Australia's playschool parliament in action:
"The opening of question time yesterday was a rare gem for the ideological insiders of politics... First, there was the condolence motion for the death of long-time Labor senator Arthur Gietzelt... But the condolence motions got even more ideological a moment later. Abbott, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Deputy leader Tanya Plibersek, all spoke in condolence on the death of the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. All said more or less conventional things about what a significant leader Sharon was, his devotion to Israel, to building the nation and providing for its security, and his remarkable action in withdrawing Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip.
"The manager of government business, Christopher Pyne, who loves this sort of mischief making, asked if he could associate himself with the 'heartfelt' comments of Abbott, Bishop and Shorten as well as the 'comments' - no heartfelt adjective proceeding them - of Plibersek. This was an implicit reference to comments made by Plibersek more than a decade ago that Israel was a 'rogue state' and Sharon a 'war criminal'.
"Plibersek has since said she regrets those remarks, that she spoke 'injudiciously' at the time and that she no longer holds those views. Surely people are allowed to move on from views they publicly repudiate. But she didn't actually say any of that in Parliament yesterday. Rather she just rose to say she found Pyne's comments 'deeply insulting' and asked for them to be withdrawn. What she presumably found insulting was the implication that her laudatory comments on Sharon may not have been 'heartfelt'.
"The Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, played it all with a straight face and said she didn't see how she could ask someone to withdraw a comment asking to be associated with someone else's remarks. Pyne nonetheless leapt to his feet and withdrew his wish to be associated with Plibersek's remarks.
"Tony Burke, in turn, leapt to his feet to say he didn't think people should be using someone's death to be scoring political points. Bronwyn Bishop wondered whether the way things were going was not diminishing the seriousness of proceedings." (Dead obscure, but this is all good clean fun, Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 12/2/14)
Grownup parliament in action (UK, 5/2/14):
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): I once led a delegation of 60 parliamentarians from 13 European Parliaments to Gaza. I could no longer do that today because Gaza is practically inaccessible. The Israelis try to lay the responsibility on the Egyptians, but although the Egyptians' closing of the tunnels has caused great hardship, it is the Israelis who have opposed the blockade and are the occupying power. The culpability of the Israelis was demonstrated in the report to the UN by Richard Goldstone following Operation Cast Lead. After his report, he was harassed by Jewish organisations. At the end of a meeting I had with him in New York, his wife said to me, 'It is good to meet another self-hating Jew.'
"Again and again Israel seeks to justify the vile injustices that it imposes on the people of Gaza and the West Bank on the grounds of the holocaust. Last week, we commemorated the holocaust; 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are being penalised with that as justification. That is unacceptable. The statistics are appalling. There is fresh water for a few hours every 5 days. Fishing boats are not allowed to go out - in any case, what is the point, because the waters are so filthy that no fish they catch can be eaten. The Israelis are victimising the children above all. Half the population of this country is under the voting age. What is being done to those children - the lack of nutrition - is damaging not only their bodies and brains; it will go on for generation after generation.
"It is totally unacceptable that the Israelis should behave in such a way, but they do not care. Go to Tel Aviv, as I did not long ago, and watch them sitting complacently outside their pavement cafes. They do not give a damn about their fellow human beings perhaps half an hour away. The right hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) quoted the Prime Minister as saying that Gaza is a prison camp. It is all very well for him to say that, as he did in Turkey - he was visiting a Muslim country - but what is he doing about it? Nothing, nothing, nothing!
"The time when we could condemn and think that that was enough has long passed. The Israelis do not care about condemnation. They are self-righteous and complacent. We must now take action against them. We must impose sanctions. If the spineless Obama will not do it, we must do it - even unilaterally. We must press the European community for it to be done. These people cannot be persuaded. We cannot appeal to their better nature when they do not have one. It is all very well saying, 'Wicked, wicked Hamas.' Hamas is dreadful. I have met people from Hamas, but nothing it has done justifies punishing children, women and the sick as the Israelis are doing now. They must be stopped."