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MP breaks hot air record in SA Parliament -

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MP breaks hot air record in SA Parliament

The World Today - Friday, 9 May , 2008 12:30:00

Reporter: Karen Barlow

ELEANOR HALL: There is no denying that politicians love to talk, but last night a South Australian
MP managed to set a record with his non-stop speaking.

Greens MP Mark Parnell stood up in the state's Lower House spoke against a Government Bill for a
solid eight hours.

But Mr Parnell was still three hours shy of the national record which has been held for almost a
century by the Australian parliamentary legend known as Jawbone Webster.

Karen Barlow has our report.

KAREN BARLOW: 11 o'clock last night - 12 hours after he started, allowing for lunch and dinner
breaks - Greens MP Mark Parnell roused the South Australian Legislative Council with these words:

MARK PARNELL: Mr President, with those brief remarks

SPEAKER: Is that a joke?

MARK PARNELL: I'll conclude.

KAREN BARLOW: The topic of the marathon eight-hour speech was the Labor Government's WorkCover
Bill. The Greens are concerned the Bill will cut workers entitlements and say as the
Liberal/National Coalition is supporting it, they must be the voice of opposition.

But in that opposition has come a new state record for the length of a parliamentary speech.

A slightly hoarse Mark Parnell indicates he could have gone on longer.

MARK PARNELL: I certainly didn't read every single thing that I had available. There is lots of
injured workers who are probably cross that their story didn't get into the Hansard, but I took it
for as long as I thought was appropriate, an eight hour day.

KAREN BARLOW: Mark Parnell wasn't the only verbose MP overnight. The independent MP Ann Bressington
spoke on the WorkCover Bill for five hours and finished at 4:00am.

The chamber was reported to have a full audience at all times.

The Greens MP is today unrepentant in the face of accusations of using the age old filibustering
technique to delay the passage of the Bill as he says it is going to pass anyway.

MARK PARNELL: I make no apology for taking so long. I am sorry that the parliamentary staff had to
hang around for so long, but that is part of the turf when you work in parliament.

KAREN BARLOW: You weren't aiming for a state record?

MARK PARNELL: To be honest, I didn't know what the record was. I have not heard anyone go for more
than about three hours.

KAREN BARLOW: Last night's effort is a way off the national record. The Clerk of the Federal House
of Representatives Ian Harris has seen a lot of political speeches in 36 years in parliament.

IAN HARRIS: The House record is 10 hours and 57 minutes, spoken way back in 1909.

KAREN BARLOW: So Mark Parnell, the Greens from South Australia, has another three hours to go?

IAN HARRIS: (Laughs) Yes, although I must say that to be fair, Mr Webster spoke over two sittings.

KAREN BARLOW: And he managed to get a nickname from this particular marathon effort?

IAN HARRIS: I am told that his colleagues called him "Jawbone" after that. I don't know if he ever
would have been used to go down and slay the philistines but yeah, apparently that name stuck him
for the rest of his parliamentary career.

KAREN BARLOW: Politicians by their very nature love to speak, are they able to do anything like
that now?

IAN HARRIS: No, in 1912 there was a long censure motion that the Prime Minister at the time was
Andrew Fisher, and Alfred Deakin moved a censure motion and they all spoke for a few hours each,
and the press came out and said this has got to stop so speech limits were introduced then. They
have been progressively reduced and the time that most members can speak now is 20 minutes.

KAREN BARLOW: They must feel very constrained.

IAN HARRIS: It is amazing, you know. Some of the best speeches I've heard have been some of the
shortest ones.

KAREN BARLOW: So you go for the quality rather than quantity argument.

IAN HARRIS: I think it is better to give a few knock out punches rather than wear your opponents
down with tedium!

KAREN BARLOW: But Australian parliamentary speeches have nothing on some overseas efforts. In 1957,
American Senator Strom Thurmond filibustered against the Civil Rights Act - speaking for 24 hours
and 18 minutes.

ELEANOR HALL: Karen Barlow reporting.