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Yelling, name calling, finger pointing and dummy spits – anyone would have been forgiven for thinking toddlers had taken over Bendigo Town Hall yesterday, but the historic building was actually hosting Victoria’s upper house politicians.
Members of the Legislative Council descended on Bendigo for the regional parliament sitting, which aims to bring politics to country areas.
The day started pleasantly enough. Legislative Council members posed for pictures with local dignitaries before being welcomed with a performance from Bendigo’s Chinese dragon dancers.
It was after the national anthem (both verses), performed beautifully by the Bendigo Youth Choir, that the members started getting rowdy.
During “Members’ Statements” each politician tried valiantly to reference Bendigo, from the gaol theatre project and cuts to TAFE, to upgrades at Golden Square Primary School and rail link improvements.
The winner was one member of the Coalition who claimed he had met his wife in Bendigo; this was met with an unnatural amount of cooing and wolf-whistling from middle-aged men and women.
But it was Question Time that really got their blood up. Labor’s policies were compared by one heckler to Western Australia’s mineral emblem, an “extinct and fossilised creature”.
At times you could not hear a word being said so many people were talking or yelling at once.
Much like a teacher of misbehaving children, it was up to poor Legislative Council president Bruce Atkinson to quell the taunts and catcalls coming from both sides.
When Health Minister David Davis became particularly red-faced and upset, facing an attack from the opposition over the new Bendigo Hospital, he was censured strongly by Mr Atkinson.
“But, I was provoked,” Mr Davis complained. The rest of the house was waiting for him to follow up with, “he started it”.
Like any school room there was the class clown, filled more than ably by Labor MP Shaun Leane who landed a few zingers that had actual school children smirking in the gallery.
If some of the parliamentary pomp and ceremony was boring for these youngsters, they were clearly amused whenever arguments became heated.
You know your behaviour is becoming ridiculous when 14-year-olds are shaking their head in amazement.