Federal Politics

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Switzerland-style solution reached on Parliament House 'gym wars'

Even by Parliament House's standards it seemed a particularly petty squabble: a dispute between Coalition and Labor politicians over which television channel to watch in the parliamentary gym.

The brouhaha erupted earlier this month when Tasmanian Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison were watching Sky News while exercising. This sparked an intervention from Queensland Labor Senator Claire Moore who asked for the channel to be changed to the ABC.

If ever there was a potent symbol of the hyper-polarisation of Australia's political-media bubble, this was it.

To resolve the dispute, Senator Moore asked for the Department of Parliamentary Services, which runs the gym, to poll politicians on whether the TV should be tuned to Sky or the ABC during sitting weeks.

The debate that followed split largely along party lines with none other than Prime Minister Tony Abbott weighing in with a preference.

"When I go to the gym I normally ask those who are on the treadmills or on the exercise bikes if they would mind if I turn it onto Sky," Mr Abbott, a well-known exercise junkie, told 2GB.


"Labor people tend to prefer the ABC and Coalition supporters tend to prefer Sky."

Now, finally, the finest minds in Canberra have devised a solution to the "gym wars".

Rather than choose one network over another, the gym's managers have opted for a Switzerland-style approach: Sky and the ABC will be shown on alternate days.

A laminated sign informing gym users of the new policy now hangs beneath the television.

Headlined "Sitting Week Television", it reads: "In response to the television viewing option each morning – it has been decided that we will be alternating channels daily between Sky and ABC. "Gym users are informed they can use the small, personalised TV sets affixed to the cardio equipment if they would prefer to watch another channel.

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