LAST week’s exchange between Minister for Transport Troy Buswell and Labor MP Janine Freeman was neither a brain snap nor a bra snap on the part of the controversial Member for Vasse and former star UWA economics student.
To recap, Ms Freeman, according to an ABC report, was commenting during parliamentary debate about amendments to some legislation when Mr Buswell interjected repeatedly.
“You’re like the human version of the tsetse fly looking for someone to put to sleep,” he said.
Ms Freeman was upset and left the chamber in tears.
Labor MPs accused Mr Buswell of bullying behaviour against women, inferring he is a serial offender.
So, was Mr Buswell’s behaviour way out of line? In parliamentary terms, probably not (the pair later resolved the matter).
The common refrain is that Parliament is no place for wimps. In other words, you should be able to dish it out and take it – regardless of your gender.
There are many of us, even those holding high office, who would cringe or become emotional if accused of putting others to sleep while simply going about our job (and probably just as many who would like to tell someone exactly that).
Tensions also overflowed last week about the Liberal preselection process for the seat of Churchlands.
Premier Colin Barnett’s attempt to parachute restaurateur and tourism chief Kate Lamont into the seat failed, with the party endorsing its original candidate, Sean L’Estrange.
Mr Barnett was affronted by the rejection of his wishes (though subsequent media reports suggest he initially favoured Rosanna Capolingua for the seat) and believes it sends a poor signal to outstanding candidates from outside the political arena.
The Premier might have done better to prepare his party for the introduction of Ms Lamont to the process.
Ms Lamont was not even a member of the party, let alone a candidate for the seat, when Mr Barnett intervened.
Conservatives pride themselves on a free-market approach to gender representation in Parliament. Women such as Disability Services Minister Helen Morton proudly evoke the notion of merit as the only selection criteria.
In that case, should we infer that there are virtually no women in conservative ranks who meet the criteria to enter Parliament?
It seems more likely that they vote with their feet when confronted with behaviour and attitudes such as those exemplified by Mr Buswell’s performance in Parliament last week.
And in any case, given Mr Barnett was attempting to parachute Ms Lamont into the seat to improve gender representation, isn’t that a form of quota?