Where's the fun in censoring satire?

THIS week I exercised my right as a citizen of Queensland and signed an online petition on State Parliament's website.

The petition has been penned by a Bowen Hills bloke named Anthony Pink, a former Greens candidate, and is sponsored by Michael Berkman, the freshly minted Greens MP for Maiwar.

Before you ask, no I have not suddenly outed myself as a closet anti-Adani crusader.

Nor have I backed the right for people to pull bucket bongs in the privacy of their own bathroom.

This isn't, after all, the ABC.

But I am supporting these two fellows in their mission to overturn one of the most arcane rules of the Queensland Parliament, a provision that prevents people taking the piss out of state politicians.

I'm signature No.85.

You may think it's impossible to mock our MPs any more than what occurs already. And, let's be blunt, some of them do a damn fine job of it themselves without the need for others to exercise a bit of artistic licence.

However, there's a little-known rule when it comes to using the broadcast footage of Queensland Parliament that extends the dark hand of censorship on to your television, computer and smartphone screen.

Under sections 50 and 58 of the Parliament of Queensland Act 2001, the broadcast footage can only be reproduced for what our MPs ordain to be "fair and accurate reports of proceedings".

That's subjective enough. But it goes further.

The material cannot be used for "political advertising, election campaigning, satire or ridicule and commercial sponsorship or advertising".

No one would quibble with the last one.

As other critics have observed, you don't want Berkman, for example, changing his name to Mr Stop Adani or the LNP's Rob Molhoek wearing a suit emblazoned with the name of whatever natural remedy business he comes up with next.

But stopping the footage being used in election ads? That's ridiculous.

Parliament is the "People's House". Our MPs' foot-in-mouth moments should be shown to people during elections.

And allowing our Parliament to be the self-appointed fun police?

That really is stuff of despots, the kind of decree you'd expect from North Korea's Little Rocket Man.

While you won't be blown up by a missile like one of Kim Jung-un's relatives for breaking the rules, the penalty is still pretty serious.

Contravention is contempt of Parliament.

Rather than a judge or jury deciding your fate, a majority of MPs makes a decision on whether to slap you with a fine or apply a prison term.

This is not like one of those rules that sat forgotten on the statutes limiting the number of pigs an individual can own.

It was introduced in 2001 when the broadcast cameras were installed and it reflects provisions of other Westminster parliaments.

And the petition comes after Speaker Curtis Pitt earlier this month referred an alleged breach to Parliament's powerful ethics committee.

With a surname like Pitt, and after being subjected to headlines like "Giving us the Pitts" and "Up Pitt Creek", the Speaker could be accused of being sensitive to satire.

But given that Parliament makes rules for everyone else, it's kind of obliged to follow its own.

The case revolves around Labor advertising guru Dee Madigan.

She's a funny and vivacious type, and she recently used Twitter to repost a video of the LNP's Jarrod Bleijie ripping up a piece of paper in Parliament. 

"Your taxes at work. A toddler tantrum," she commented. 

Madigan is also proving the recalcitrant type, refusing requests by Pitt to take it down. 

Bleijie is the complainant. 

And it would be easy to stitch him up for being thin-skinned also. 

However, he once donned a stuffed rat on his shoulder to make a point in Parliament and was derided as the dancing queen for his rock-abilly moves. 

He's a very robust bloke. 

His complaint is actually a tit-fortat with Labor, which cried foul over an amusing Twitter post by the LNP mocking Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch. 

Her verbal gymnastics explaining the waste levy deserved nothing less. The post was taken down after Labor's protest. 

What the schism shows is that the major parties don't agree with the rules when it suits them. 

It also shows satire and ridicule deserve a proper place in our political discourse and shouldn't be policed by politicians. 

US satirist John Oliver's series on gun control was an extraordinary contribution to the controversial topic.

Why shouldn't programs like The Project or The Chaser be able to use parliamentary footage to do the same?

These rules are nothing more than self-indulgent censorship that seeks to protect the dignity of indignant politicians. The worst of what occurs in Parliament should be regularly spliced into video and dubbed over with a vaudeville tune.

Stuff like the MP I used to see repeatedly scratch an ear and give a discreet one-finger salute to opponents.

Or the unnameable MPs who appear to nod off, like the one I saw last sitting whose name begins with "P" and ends with "eter Russo".

Log on, sign the petition and let's expose our politicians to the caustic art of satire.

Behave like a goose in Parliament and you deserve to be publicly plucked.

Courier Mail (page 15), Steven Wardill, 29th June 2018

Sign up for updates