Twitterers, or overpaid twits?

Caroline Frost
July 31, 2009 12:00am

ONE hour? They couldn't last one hour? How can state politicians keep a straight face and complain about falling school standards when they can't sit through 60 minutes of question time in Parliament without reaching for their BlackBerrys and having a quick squeeze of the hand with all their Twitter buddies?

This week, the Herald Sun snapped ministers and backbenchers alike texting, Twittering - even Tetris-ing (mobile phone game), I'm sure - their way through the one compulsory hour that their $120,000 salary requires them to spend in the Legislative Assembly.

Water Minister Tim Holding sat, BlackBerry-agog, in the seat directly behind John Brumby. In this day and age, it's a mercy it wasn't the Premier himself pausing in the middle of an important speech to check his email.

It's an obvious testament to just how tedious most of Parliament actually is. That's why it's left to the grown-ups and not teenagers busy texting each other on trams.

This elite pack is paid to be bored, and attend to the state's concerns of which there are many. But no, while such issues as water emergencies, street bashings and transport are discussed, these classroom misfits are busy sending notes to each other and checking on presumably more important goings-on outside the hallowed chamber.

They're just like those teenagers on the tram but in more expensive suits. Opposition gaming spokesman Michael O'Brien used all his experience, education and wisdom to Twitter about the Education Minister's "baby blue jacket", a comment he presumably wouldn't have wanted in Hansard's official daily dispatch.

Then he took to Twitter-bitching about the quality of Mr Brumby's responses at the dispatch box, a few metres in front of him. Couldn't they just have a conversation?!

It's become accepted practice in cinemas to tut disapprovingly when the dulcet tones of Nokia break into a tearful farewell scene on the screen. Is this really any more crucial than the one hour of Parliament when all corners of the state are represented?

Earlier this week, UK Opposition Leader David Cameron criticised the instant nature of Twitter and became, inevitably, one of its most highly discussed topics of the day, but we are seeing a demonstration of how Parliament has moved with the times.

All pollies have seen that, never mind the matter, mastering the message works. As a presidential candidate, Obama and his cronies effectively reached out across the ether to convey his plans to all Americans.

Kevin Rudd doesn't need to run his revolutionary ideas past policymakers, he can just try them out on his Twitter buddies. And he doesn't need to go to the polls to check that he is popular. He already knows because he's got more than a quarter of a million of them.

If this is what is required to measure good leadership, then uber-Twitterer Ashton Kutcher should be the US president with Demi Moore choosing wallpaper for the Rose Room -- a state of affairs more worrying and comment-worthy than someone wearing the wrong baby blue.