Historians worked hard at the conference but also enjoyed themselves. Dr Liz Conor and Professor Ann McGrath shared a laugh in a break on Thursday. Photo via @ANUcass.
I have reported a number of keynote presentations from the annual conference of the Australian Historical Association this week, but my representation of the conference would be lacking if I did not report the humour that popped up throughout the five days in Canberra.
The conference theme, ‘The Scales of HIstory’, lent itself to some light-hearted quips. Of course there were the fishing jokes but I did not hear any music jokes. However, one presenter did some unexpected a capella singing (a rather fancy way of describing how Rosalie sang). Then there was the Canberra weather. We woke up to -4 one morning – surely a joke!
What can be more Australian than an esteemed historian being delayed arriving in Canberra because her bus hit a kangaroo?
Canberra… Australians are good at making mirth at the mention of their capital city. Mark McKenna delivered a fine keynote speech about Canberra and the now not-so-new parliament house. But he was left scratching his head on a number of occasions when the audience laughed at some of his comments. McKenna mentioned the rather surprising fact that the architect of the new parliament house read Patrick White novels to learn more about Australia. Tune laughter and a rather perplexed Mark McKenna. Continue reading
I had no trouble listening to Rob Oakeshott’s speech yesterday when he took over sixteen minutes to tell us he was going to support Labor in parliament. Announcing his decision at the end of the speech rather than the beginning was a sure way to keep our attention. Would we have listened to his comments if he had announced his decision first?
Oakeshott’s speech was nothing compared to what politicians dished up in 1910. For the last few weeks I have been reading the parliamentary debates regarding Queensland’s Bible in State Schools referendum and the subsequent amendment to the Education Act that reintroduced religious instruction into Queensland’s schools. We know that parliamentary debates can be lengthy but one debate on the issue in October 1910 went on for twenty three hours – yes, 23 hours! They started at 4pm and finished at 2:20pm the next day with a 75 minute break for breakfast. Yes, they were complaining at 2:45am but they soldiered on.
As we all know, our productivity and thought processes drop when we lack sleep. Sometimes we get plain silly. Take this observation from a member in the wee hours of the morning:
Mr. Murphy pointed out that religious instruction was taught in the schools in Portugal in the morning, and that might have had some influence on the revolution going on in that country.
Queensland Parliamentary Debates, 6 Oct. 1910, p. 1323.
Not suprisingly no-one responded to this comment. Or maybe they did but the Hansard reporter was having a micro-sleep at the time. The Hansard reporter had given up transcribing everything and had started to summarise. The politicians chose to debate at these unusual hours. Hansard reporters had no choice.
And in the interests of not emulating the loquaciousness of these politicians I will sign off!