The Australian parliament descended into farce with lawmakers hurling Monty Python insults and even donning pyjamas in a poisonous all-night debate before the biggest shake-up of the voting system in decades was passed on Friday. The government won a revamp of the way senators are elected – which could take a heavy toll on small parties – after acrimonious clashes one former minister warned risked “destroying public confidence” in parliament. Bitter argument ran through on Thursday, overnight and well into Friday afternoon before the Liberal administration finally prevailed in the teeth of Labor opposition, thanks to the support of the Greens. “I fart in your general direction,” said senior Labor senator Doug Cameron, a reference to a Monty Python sketch. Independent senator Nick Xenophon turned up to the debate in his pyjamas, and with a pillow under his arm. Labor senator Penny Wong bashed the Greens. “What about the dirty deal ... that this leader, the Liberal lap dog that is Senator [Richard] Di Natale, the Liberal lap dog has done a deal,” she yelled. Australia uses a transferable ballot system, where voters rank parties or candidates according to preference. Previously, senatorial elections allowed them to either opt for a single party or rank preferences among a plethora of often-niche groupings. If you look back, Australian parliamentary debates have always been really low quality ... This is a post-colonial country with a very strong egalitarian and very strong philistine streak Political scientist Nick Economou Under the new system, the automatic transfer will be scrapped, and votes will only be transferred if a preference is expressed. After nearly three years of deadlock in the senate, the government was supported by the Greens to pass the legislation, which could wipe out minor parties at the next election, due this year. That angered Labor into supporting groupings such as the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party and the Palmer United Party of self-declared billionaire Clive Palmer, who stand to lose their seats, and sent filibustering into overdrive. abor argue that the 15 per cent of Australians who voted for minor parties at the 2013 election will be disenfranchised under the reforms. Despite threats to test the legislation in court, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government was confident the changes were constitutionally sound. But former resources minister Ian McFarlane said the government’s victory could come at a high cost. “The fierceness of personal politics and the lack of respect for other people’s views, combined with the win-at-all-costs ... politics attitude may provide a spectacle for the media, but it is destroying public confidence in this institution. “Is it any wonder when politicians regularly denigrate their political opponents ... that we find ourselves being referred to in the general populace as clowns, and this place as a circus.” Monash University political scientist Nick Economou said the brutal exchanges were nothing new. “If you look back, Australian parliamentary debates have always been really low quality ...” Economou added lawmakers often resorted to “puerile arguments” rather than “great oratory”. “This is a post-colonial country with a very strong egalitarian and very strong philistine streak,” he said.