whispered unthinking vulgarities in ParliamentPosted: June 1, 2011
In a week when behaviours in the Australian Parliament have been particularly unattractive, here’s a piece from 60 years ago. In 1952, Robert Menzies was Prime Minister and Herbert Evatt was Leader of the Opposition. Note the discretion shown by the author of this item. Whispered, unthinking and unrecorded details in the press.
SPEAKER REBUKES HOUSE Listeners Disgusted
CANBERRA, Aug. 29. — Foul language being broadcast from Parliament House is disgusting listeners. Letters of complaint are deluging the Speaker whenever a whispered interjection is picked up by the microphones. He told the House today that he had received “most alarming reports” of parliamentary broadcasts. During question time he reprimanded Ministers and leading members of the Opposition for talking across the table of the House. He warned that if cross the table conversations did not cease, he would have them recorded: and said he had already consulted radio engineers on the possibilityof doing so. The only microphones per manently ‘alive’ during parliamentary broadcasts are those before the Speaker, and the one between the Minister at the table and the Opposition Leader.
Other microphones in the Chamber are switched on by a technician when the member nearest them rises to speak. Many Ministers and prominent Opposition members have mastered the technique of whispering interjections to the table microphone. These interjections pass unheard by the member speaking, but devastate his broadcast speech. Complaints to the Speaker have not been directed at these interjections, but at whispered, unthinking vulgarities uttered by those who forget the microphone is open.