Democracy in action: a reader drew our attention to the behaviour of Bill Heffernan as chair of the Senate Select Committee’s inquiry into the Australian and global fertiliser market. Representatives of fertiliser giant Incitec Pivot fronted the committee in Melbourne on 23 July and were treated to a savage spray from Heffernan, who as a farmer has a very direct interest in the soaring price of fertiliser. Apart from swearing at and mocking the Incitec Pivot executives (including the vintage phrase “pig’s arse”), Heffernan concluded with the following comment, unlikely to be matched in Hansard for a while:

“You realise that we who have an interest to declare, like your shareholders, think that you are well and truly giving us one up the back passage? We really feel aggrieved about this. You have treated us like shit. That is how we feel in the bush, and your agents are so angry you wouldn’t believe it. There is no question that, like consolidated retailing, you have consolidated the market to the point where you can be very arrogant… But we are very grateful that you turned up. You have been well groomed; whoever exercised you — that bloke down the back there — has done a good job to get your words right.”

Heffernan allegedly concluded by flipping the bird at them as they left, although Hansard does not record this.

Thank goodness he’s the Committee Chair otherwise someone might have had to chip him.

Peter Fray

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