Sunday, October 7, 2007

Commitee Hearing: Inquiry into aspects of Agriculture in NSW- Monday September 24th

The following is my observations on the Committee hearing on state development- inquiring into aspects of Agriculture in NSW.
The hearing begun with an introduction from the chair outlining what the committee was examining. The Chair- The Hon. A. Catanzariti, takes the opportunity to outline the behaviour/courtesy expected of the witnesses. For eg. “Protection afforded to Committee witnesses under parliamentary privilege should not be abused during the hearing” and “witnesses avoid the mention of other individuals unless it is absolutely essential.” From the outset I believed the hearing to be more formal and controlled than question time- and possible less entertaining as a result! Terms repeated throughout such as witness, and evidence- likened the experience to a courtroom and as a result I expected everything that was to follow to be true.
Mr Richard Pearson- The Executive Director for Rural and Regional Planning, from the NSW Department of Planning, was than given the chance to make an opening statement in which he is able to outline what he will run through- he is obviously prepared to do so and takes the opportunity to confidently express own agenda whilst thanking the committee for allowing him to highlight the governments’ initiative. His response is polite, succinct and structured.
The overall format of the hearing was a lot more structured than question time- in particular questions without notice. There were significantly less personal attacks and the chair didn’t have to intervene nearly as much. There was less arguing amongst ministers, which made the discussion a little easier to follow and understand. References to the Central West throughout the discussion caught my attention and made me focus on what was happening, so I was able to take something from the hearing.
When the floor was opened for others to clarify or question what Pearson explained the mood of the discussion was altered. The Hon. Melinda Pavey spoke in a condescending manner towards Pearson. After he responds to one of her questions, she replies: “ A busy month, that month.” She continues to question Pearson, repeating what he has stated and questioning if it is correct. During Pearson’s response, Pavey interrupts several times, cutting him off mid-sentence. Possibly due to limited time, but her display has an accusing and aggressive tone which continues throughout the hearing.
As I expected the hearing was not without a degree of squabbling amongst those involved. The following extract from the transcript is an example of the Hon continuously ‘heckling’ Mr. Pearson.
Pearson: “We have five offices. The North Coast is in Grafton. We have-
Pavey: “Queanbeyan, do you?”
Pearson: “We do have an office in Queanbeyan, yes.
Pavey: “sorry.”
Pearson: “That is alright, you can answer for me. You are going well. We have an office in Newcastle and an office in Wollongong.”
Pavey: “That is not regional.”
Pearson: “Well, it is not Sydney.”

The power struggle between the two distract from the actual content of the discussion. Her questioning tone is aggressive and at times Pearson’s responses seemed somewhat sarcastic- if the question was not avoided all together. On several occasions when unsure of answers Mr. Pearson responded to questions by politely redirecting them to the DPI- or offering to try and find out himself.
Apart from their squabbling I also found myself lost due to the terms used when explaining processes and agricultural jargon. Because the content of the hearing wasn’t something I had a personal interest in I found it difficult to follow- yet believed it achieved or resolved much more than question time did!

Excessive $$ Spent on Advertising- September 18th

The millions of dollars the government spends on advertising each year has been the topic of widespread criticism and on-going debate- and question time today was no exception. Senator McEwan bought it up, posing the question to Senator Minchin- the Minister representing John Howard.
He questioned the senator as to the amount the Howard Government has spent on advertising since the last election, and how much more it will spend before the next. Research into the question is apparent when the senator questions exact figures and compares them to those spent on more pressing and detrimental issues such as mental health and regional health services.
Minchin responds by pointing out these “are rather tired old arguments” from the labor party expressing lethargy towards answering. He then attempts to justify the amount spent on advertising.
Ok…so I agree, “governments of all persuasions naturally and legitimately are able to advertise government programs and policies.” But isn’t a total of 800 million dollars just a little excessive?? Especially in light of the fact that this amount is 5 times more than what the government will spend on mental health, and more than 6 times the amount they will spend on rural health services!!
Reading through the transcript of question time only reinforced my opinion that it is a time for self-promotion and to have a good dig at the opposition. Comments such as the following from Minchin back up this view;
…”it is our job to let them know of all the good things we are doing for them- of all the jobs we are creating.”

The “us” Vs “them” mentality was ripe throughout the whole discussion- or should I say argument? Four times within the space of approx. 6 minutes the president had to demand the senate to order after continued interjections by the opposition.
Senator Minchin goes on to describe the behaviour of the state premier leaders as “shameless”, then makes personal attacks on Mr Beattie, Mr Rann and Mr Bracks- describing them “poncing around on screen telling people what great guys they are.”
In an attempt to make the liberal party look bad before the coming election, McEwan quoted Howard from 1995- Over 12 years ago!
When asked “Why should tax payers have to spend half a billion dollars of their money on the Prime Minister’s ‘election life raft?’ The Ministers response was no more than a dig at the state government- “they are not doing anything anyway. What have they got to advertise? They do absolutely nothing except fail completely to supply their citizens public transport.” What the?
At this point, after reading over his response several times- I actually got a laugh out of it. Question time has proved more entertaining then I initially expected! Minchin didn’t even attempt to answer the question- rather he took the opportunity to nail the opposition!
I came away from the experience with more of an understanding as to the empathy many Australians express towards parliament and their processes. I found it no more than a petty and immature display of our nations leaders. What exactly was resolved? I can’t be sure.

Rudd Stripped Bare- August 19th

In a failed attempt to turn the public against Rudd- claims have been published revealing Kevin Rudd visited a NY strip club four years ago whilst representing Australia in the United Nations. The media had a field day with this newfound information! Who cares! Another petty attempt to dig at the opposition! Most people I know have visited a strip club at some point and I don’t believe it to be a reflection on personality or ability at all. Mr Rudd however, offered an apology if his behaviour offended anybody. Just as I expected, An exclusive Herald Sun-Galaxy poll over the weekend showed KEVIN Rudd's drunken dalliance in a New York strip club appears to have endeared him to the Australian public with an extraordinary 85 per cent of voters suggesting the episode proved he was "a normal bloke".
Rudd weathers strip club storm.,21985,22311873-662,00.html

The Federal Election: A Lesson in PR? - August 7th

The upcoming federal election proved to be a hot topic for debate in question time today. It became a battle amongst the nations leaders yet again. They not only picked at and criticised each other’s policies, but made personal attacks on one other. Unlike Committee hearings which “are not intended to provide a forum for people to make adverse reflections about others.”- The ministers showed no shame in doing exactly that during question time.
As the time fast approaches for next federal election the candidates will do everything in their power to gain the upper hand. However, despite their best efforts I feel they do the exact opposite.
Senator Foreshaw began questioning Senator Minchin (the Minister for Finance and Administration) about Howard’s uncosted announcements in the lead up to the 2007 election. He was asked if he shares the concerns of the treasurer ( n.b using a quote from Mr Costello from 2004) and what he plans to do “to prevent the Prime Minister from another irresponsible election year spending spree in a desperate bid to cling to power?” (I commend his use of emotive and descriptive language to indirectly express the view that Howard is struggling to remain in power- perhaps subtlety is not his forte.)
The following response from Minchin made about as much sense as Miss South Carolina in the recent Miss Teen USA Pageant- although his rambling continued a lot longer!
During question time the Ministers were certainly not discreet and showed no shame in personally attacking one another. The following is proof of this;
Minchin: “I do not think Forshaw, with great respect, understands anything about economies.”
Forshaw: “I do no think the minister understands a straight forward question… I ask you to direct him to answer and try not to lecture us about the failings of his own department and his own government.”
Minchin: “The last 40 seconds of that question was an attack on the government in relation to our budgets…”
I don’t think this constant bickering is of public interest at all. If question time is an opportunity for back benchers to ask questions of the Prime Minister (or those representing him) in which they are obliged to answer- I thhink it’s a waste of time.
Minchin was literally saved by the bell- when time ever so conveniently expired. This display of immaturity left me questioning the point of question time. I don’t think anything substantial was achieved and wonder just how many of the questions posed were even partially answered.
During discussions of the most pressing issues Australian are currently facing- rather than increasing awareness and understanding of policies and procedures, the nations leaders blatantly insult one another through derogatory comments and personal attacks. The ministers tried their best to avoid opposition questions, providing misleading answers or blatantly ignoring the question. The skilled Ministers turned around the opposition's questions, and used them to further attack the opposition. We have all experienced how difficult it can be to answer questions on the spot whilst pushing our own agenda or key messages- but the Ministers seem to have nailed it. Practise makes perfect hey? Maybe its not such a bad lesson in PR!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Welcome to my blog!

ok here it is... better late than never! not really sure how to use this but it seems we are all in the same boat.
goodluck x