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Federal Politics

The eyes have it in death-stare duel

Political Opinion Federal Politics
Judith Ireland

Question Time

Judith Ireland is a breaking news reporter.
Follow her on Twitter @CanberraCamper

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Anna Burke warns in question time: "The death stare will apply."

Deputy Speaker Anna Burke warns MPs in question time: "The death stare will apply." Photo: Penny Bradfield

Anna Burke is only three days into the question time gig but the Deputy Speaker has already shown she ain’t afraid of anyone or anything.

Not even Julie Bishop’s atomic death stare.

As MPs trickled in for the last question time of the week, it was evident that people were in a rambunctious mood. Thursday afternoons in a budget week will do that to a politician.

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop glares at the Deputy Speaker Anna Burke during a suspension of standing orders  at Parliament House Canberra on May 2012. Photo: Andrew Meares

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop shows Deputy Speaker Anna Burke how it's done. Photo: Andrew Meares

Indeed, it took less than 30 seconds for Julia Gillard to mention the words ‘‘Peter Costello’’ in a reply that was supposed to be about her government’s surplus.

The Coalition’s corresponding guffaw-roar (how dare you mention the former treasurer’s name!) was decibel-heavy, but Burke was soon more concerned about the general level of chatter in the House.

‘‘Can I ask people to not continue with ambient conversations,’’ Burke asked at the end of the first question. ‘‘It’s very disrespectful.’’

Deputy Speaker Anna Burke reminds Christopher Pyne that the rules apply to both sides.

Deputy Speaker Anna Burke reminds Christopher Pyne that the rules apply to both sides. Photo: Penny Bradfield

Jenny Macklin got a similar opposition reaction when she had a dig at the Coalition’s stance against the Schoolkids Bonus, which had just passed the Senate.

‘‘Of course, no thanks to anyone opposite,’’ Macklin exclaimed.

The only thing that irritated the opposition more was the Families Minister’s mention of Clive Palmer (that big chesnut), earning Joe Hockey a tidy little warning from Burke.

As the government tried to keep question time focused on how good its budget was and how substandard the Coalition’s budget reply is sure to be tonight, the opposition had other plans.

This afternoon, they were much exercised about reports that the NSW Labor Party had been paying Craig Thomson’s legal expenses. Bishop asked Gillard whether the payment of Mr Thomson’s legal fees was raised with her by the member for Dobell on April 28.

‘‘No, it was not,’’ came the Prime Minister’s unequivocal reply.

But that didn’t stop the Thomson-related inquisition.

A few questions down the line, Coalition frontbencher Michael Keenan asked if Gillard could guarantee ‘‘that no member of her staff has held discussions or meetings with NSW Labor Party officials in relation to the arrangement between the member for Dobell and the NSW Labor Party to pay his legal fees and provide him with loans’’.

Anthony Albanese leapt up to try to get the question disallowed. Burke initially sided with Albo but then changed her mind.

‘‘My apologies, I did not hear the word staff,’’ she said, blaming the hullabaloo aka ‘‘ambient conversation’’.

Then, as the noise levels - and government protests - continued, Burke brought in the big guns. ‘‘It is a very serious question and the death stare will apply,’’ she informed the House.

But Burke was not relying solely on her peepers to keep MPs in order. She used logic too. As she explained to Christopher Pyne - when he protested at an interjection from Albo - the rules apply to both sides.

‘‘The Leader of the House is entitled, as you are, to take points of order,’’ Burke said.

The new question time umpire was not averse to some brute force too.

As the Coalition moved a motion to suspend standing orders, on what the NSW Labor Party was up to around Thomson, things got predictably huffy.

Albo called Bishop a ‘‘fool’’ (he was forced to withdraw) and the Coalition benches made loud and obvious use of the term ‘‘goose’’. As Albo was wandering from the script - making reference to a 1978 newspaper article - Bishop got up to protest. And then wouldn’t sit down.

‘‘The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume her seat or she will leave the chamber,’’ Burke boomed.

Bishop returned fire with one of her famous greasies. It seemed to go on forever. But, ultimately, it was no use and Bishop was forced back to her seat, still in glower mode.

In Burke’s book, only her own death stares apply.

As the Deputy Speaker later said: ‘‘I’m sick of the armchair experts assisting along the way.’’

The Scorecard:

Time it took for Julia Gillard to mention Peter Costello: Less than 30 seconds
Time it took for Anthony Albanese to mention James Ashby: 34 minutes
Number of MPs kicked out: 1
Result of the move to suspend standing orders: Ayes (69), nos (71)
Number of budget-y questions: 9
Number of Craig Thomson-y questions: 6

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  • I have met Julie Bishop face to face. Forget the politics, for a woman (me) Bishop has the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. I have not seen the stare, but I can imagine it.

    hunter NSW
    Date and time
    May 10, 2012, 5:34PM
    • Greeeaat reason to admire somone. Just greeaat.

      The Redman
      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 6:07PM
    • Was that after she missed the bouquet?
      Forever the bridesmaid.

      a country gal
      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 8:07PM
    • You mean those heavily mascared eyes? You have got to be joking!

      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 8:53PM
    • I met Ms Bishop once too and I agree with you annie. I had been an alp man all my life, but all the politics went out the window, when she smiled and chatted. Hhmmm I have been disillusioned with the alp for some time now. I have been thinking it is the politics. Maybe it was Julie's eyes....

      Near Tokyo
      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 11:48PM
    • Doesn't matter. Forget the eyes, it's the killer nails! Julie Isabel Bishop still holds the deserved title of the 'Wicked Witch of the West', because she honestly thinks she's actually the cat's pyjamas. Would probably make a top James Bond movie villain, IMO.
      Until she's out of the Federal Parliament for good, I'll never ever vote Liberal.

      Anywhere but Curtin
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 12:58AM
    • Gee, thats a good reason to vote for her!

      You know wot I'm sayin'?
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 5:58AM
  • Speaker of the House? More like child minder because that's how they behave.

    Date and time
    May 10, 2012, 5:56PM
  • If the Slipper and Thompson affair are unedifying for the Parlimament, the LNP have turned the insitution into a farce. The standard of there questions barely rises above the level of the school yard. They cannot ask questions on the economy, because the economy is fine. They cannot ask questions on employment, or inflation, or bank rates, because they know what the answer is going to be. The best figures in years. As their pathetic motions to suspend approach sixty, and now occur on a daily basis, I feel sure that the electorate will see through the propaganda of the right wing media, see the LNP for the stagnant, negative, hateful and retrograde Party that it is and vote accordingly.

    The Redman
    Date and time
    May 10, 2012, 6:12PM
    • Wish I could be sure that there are enough sensible & clear thinking voters out there that can see through the L&NP's total lack of economic credibility & the relentless barrage of negativity from so much of the media.

      Johnny B Bad
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 1:17AM

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