‘Australia is laughing stock of the world’
PARLIAMENT has turned "toxic"; the behaviour of MPs is "vicious"; Canberra is "too shouty" and politicians are about as trusted as "bloody used car sales people".
That's not the view of the general public, that's the view of MPs themselves.
Former foreign minister Julie Bishop is one of a number of high profile politicians, including opposition heavyweight Anthony Albanese, to weigh into the debate around the behaviour of our elected representatives. And their views of their colleagues are not pretty.
Bishop said just a single, but big, change could take much of the heat out of the Canberra hothouse.
Sunday's 60 Minutes asked what could be done to fix Parliament, and in particular Question Time - a ritual that is supposed to be an opportunity to quiz the Government but too often falls into a hole of petty point scoring.
Bishop, who chose not to re-contest the Liberal deputy leadership when former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was dumped, said Australia was now a laughing stock internationally.
"I've had many calls from my counterpart foreign ministers who are very politely asking why I am no longer the Foreign Minister and what happened to the Prime Minister," she told Channel 9's political editor Chris Uhlmann.
"There have been some rather unkind comments about Australia being the Italy of the South Pacific and the coup capital of the world."
Zeroing in Question Time, Bishop said the cacophony in the chamber was so loud it had a physical impact on the body and could be "intimidating".
"Question Time probably does more damage to the reputation of the political class than any other issue," she said.
"The ridicule, the insults can throw you off your game but you have to have a dogged focus to get to the end of the question or the answer.
"There's far too much throwing of insults and vicious behaviour, name-calling and the like. And the public see that as no better than schoolchildren. In fact not as well-behaved as schoolchildren."
Nonetheless, Bishop admitted she was as guilty as any other politician of sinking to the occasion of Question Time.
"As a Minister and a Shadow Minister you are judged on your ability to strike a blow against your political opponent."
Bishop said there was a solution - more women. And if that meant set in stone targets for upping the number of female MPs then so be it.
"I have been in a Cabinet where I was the only female and then five female colleagues joined me and they were vastly different discussions and debates.
"Targets are an appropriate mechanism (to lift the number of female parliamentarians); it's not the only mechanism but I have seen it work elsewhere."
Speaker Tony Smith said Question Time was a poor representation of the serious business of parliament. "People see lots of the argy-bargy of parliament but less of the agreement that occurs right throughout the day."
Liberal MP Craig Laundy, a loyal lieutenant of Mr Turnbull right to his final hours at The Lodge, said he advised the former PM not to raise his voice at Question Time.
"The Australian people are sick and tired of us yelling at each other. They view us, because of that one hour and fifteen minutes, as lower than bloody used car sales people and we need to fix that."
Labor's Ed Husic said elected representatives needed to "turn the volume down" or risk voters ignoring the message.
"Do we always have to be shouty? Do we always have to have that argument just for its own sake?"
He pointed to his cross bench friendship with newly installed deputy Liberal leader Josh Frydenberg as a way in which alliances can be forged - even if they don't always agree.
"It's a question of balance and how far we take things and I think the concern is that there is just toxic debate for its own sake rather than for the argument's sake."
Influential Labor MP Anthony Albanese, often touted as a future party leader, said the antics in Canberra were turning people away from the Coalition and Labor.
"I think people out there are prepared to walk away from both parties. The fact that we have essentially one in three people saying 'We don't want Labor or the Coalition' is a problem because I want stable Government in this country."
But Speaker Tony Smith said we should be wary of what we might wish for.
"I've had many people say to me 'I wish everyone in the house could just agree with each other'," he said.
"Now that would be really short-changing our democracy. There's 150 members there. They've got very different political views.
"For them to come here and say, well actually after all we now agree with each other on everything - that's not what representative democracy's about and it's not what the Parliament is for."