It is usually Question Time in the House of Representatives which provides the most theatrics in the federal parliament. However, Senate Estimates hearings are now giving Question Time a run for its money. Senate Estimates is where Senators can question Government Ministers who are Senators and senior public servants about their conduct.
Often Opposition and Crossbencher Senators aim to get gotcha moments from those who come before their committees by bringing up embarrassing conduct which they often have a hard time justifying. Last year the Department of Parliamentary Services was embarrassed by a contractor at Parliament House losing a 1000 page security manual. A Parliamentary security officer was revealed to have dealt with a white powder package incident at Parliament House by tasting the powder, this week we learned that security camera vision of the incident has disappeared.
The exchanges between Senators have become heated recently including Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash’s brain snap under intense questioning from Labor Senator Doug Cameron threatened to name every woman in Bill Shorten’s office she had heard rumours about. Then responding to an ideological jibe from Liberal Senator James Paterson Labor Senator Kim Carr joked that he was part of the Hitler Youth which Paterson took exception too.
Some can rightly argue that given this is what transpires in Estimates hearings it is not the best use of our Senators’ time. But it does give us in the media plenty of political theatre to enjoy. Today’s highlight was Finance Minister Mathias Cormann appearance before the Senate’s Finance and Public Administration Legislative Committee.
He was being questioned by Labor Senate leader Penny Wong over the government’s Senate negotiations with One Nation over getting the entirety of its company tax cuts package through the Senate. This was on the same day One Nation leader Pauline Hanson stated she would no longer be negotiating with the government to pass the company tax cuts.
Wong in the hearing decided to read out One Nation’s list of demands during the negotiation process. Clearly bored with this exercise Cormann decided he would troll Wong by interjecting “I know you like channelling senator Hanson”. This caused Wong to snap back “Actually that’s a little offensive. She thinks people like me were swamping Australia, actually.”
Wong demanded he withdraw the remark, Cormann said he did not intend to cause offence but said Wong was engaging in “confected outrage”. This caused Wong to be even more triggered “Someone Asian, ‘You’re channelling Pauline Hanson?’ How dare you – IT IS NOT CONFECTED!!”
This is actually the first time Wong has played the Asian card, she has instead played the lesbian card for most of her political career. We doubt Wong a seasoned political veteran was actually offended but making a government minister appear insensitive to Asians is fodder for her leftist comrades.
One, of course, can hardly accuse Cormann of being xenophobic given he himself is an immigrant to this country from Belgium, who couldn’t speak English when he arrived and is constantly mocked for his Belgium-German accent. Wong should probably get back to being concerned about issues of substance rather than the absurd tactic of playing the victim.