Blood, Brawls, Boats: Our Parliament Is Slowly Imploding
The week started with a historic loss. It ended with a disgusting admission from a bumbling senator.
In between, we had government ministers either misrepresenting or misunderstanding vital legislation, the reopening of an infamous detention centre, a physical clash, and possibly the longest Question Time in history thanks to some unedifying delay tactics.
The 45th parliament is limping to the finish line of the May election, and things seem to be getting more broken by the day.
Looking at things on Tuesday, it would have been easy to think that the parliament couldn't get more chaotic than when the government lost a significant vote on the floor of the House of Representatives for the first time in nearly 80 years.
Political barbs were thrown in all directions, as the government accused Labor and the crossbench of compromising national security, while they, in turn, accused the government of compromising basic decency toward refugees. The verbal fight got about as nasty as things get in this modern political age.
But then a little over 24 hours later, parliament was whipped into a frenzy as it was revealed that a physical altercation had erupted between senator Brian Burston and Pauline Hanson's staffer James Ashby, an outrageous escalation of tensions after tit-for-tat allegations of sexual harassment came to light.
The parliament swirled with talk of insults, shoves, cut hands and blood-smeared doors.
Burston's office denied sexual harassment allegations against him because the NSW senator "never says fuck" -- then, farcically, just minutes later the good senator reportedly said "fuck you” to a News Corp journalist seeking comment on the Ashby altercation.
Burston denied any involvement in the blood that was mysteriously found smeared on Hanson's office door soon after the confrontation. But on Thursday in the Senate, the United Australia Party man admitted it was him -- but that, somehow, he didn't remember doing it.
"While I do not recall the incident of blood on the door, I now have come to the conclusion it was myself, and I sincerely apologise for that action," Burston said, raising questions over how someone could simply forget smearing their own blood on the workplace of a bitter political rival.
Amidst the dramatic scenes caught on video, it was almost easy to overlook that there was actually some lawmaking going on this week in the parliament -- or, at least, some attempted lawmaking.
Another team-up of Greens, Labor and crossbenchers in the Senate saw a motion approved calling for an urgent Royal Commission into the violence, abuse and neglect of disabled people.
The government had previously resisted the push, but after the Senate approved the call on Thursday, it was set to be debated in the House of Representatives, where it would potentially pass.
That is until the government pulled out another delay tactic to stave off a second loss in a week.
The daily Question Time in the House, which starts at 2pm and usually runs for little over an hour, was extended... and extended... and extended.
Government backbenchers kept firing 'Dorothy Dixer' softball questions at ministers, until -- at a bum-numbing 150 minutes -- we crawled to 4.30pm when the House began to adjourn.
Earlier, parliament had been affected for a different reason, with a co-ordinated protest against climate change seeing a dozen people ejected from the public gallery.
Greens senator Jordon Steele-John, who led the push in the Senate, made his way to the House and began heckling government MPs as the delaying tactic became clear.
Labor sources said they believed it was the longest Question Time in the history of the Federation.
It wasn't pretty, but knowledge of the parliament guidelines meant the government avoided a second embarrassing loss within two days.
"The Government is right now desperately running down the clock so that there is not enough time for the House to vote on the Senate’s message," Labor leader Bill Shorten roared in a speech, as the opposition tried unsuccessfully to speed things up.
"The Government is doing all it can to avoid a second loss on the floor of Parliament in just one week."
The Coalition may merely have staved off the inevitable, however, with parliament back in session on Monday, and the push for the Royal Commission unlikely to be simply forgotten.
So we find ourselves at the end of just the first week back in parliament for 2019, the first sitting week of an election year.
We've had blood, brawls, a staffer banned from the building, a historic loss for the government, ministers raising fears that appear unfounded, and a looming Royal Commission.
Let's see what Monday brings.