Whispers in the Corridors – The Hansard Reporter

Whispers in the Corridors – The Hansard Reporter


We are the chroniclers of history in the parliament. We produced each day overnight every word
that was spoken in the chamber and the meetings of parliamentary committees. When I first came to this table in 1964,
I used a fountain pen. The head of Hansard, the Principal Parliamentary
Reporter, had a dip pen available to him here. He would dip his pen in and write his shorthand notes to check. The beauty of the Hansard reporter was that
she or he had to be skilled in the art of writing shorthand. You had to be able to write at over 200 words a minute. You had to have a very broad general knowledge. You had to have an exceptional
understanding of English. You didn’t have to have a university degree;
you had to have a degree in common sense. You had to be able to know that the interjection
coming from over here was Billy Hughes. We knew that Winton Turnbull was interjecting here. Gough Whitlam was complaining from behind you here. So you worked with all of these characters,
all of whom treated you with the courtesy that was quite overwhelming. To come into this chamber as a 22-year-old and
to see yourself sitting next to the Leader of the Opposition, Arthur Calwell, and to
have sitting across the table Sir Robert Menzies was just a remarkable feeling. I sat in the back of the chamber waiting to
come down, and Gough Whitlam just quietly came up the back, sat down beside me and said,
‘You’re the new Hansard fellow. My name is Gough Whitlam. Welcome to the chamber. If
I can help you in any way at all, let me know.’ I’ve told Gough about that on several occasions
and he said to me, ‘I was a polite bastard then, wasn’t I?’ And he was. But that’s the sort of relationship that existed
between the Hansard reporter and the member of parliament.

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