go to content

The Senate Literally Had Nothing To Do, So Senators Talked About Their Favourite TV Shows

It's a parliament about nothing.

Posted on

It's only the third business day of the 45th Parliament, but government senators were forced to waste time talking about a range of topics from TV shows to chia seeds after running out of business to debate.

.@workmanalice leg has to pass the HoR for the Senate to deal with it. Waiting for Labor to stop the games in the HoR on leg they agree with

"In government, you can get things done," declared cabinet secretary Arthur Sinodinos. But, ironically, he was speaking to an empty Senate chamber during a four-hour filibuster.

The two bills slated for upper house debate on Monday morning were stuck in the lower house, leaving the government with nothing on the agenda.

So to avoid Labor, the Greens, or crossbenchers from raising business and stealing attention and time from the government's agenda, Coalition politicians stood up one by one to stall the chamber until Question Time at 2pm.

Politicians were given almost no notice that they would have to speak for 20 minutes on topics of their choosing, leading to some bizarre dissertations on all sorts of things.

Labor senator Doug Cameron protested following one speech, saying it was "absolutely waffle".

Highlights included Queenslander James McGrath speaking about his love for the Australian flag, before talking enthusiastically about his favourite TV show, Last Night Of The Proms.

"It was a fantastic spectacle" - @JamesMcGrathLNP filibusters about his favourite tv show 'Last Night At The Proms'.

McGrath went on to detail the Liberals' failed campaign to retain the Townsville seat of Herbert at the last election, and repeated his favourite jokes told by former MP Ewen Jones.

Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie declared the best thing about the election was her party winning the Victorian lower house seat of Murray from the Liberals, but forgot the name of the candidate for McEwen.

"In the seat of McEwen we ran Andrew...Andrew, Andrew, Andrew...It will come to me," she said.

"He runs a stock feed store in, sorry madam deputy president, in a place starting with 'T' just down from Yea and Seymour."

McKenzie also zinged her colleague Nigel Scullion saying, "He's a deep thinker... you wouldn't think it, but he actually is".

Newly elected Victorian Liberal Jane Hume tried to make her speech stretch across her allotted 20 minutes by speaking painfully slowly.

Canberra senator Zed Seselja spoke about the ACT election, due in five weeks.

Minister for resources and northern Australia Matt Canavan spoke about chia seeds. Because why not.

West Australian Linda Reynolds used her time to call for reform of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells spoke about her love of Haigh's chocolate.

The exemption to the filibusters was defence minister Marise Payne, who spoke solemnly about troops in the Middle East and updated the senate about the "close ties" between Australia and the Iraq and Afghan security forces.

The senate filibuster is the government's second tactical setback, after losing three votes in the House of Representatives two weeks ago when some government MPs left early.

Stefan Postles / Getty Images

Labor Senator Penny Wong called the speeches a "desperate attempt" to hide the Coalition's "inability to govern". She described the government as "so divided it's paralysed".

"Senators, the media and the Australian people are asking where is this terminal government’s agenda? Where is that plan for jobs and growth?" she said.

"What’s the Latin for ‘I did nothing but stick around’? I’m sure Malcolm Turnbull would know."

Manager of government business in the Senate, Mitch Fifield, blamed Labor for playing "games", and wasting time by introducing its private member's bill on marriage equality.

"Labor playing games in the House is petty and undergraduate," he said.

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at alice.workman@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.