Penny Wong has let loose on an “outrageous” senator as tensions boil over in the upper house.
Bundled with extra hours to get through the mountain of legislation before the end of the parliamentary session, Senate Question Time on Tuesday was more unruly than ever.
It was an uphill battle for President Sue Lines to maintain control as the senators shouted at each other down the aisle about anything and everything.
“We’re not at a football game. We’re in Senate Question Time. Shut up,” she yelled.
Of particular interest to the coalition were the comments made by Infrastructure Minister Catherine King, in which she said she was “quite confident” that the $125 billion Victorian suburban rail loop was “fit for investment”.
Senator McKenzie addressed the issue on Tuesday, questioning Penny Wong, the Senate Majority Leader of the government, about the assessment the administration made before coming to that conclusion.
“On what basis of thorough review, other than its own confidence, did the government approve $2.2 billion in budget funding for the suburban rail loop project?” she asked.
“I remember the extent to which we’ve all tried to campaign for state elections in this room and I’m not sure any of us have been very successful,” replied Senator Wong.
But repeated interjections from the coalition senator caused Senator Wong to launch her own counter-offensive.
‘You are in a permanent state of indignation, aren’t you? There is never any light and shadow with this particular senator. We’re always right there, aren’t we,’ she hit back.
“It is interesting to get a question about business cases… from a (former) minister who never demonstrated that during her cabinet term. The public register speaks for itself.”
After handing over a document from colleague Don Farrell, Senator Wong added that the government was “fulfilling an election commitment” but noted that it would be subject to an assessment by Infrastructure Australia.
Meanwhile, Senators McKenzie and David Van angered the president for repeatedly calling Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews “Chairman Dan.”
“I ask that you refer to people by their proper titles,” she said before asking Senator McKenzie to retract her comment.
“You know the rules,” joked Greens senator Lidia Thorpe, who caused a stir earlier this year for her comments in the chamber about the queen, in a moment of self-consciousness.
Halfway through Question Time, the New Zealand parliamentary delegation had had enough, or had something better to do, pack up from the public gallery and move on.
You can almost hear the senators counting down to the end of the meeting calendar.