It’s typical of our national debate that on the day the prime minister introduces a historic climate policy to the parliament, the opposition would be busy pulling out political stunts to steal some of the spotlight.

And our readers agree, judging by this week’s nominations for Sideshow Alley. This week’s overall winner must be Christopher Pyne, for allegedly telling his Coalition colleagues to leave the chamber just as Julia Gillard began her speech on the carbon price bill …

@BiancaSteman: Chris Whiney Pyney rounding up Liberals & marching them out — nearly burst a blood vessel rolling my eyes so hard

@Dbl_Ristretto: too easy this week — Pyne leading the charge out of the chamber when #carbontax bill introduced

Pyne later denied ordering out the MPs. Not that he’s alone in playing games in parliament this week, with others noting the anti-carbon tax protesters sitting in the public gallery during Gillard’s speech …

Christopher Johnson: Surely it has to be Sophie Mirabella leading the anti-carbon price protesters through Parliament and being part of their public gallery stunt?

Fizzy Bangs: Abbott’s lot giving parliamentary passes and lunch to the elderly before they sat in the public gallery to shout down the carbon tax — still with their passes on! So much for vouching for the behaviour of those given the passes — they got thrown out!

Opposition leader Tony Abbott coped quite a lot of flak for his behaviour from our readers …

Brett Elliott: After Tony Abbott made headlines for his 30-minute rant against the carbon tax in parliament, saying it was a terrible idea, it would have been nice if just one headline story mentioned that Abbott and his party were not only in favour of, but fully committed to, introducing a carbon tax right up until Labor announced it. Seems kinda relevant to me. Just sayin’.

@geeksrulz: Abbott using Businesses as background and props but failing to tell them his Direct Action policy will cost them double.

Ed Neubauer: Abbot’s (and the Media’s) grotesque hypocrisy surrounding the sorry tale of the vindictive hue & cry aimed at the PM and Thomson vs the muted coverage of Mary-Jo Fisher. Who is actually in the dock!

But there’s another incident that we think deserves a special mention …

Jack Webster: ABC’s loneliness in having breaking headline status for the “Harry is Pissed” story

What? He’s talking about speaker of the House Harry Jenkins (and to be fair, it’s not only the ABC that picked up the story, The Oz and Sydney Morning Herald have run stories about it today, even if the ABC seems to have covered it thoroughly) getting a little fed up with the standard of debate and game playing by pollies in question time on Wednesday and calling them out on their bad behaviour.

Christopher Pyne attempted to ask the prime minister why she criticised a High Court judge but continued to support Craig Thomson despite the allegation against him of using embezzled union funds to pay for prostitutes.

The government moved to rule the question out of order, but Jenkins allowed it, noting: “It is not in any way condoning a form of words that has been used against a member of this place that goes beyond the standard practice.”

But Leader of the House Anthony Albanese kept protesting, quoting every part of the rulebook he could remember: “It’s out of order under standing order 100d (ii) — arguments; it’s out of order under standing order 100d (iii) – inferences; it’s out of order under standing order 100d (iv) — imputations; it’s out of order under standing order 100d (v) — insults; it’s out of order under standing order 100d (vii) — hypothetical matter; and I would ask you to rule the question out of order.”

And what was Jenkins response? “Well, this is a big change in the game, so I’ve got to decide whether I rule out most of the questions from both sides. I’m happy to do that if that’s the wish of the house, because I’ve tried for four years to get a sensible set of rules for question time. If they want me to implement my version of the rules, I’m happy to. And if we want to start from now, I’m happy to rule the question out of order.”

Take that! And when the next Dorothy Dixer came from backbencher Maria Vamvakinou to Jenny Macklin: “Minister, how is the government delivering on its commitments to support pensioners to balance their budgets? What risks are there to this support and how is the government responding?”

Jenkins stood firm, declaring: “The last two parts of that question are out of order; I will allow the first part.”

Rather than criticising Jenkins, we’d like to applaud him and encourage his crusade. God (or whatever deity you support) bless you Harry for attempting to bring some civil debate back into our national parliament. If Sideshow Alley has taught us anything, it’s that we’re in desperate need of more of it.

* Each week Sideshow Alley will nominate the latest offerings to the service of dumbing down politics by journalists and/or politicians, and at the end of each month we’ll be asking former finance minister and author of Sideshow Lindsay Tanner to write through his pick of the best/worst example. But we need your help – send your picks to [email protected] with “Sideshow Alley” in the subject line.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey