Will they ever learn?

Will they ever learn? After watching the first Question Time of the most recent sitting of the House of Representatives, the only plausible answer to that question is a resounding NO.

On April 2, parliament resumed after a brief recess to enable the Budget for the next year to be tabled, a necessary prelude to the PM calling an election.

It began with motions of condolence before getting down to the real business of parliament, the unseemly brawling that characterises our federal politics day after distressing day.

It was heartening though to experience what our politicians are capable of being. Their condolence speeches were well-written and sincerely and stylishly delivered by the PM and the Opposition Leader. They acknowledged the tragedy of the Christchurch massacre, the death of Dr John Herron, surgeon and longtime Liberal Senator, whose humanitarian work in war-ravaged Rwanda is legend, and the death of Les Carlyon, accomplished war historian and sports commentator. It was a professional exhibition of good manners, courtesy and collaboration across the aisle. It was warming, albeit surprising to see our politicians acting with mutual consideration, each acknowledging the fine words of the other. As a long time detractor of the political class, I asked myself why could it not be like this always. Could courtesy become the norm?

Faint hope.

No sooner had the pleasantries finished and the condolence motions formally referred to the Federation Chamber for further consideration, than Chris Bowen asked the first of the ‘Questions without Notice’. Regrettably, it was an angry question aggressively directed to PM Morrison. Entirely predictably, it evoked the ill-tempered, archetypical response from the always-ready-to-scrap Morrison. Shouting from lips quivering with rage, he assailed his opponents with a torrent of angry words. Good manners were abandoned. The brawling resumed. It will continue unabated until the House assembles again after the election.

Why do politicians behave this way? We know that aggressive behaviour is not confined to males. Listen on Fridays to Jon Faine’s The Wrap on ABC Melbourne Radio, a weekly summation of federal politics. There you will hear his panel of women screeching at one another. Reflect on Michaelia Cash's raucous rant during Senate Estimates when she snarled at accusations of improper actions in her department and threatened retribution, and again recently when, addressing a cluster of tradies after Labor announced its electric car policy, she thunderously declared: 'Labor is coming after your utes', forcing you to drive electric vehicles.

Although we know that aggressiveness is not restricted to males, even male chauvinists would concede though that males have longstanding form on this sort of behaviour. Is there an explanation? Having roundly criticised the behaviour of senior politicians during that appalling episode of Question Time, I ask myself: 'Why is it so?' Coincidentally, as I was writing this piece, there was an episode of the ABC’s The Drum titled ’Men’s Special’ hosted by John Barron, which featured a panel of experts who discussed the behaviour of men in great detail. The insights they provided revealed the thought processes of a variety of males, young and old alike: their fears, their apprehensions, their hopes, and their ambitions. Although the programme runs for an hour, it is well worth a view. It gives more insight than I ever could into why men behave the way they often do.

So I conclude this short piece with that episode from the ABC’s The Drum ’Men’s Special’. It speaks for itself, illustrating as it does the violent behaviour that men are capable of displaying. I rest my case. Click here then play the Men's Special episode, which appears at the top of the page. You may not wish to play the whole of it; the first few minutes will give you the gist of it.

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