Julia broke Question Time
She might be the dux of the year, who’s given additional homework for extra credit, but the Deputy Prime Minister deserves detention this week for disrupting the rest of the class.
By being too smart for her own good, and too big for her own boots, Julia Gillard is the one responsible for Question Time this week descending into what’s been widely regarded as a farce.
And if the Opposition have seemed a little hysterical, it’s because Gillard took the ball and refused to give it back.
Don’t miss Punch TV at 12.30pm today on Sky News. The Punch team will be discussing parliament with Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek.
Having sailed through the first 22 months of Government with flying colours, Gillard is now very much under scrutiny as her seemingly endless list of portfolio responsibilities start to catch up with her.
The Building the Education Revolution has started to look like the mother of all pork barrels, her efforts to overturn one of the most unpopular pieces of public policy in a generation, Workchoices, is not going as smoothly as it should, and even changes to Austudy got bungled somewhere along the way.
But Gillard has stood in Question Time like the captain of the debating team - the one with the privilege of defining the question. And by her definition, she doesn’t have to answer to anyone.
If you’re feeling a bit too relaxed this morning and are after greater sense of irritation and frustration click here. It’s a recording of Gillard on AM on Monday, and gives a snappy example of how deft the Deputy PM is at never, ever, answering the question that is put to her.
Now imagine this over and over and over again in parliament as Gillard shuts down Opposition efforts to pull her up on the growing list of examples of how the Building the Education Revolution has turned into an administrative debacle.
Gillard has turned the practice of staying on message into and artform - and this week her message can be boiled down to this: if you question the administration of billions of dollars of taxpayers money on a hastily pulled-together “stimulus” package you hate children.
It’s pretty insulting - and her persistence in running this line is what has driven Question Time right over the edge. Well, that, and the inability of Speaker Harry Jenkins to maintain control.
Yesterday afternoon Malcolm Turnbull moved to censure the Deputy Prime Minister, and made what I thought was a very clear and convincing argument.
In any other government at any other time in our history, a $1.7 billion blow-out in the cost of a major public spending program would be regarded rightly as an unforgivable dereliction of duty by the responsible minister in the conduct of their portfolio, but not this government and certainly not this minister. This Deputy Prime Minister is scornful of all or any scrutiny. She is disdainful of all or any attempts to hold her to account for the spectacular waste and mismanagement occurring under her watch. Rather than answer legitimate questions—51 of them— about the debacle she calls her Primary Schools for the 21st Century, she has come into this House on a daily basis and dismissed all scrutiny of this program as nitpicking and has accused the opposition of having a lack of perspective.
Unfortunately for Turnbull, his one step forward quickly became two steps back when the shadow minister Christopher Pyne got up to second the motion and let his frustration derail him during a pretty hysterical and shrieky performance.
It was all water off a ducks back to Gillard, who dragged the debate back on to her terms quick smart. And there we were, no closer to finding out what she’s doing about the cost blow-out and the ever-growing number of schools reporting funding they don’t need.
Those of us who due to some sort of masochistic tendencies actually watch Question Time have found it at the same time entertaining and incredibly irritating.
(You can see The Punch’s live coverage of yesterday’s QT here. In a funny way the insanity of the discussion on The Punch tracked the insanity in the Chamber)
A lot of commentators have been appalled this week at the behaviour in the House of Reps during Questions. I can’t imagine that most people really care one way or another.
But I am sure they, as much as I, would like to hear Gillard actually tell what the hell is going on.
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