Although the independents have now kept the nation waiting for 17 infuriating days, we’ve now seen the method behind their media appearances. By constantly projecting indecision, they’ve been able to convince both sides that they’re in with a chance. And that, not the pretence of a new atmosphere of amity that saw Anthony Albanese and Chris Pyne hugging yesterday, is why both parties have been willing to sign up for genuine Parliamentary reform.
But while an independent speaker and limits on questions and answers are a good start, and the acknowledgement of country is a long-overdue piece of symbolism, they simply haven’t gone far enough. Parliament should be the scene of genuine public debate, with viewers enthusiastically tuning in during prime time, not just when insomnia forces us to watch Order In The House.
And what better model for a top-rating televised contest than cricket? It’s just like Parliament – an intense, spiteful contest conducted with a veneer of faux English politeness. Kerry Packer transformed cricket into a superb TV sport, and it’s time we took the same approach to our nation’s second most-important contest.
Billy Bowden as Speaker: The independents want an impartial umpire – but rather than forcing one MP to step aside from their party, why not do what cricket does and simply import an impartial specialist from overseas? Any member of the international panel would be fine, but I’ve suggested Billy Bowden because his hand gestures while ruling motions out of order would no doubt be hilarious.
No-balling for Dorothy Dixers: Despite making many improvements, the independents have allowed the Parliament’s most heinous institution to survive. I’d like to see the Speaker raise an arm as soon as a Government backbencher says “Would the Minister please inform the house…”, forcing the MP to go back and begin again. If they persist, they should be taken off the field, just as they would in cricket if they persisted in chucking.
Commentary by Richie Benaud: A few choice words from the master would add the gravitas that’s so often lacking in Parliamentary proceedings. His wry comments would enliven the duller moments, and a diligent MP could receive no finer plaudit than Richie saying “Marvellous point of order, that.”
Mexican waves in the boring bits: Now, Parliament can’t always be exciting – sometimes, you need extensive debate on technicalities. And that’s when, like at the cricket, you need someone on the backbench to start a Mexican wave. Batting around giant inflatable balls would also be acceptable, and so would the construction of beer snakes. I can’t endorse streaking in the House, especially by Philip Ruddock.
Theme songs: As in Twenty20, and used by the parties at their campaign launches, every MP should be played on with an appropriate tune. Julia Gillard’s could be welcomed with ‘Lady In Red’ by Chris De Burgh, and Tony Abbott would be appropriately introduced with Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’. Barnesy’s ‘Working Class Man’ could be used before Malcolm Turnbull’s tales of hardship growing up on the mean streets of Vaucluse, while Peter Garrett could begin his speeches with whichever Midnight Oil lyrics he was about to sell short.
Pyjamas for late sessions: There are times when Parliament has to meet late into the night to debate some urgent legislation. It’d be much more entertaining if the House adopted Kerry Packer’s idea from World Series Cricket, and introduced team PJs to add a touch of colour for weary viewers. They should also have each member’s nickname printed on the back, as in Twenty20 – why insist on calling Anthony Albanese the Member for Grayndler when even his kids no doubt call him Albo?
Super slo-mo: There are some moments in Parliament that would really benefit from that advanced camera technology. I would have loved to see that timeless footage of Kevin Rudd eating his own earwax in extreme slow motion.
The giant drinks bottle: Just like cricket, Parliament regularly features recesses, so why not make them more interesting for viewers with a giant bottle driving into the chamber? Given some MPs’ track records, though, it should probably be non-alcoholic.
Better graphs: With one of cricket’s famous wagon-wheel graphics, we’d be able to see at a glance which of Julia Gillard’s policies have veered to the left, which have been nudged to the right, and which have been allowed to go through to the keeper.
Classier merchandise: Call me a political tragic, but I’d really like to purchase a framed photo of the great moments in the chamber, like when Kevin Rudd fronted up to sit on the backbench during Julia Gillard’s first Question Time and tried to choke back the tears. Individually signed by both leaders, it would be a wonderful memento of what still might be Julia Gillard’s only Question Time as Prime Minister.