it throughout the parliamentary day. No matter how much he’s scripted it beforehand,” he said.
… and with Health Minister Greg Hunt (who also wanted to defend the Coalition’s pandemic response but flouted parliamentary rules in doing so) …
“The Minister for Health will resume his seat. The Minister for Health will resume his seat. I’ve now asked the Minister for Health to resume his seat for the third time. The Minister for Health can resume his seat, full stop,” Mr Smith said.
“I’m not going to be ignored. We’ll go to the next question. I asked him three times to resume his seat.”
MPs from both sides were also booted from the chamber for earning the ire of the Speaker. Among them – in the single hour that makes up question time – were: Nationals MP David Gillespie, Liberal minister Stuart Robert and MP Tim Wilson, and Labor MPs Chris Bowen, Andrew Giles, Josh Burns and Madeleine King.
It is not the first time Mr Morrison and Mr Smith have clashed on the floor of the House. In June 2020, there was a similarly tense exchange as the PM attacked Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese over an ALP branch-stacking scandal.
Mr Morrison was forced to withdraw comments implying that Mr Albanese had overseen the Victorian scandal. He did only after being ordered to do so three times.