Federal Politics


Whip-er snapper concocts a stunt

A funny thing happened in the Assembly on Wednesday night. Similar things might happen a lot in the next four years.

The Canberra Liberals were very unhappy after the Labor-Greens government used its numbers to abolish, for now, late sittings on Wednesday, private members day.

So young Alistair Coe, the Liberals' eager new whip - surely to be soon dubbed the party's whip-er-snapper - decided to take advantage of the absence from the chamber of Shane Rattenbury and Simon Corbell and use the evened-up numbers to block the government's move to adjourn.

Katy Gallagher's people voted to pack up for the night but a seven-seven deadlock meant the motion was negated.

Liberal Vicki Dunne, in the Speaker's chair, suggested a bite to eat. Labor blocked that one.

So there they all were; no adjournment, no dinner break and nobody backing down. In the end Rattenbury had to be summoned back from his federal party's Christmas drinks across the creek at parly house.


He was not happy, and told the grinning Coe that he would remember the stunt.

So, two statements of intent right there. The Liberals making it clear they intend to mess with the government's shit every chance they get, Rattenbury signalling he would seek payback for the ruination of a perfectly pleasant evening.

''It's going to be a fun Assembly,'' a senior figure in the building remarked the next day.

Something else on Wednesday night that may or may not be a statement of intent: Zed Seselja chowing down with federal Liberal players at La Dolce Vita in Kingston with not a single other Canberra Liberals figure in sight.

Could be a sign there that Seselja intends to make the Vita of incumbent ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries anything but Dolce in the early months of 2013.

There was an official statement of intent this week from Chief Minister Katy Gallagher; something about taking a ''transformational approach'' to something or other and ''building a smart city''and ''being a regional capital'' and ''effective and efficient government'' and maybe something else, we think.

Nobody listened.

But Dunne, the newly appointed Speaker was also sending out explicit signals of intent, letting ministers know that they could not look to the umpire to save them from heckling of the six angry men on the opposition benches during question time.

The government, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher most of all, found it tough going and Labor's parliamentary tactics have already started to evolve to cope with the new regime, with manager of government business Simon Corbell constantly on his feet trying to disrupt those opposite with a barrage of points of order.

No, it's not edifying.

Most ministers copped a lecture or two this week from Dunne on how they should behave and the grumbling has already begun about the impartiality with speculation that Vicki may have decided she's in the chair for a good time, not for a long time.

Rattenbury, the man on whom so much hinges including the Speaker's job, got his first taste as a minister this week of the Canberra Liberals' wall of sound.

And he didn't like it.

But if he is forming an intent about what to do about it, he's not yet sending signals.