Friday, October 5, 2007

Committee Hearing Observation!!

On Thursday 9th August, Alex Krajcer, Sarah Clifton and I ttravelled to Canberra for an educational visit to sit in on a public parliamentary committee hearing and witness the world of politics first hand. With a much more broaden knowledge and vested interest in the proceedings of parliament, than when I last came to Canberra for a year nine excursion, I felt positive about visiting our Nations capital.

For those of my readers who are unsure what a parliamentary committee hearing is and why parliamentary committee’s are important I will briefly outline it for you now. A parliamentary committee is made up of members or senators appointed by one or both Houses of Parliament to undertake specific tasks on behalf of parliament. Groups can be made up of both government and non-government members and wield considerable power investigating specific matters of policy or government administration or performance. Parliamentary committees are one form of device the House uses to check on the activities of the Government. Committees have the power to call the government or public service to account for their actions and ask them to explain or justify administrative decisions.

The public hearing was a House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry and Resources specially focused on the development of the non-fossil fuel energy industry in Australia with specific reference to renewable energy sector: solar, wave, tidal, geothermal, wind and hydrogen. The speakers discussed the development of these sectors and their prospects for economically viable electricity generation, storage and transmission.

With global warming becoming such a pressing issue in our society, it was nice to know that the government has jumped on the bandwagon and decided to put the issue of climate change on their agenda. Its comforting to know that the government is responding and paying attention to the widespread concern not only in Australia but throughout the world about the danger of global carbon emission and damaging effects it’s having on global warming and consequently the future of our world. I was also really interested to gain an in-depth insight into the alternative sources of energy that we play a significant part in the future of the Australian energy market.

Mr Steve Hollis, CEO of Lloyd Energy Systems Pty Ltd discussed state of the art of solar energy worldwide and how, with the use of storage technologies the future of solar energy in Australia is foreseeable. He explained the different types of renewable energy systems available and the costs and success of each of these in relation to the current systems in place. Mr Hollis also explained the system that Lloyd Energy System had implemented in rural Australia, which he perceives to be one of the most triumphant options available at present.

Like always the question of money was regularly asked throughout the hearing. Mr. Hollis had to continue to ensure the committee that the costs of the new systems available would be addressed at the end of the presentation, however firstly he was trying to explain the different alternatives and their effects in the reduction of carbon emissions. It’s disappointing to know that the committee seemed more concerned with the money factor than the positive effects of these new alternatives and the benefits they could bring to future of our country for generations to come.

I never realised how many different alternatives are available and was amazed at how they are set up and how they work. I have never been properly educated about the types of renewable energy sources but the committee hearing really gave me an insight into the future of our energy market in Australia and the possibilities that are out there to help us deal with this important issue.

After watching question time and realising that it’s a lot harder than I thought for the Australian public to witness politics in its natural form, free from public relation stunts, vested interests and media spin, I couldn’t help feeling skeptical about the committee hearing. Maybe it was staged to please the masses with the federal election looming and the pressing issue of climate change? Maybe the government wanted to escape the media limelight in relation to their plans in dealing with climate change? Maybe it was a publicity stunt to convince the public that the issue is on the government’s agenda? I’m not sure if any of the above reasons are true or if I’m just being cynical and I suppose I will never find the answers but this is a serious issue that needs to be thoroughly addressed. The government is such a powerful body that has the financial backing and resources to investigate this issue and find alternative solutions to reduce our carbon emissions, and hopefully decrease the effects to global warming…. if its not too late!!

Who ever thought politics was entertaining??

As the world of politics is all relatively new to me, and having never previously listened or watched question time I was shocked by the childlike and sadistic show that was put on for the Australian public by our country’s politicians during question time. It’s disconcerting to know that these politicians, who are supposed to represent our best interests and govern our country, cannot restrain from making inappropriate and derogatory comments about their opposition in a time when they are meant to be answering questions about current and future political issues and activities.

With the upcoming federal election, and the polls creating gossip, media hype and rumours, the slanderous and heated banter that carried on back and forth between members of the coalition and the opposition was no surprise. The politicians did not restrain from fervidly attacking each other in order to counteract negative polls and win the hearts of the Australian public.

Julia Gillard, deputy leader of the opposition started the proceedings with a question for the Minister of State Gary Nairn in regards to reports that his chief of staff, Peter Phelps asked Colonel Peter Kelly whether or not he compared his military experience in Iraq to that of Nazi guards at the Belsen concentration camp. This question immediately stirred up the emotion in the room with many shocked and offended remarks presumably from the opposition in an attempt to support their cohort’s question.

After a prompt and precise answer to a question regarding the rates and thresholds that currently apply in the personal income tax system, the treasurer, Peter Costello was quick to use this question as a devise to slander his opposition who earlier that week when asked the same question could not present the Australian public with any definite figures. Peter Costello turned a question about rates and thresholds into a scornful personal attack on Kevin Rudd cursing him as “the leader of opposition on trainer wheels”, “who doesn’t want to front up to his own ignorance on economic policy.” Costello continued to inform the house that based on Rudd’s incompetence and inability to understand economic substance he should most definitely not be Australia’s next Prime Minister. At times it was hard to hear Costello’s attack because of the constant bickering, laughing and other scornful remarks that were being made by other members of the house.

Nearing towards the end of question time it was clear to see distinct trends appearing in regards to the structure of the questions and who they were asked by and directed to. All of the questions asked by members of the coalition were directed at other members of the coalition. In response to such question the coalition member would firstly thank the other member for the question and then complement them on their work for their electorate before answering the question asked. For example, when Ross Master, member for Bonner asked minister for education, science and training, Julie Bishop she stated, “I thank the member for Bonner for his question and what a great member he has been. In March, of 1996 unemployment was 6.7% in Bonner and today its 3.3%.” Bishop then goes on to insult the labour candidate that Master is up against, an opportune plug for her associate portraying him as the better candidate. I also noticed that Liberals questions were carefully worded to favour the current stance of the coalition. For example, Master asked Bishop, “Would the minister inform the house of the governments record in supporting schools, are there any threats to this fair funding.” The use of the word “fair” portrays the coalition’s school funding scheme as the righteous policy and it conveniently corresponds with Bishops response when she states that labour’s policy on school funding is “bias and grossly offensive.” The structure of liberal’s questions also allows the person answering them to smartly denigrate their opposition. For example, the question above referring to the threats of coalitions’ fair school funding allowed Julie Bishop to slander her opposition stating that labour’s bias and unfair policy on school funding was the only threat to the governments record in supporting schools. The structure and wording of these questions by the coalition portrayed them in a positive light and allowed them to illustrate their key messages, consequently improving their chances of winning the hearts of the Australian population for the upcoming election. Sneaky and sly? Yes, but very effective in defaming the opposition.

I thought question time allowed the Australian public to view our politicians first hand, free from the vested interests of media and journalistic spin. Instead, I felt like I was constantly listening to a press conference. Liberals were in the limelight, with each response complementing the coalition or big noting the work of its members. They successfully portrayed their key messages and the party in a positive light. Liberal members constantly turned the questions around, providing an answer that was completely irrelevant to the question, however, always nicely corresponding with the party’s viewpoint.

In my opinion question time provides an arena for opposing politicians to bicker in a childlike manner, and immaturely do everything in their power to avoid properly answering the questions asked. The politicians constantly criticize and bring up dirt on their opponent and then wait to see how well the opponent spins their answer around to either, complement themselves or further verbally attack the person who asked the question in the first place.

Although its ironically entertaining to see the leaders of our country fighting like young siblings over toys, I’d rather gain my weekly source of entertainment by socializing with friends, or watching/listening to a program of substance, where I can clearly understand what is being said and I know that is not swayed by the vested interests of the speaker/actor. If the politicians just quit the pointless banter and personal bickering then the Australian public might actually be able to witness politics in its natural form.

Sarah Antico

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Virgin Blogger!!!

Not to sure what i'm meant to be writing for my first blog entry as i'm a virgin when it comes to this new age of blogging technology. So here's my blog, hope it works for you all!!
Blog soon
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