Last night’s #QandA was apparently about Magna Carta, but the highlight was the stoush between the rather unlovable Bronwyn Bishop (left) and Wonderwoman Gillian Triggs (right).
Neil McMahon captures the bout beautifully in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.
In her parliamentary role, Speaker Bishop has various weapons at her disposal, the most popular being section 94A, which allows a polite form of public flogging by way of a raised eyebrow and an ejector seat. By now, opposition MPs are so familiar with the gentle thwack and thump of Bishop-rian disapproval that she holds the all-time record for hurling disobedient subjects into her personal moat with an alacrity of which King John himself would have been proud.
Live television comes with no such rules and opportunities and one could sense the frustration in Bishop’s face as impertinence piled upon insult to the point where you feared she might call in the military. But never fear – the Speaker had not come ill-prepared. In her armoury she has, among other things, an eye-roll that could be classified as nuclear and a sigh so laden with sorrow at the murderous activity that follows you can be left with the feeling she really believes she is doing it for the victim’s own good…
It was all too robust for the liking of Speaker Bishop, whose declarations of affection for the democratic process were tempered by her repeatedly stated opinion that Gillian Triggs was exercising her rights to free speech with an enthusiasm that rendered her position untenable…
“Sometimes it can overstep the mark, too. There is a time, and I think Gillian recognises it, that as a statutory officer you have to decide whether you’re a statutory officer, fulfilling that role with security of tenure, or whether you wish to say, ‘I want to be part of the political debate’ and stand for office and run to become part of that political process.”
Translation: suck it up or get out. Bishop returned to the theme again later, a remarkable exercise in public denigration that prompted another intervention from Pearson. In a discussion over the treatment of child asylum seekers, he leaned to broad support of government policy, but added: “I just regret the attacks on Gillian have been so vicious.”
Vicious was the word that sprung to mind, but Bishop – robbed of her speaker robes and rulings and armed only with words – was not going quietly. If only we could see, her every sigh and eye-roll seemed to implore, that she had only our best interests at heart.
For her part, Triggs remained unflappable – as unflappable in her way as was Bishop in hers.
“I love this country. I trust the Australian people,” the Speaker declared at the end.
But if the Q&A audience reaction to Gillian Triggs was any guide, the love is running one way – and it’s not in the direction of the Bishop bully pulpit. At one point, the show stopped for a sustained round of cheering and applause for Triggs’s calm reclaiming of both her position and her dignity.
Ms Bishop said Professor Triggs should consider running for office.
“You have to make the decision, are you a statutory officer, carrying out an obligation with the protection of that office, or do you wish to be a political participant?” she said.
“If you do wish to be a political participant then you have to no longer be a statutory officer and perhaps stand for office.”
Professor Triggs told the program it was her job to be critical of the Government.
“Were I to receive frequent praise and commendation from the Government I think the Australian people would have a good reason to ask for my resignation,” she said.
“Many of our findings and recommendations are interpreted in political ways and I’m afraid in the human rights context, it’s very hard not to be perceived to be political.”
She said the Commission always planned to hold its inquiry in 2014 and also investigated Labor’s policies in government.
A comprehensive own goal for Bronwyn Bishop.
Tonight we can examine older blood stains on the floor of Parliament House in Part 2 of The Killing Season. We already have a good idea what to expect:
Julia Gillard has admitted she gave Kevin Rudd “false hope” that he would remain prime minister, the night she deposed him as Labor leader.
The pair discussed his leadership one evening in 2010, but later that night Ms Gillard moved to oust him when it became clear she had enough support to replace him.
“I do recall a discussion about Kevin having more time,” Ms Gillard said in an interview for the ABC documentary The Killing Season.
“I participated in that discussion and gave Kevin some false hope,” she said…
I’ll be watching. The series is very well done, as I said after Episode 1 last week.
On Thursday a special #QandA: Panellists: Professor Dennis Altman, Gay rights activist and author; Paul Capsis, Entertainer; Julie McCrossin, Broadcaster and journalist; Fred Nile, Conservative Morals Campaigner; Julia Doulman, Transgender Woman; and Katherine Hudson, Founder, Wear it Purple.
Julie McCrossin I know from South Sydney. Looking forward to what she has to say.
The #QandA follows this:
Between a Frock and a Hard Place, the story behind The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, will premiere on ABC-TV on Thursday June 18 at 8.30pm.
It’s also about how a low-budget Australian film about three ‘cocks-in-frocks’ changed the course of history and loudly and proudly brought a celebration of gay culture to the world that continues to resonate twenty years later.
Director Stephan Elliott said, “As the old girl hit her 20th year, a bunch of filmmakers came ‘a knocking, begging me to spill the beans on the true adventures of bus Priscilla. All the dirt, goss, and everything and anything that slipped through the fishnets during the 1993 shoot and the marathon global release post Cannes 1994.”
The program includes interviews with key players: Elliott; actors Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp; executive producer Rebel Penfold Russell; producer Al Clark; costume designer Tim Chappel; drag artists; activists; and members of the gay community.
It’s a Jungleboys production in association with ABC-TV, Screen Australia, Screen NSW and Bombora Films and Music Co. The writer-directors are Paul Clarke and Alex Barry; producer Jo-anne McGowan; executive producer Jason Burrows.