Showing posts with label Federal Parliament. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Federal Parliament. Show all posts

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Is there growing emphasis on religious faith in Australian politics?


On 22 November 2017, the Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull announced the appointment of an Expert Panel to examine whether Commonwealth, state and territories law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion.

The Panel accepted submissions, but held no public hearings and published no list of witnesses.

The Panel delivered its report on 18 May 2018 and on that same day the Prime Minster made it clear that he had no intention of making the report’s findings public in the near future.

As we wait to find out whether the religious far-right has captured the castle here is a brief look back at comment on religion in politics ......

The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 April 2004:

God is appearing in more and more places around the Federal Parliament, and among all sorts of people….

God moves in mysterious ways, and never more so than when He moves into politics. On Thursday, for example, the Liberal Party announced that its candidate for the seat of Greenway, centred around Blacktown, would be Louise Markus, a prominent member of Hillsong, Australia's largest church.

The US-style, high-energy, hand-clapping Pentecostal church, which draws its people from the Bible belt of Sydney's north-western suburbs, attracts more than 15,000 people each Sunday. Its Friday night youth meetings reportedly draw 2000, its children's meetings some 1600 and its women-only gatherings more than 1000.

The church is as entrepreneurial as it is evangelical, constantly seeking to expand its influence through CDs, books and other media. And now it might be in line to claim its second federal MP. It already has Alan Cadman, the fiercely right-wing member for Mitchell - which includes Baulkham Hills, the epicentre of Hillsong influence - as a prominent member of the flock. Greenway, which adjoins Cadman's seat, is held by Labor's Frank Mossfield, but is highly marginal, and the sitting member is retiring at the election.

You might have thought someone standing for such a marginal seat would want all the media attention he or she could get, but the Liberals' state director, Scott Morrison, refused to let the Herald talk to her. He said she would do "local media first".

Instead Morrison, himself a man of "strong religious views", launched into a pitch for the type of "faith-based programs" that Hillsong had established to address social problems.

"In the [United] States there is an increasing tendency of governments - particularly the Bush Government - to get behind what are called faith-based programs," he enthused.

"That is where governments start to lift the constraints on the Noffses and the Bill Crewses and others, to enable them to really help people, beyond just the material, and give them life advice which involves faith. Those programs, I understand, have had some great success."

Markus works for Emerge, the Hillsong offshoot whose facilities and programs range from medical centres and emergency relief services to drug and alcohol programs, and personal development and recovery programs.

The CEO there, Leigh Coleman, would not put us in contact with Markus, either. And so the views of the Hillsong employee and Liberal candidate on the desirability of passing responsibility for social welfare issues from secular government agencies to religious organisations must for now remain a mystery.

Perhaps some light will be shed when the chief pastor of Hillsong, Brian Houston, addresses Federal Parliament's Christian fellowship prayer breakfast when next it meets, in about a month.

A bigger mystery, however, is the movement of God into the NSW Young Liberals. In this case, however, God wears not the toothy smile of a Pentecostal "happy clapper" but the dour face of the arch-conservative Catholic organisation, Opus Dei.

Warrane College was established in 1971. It is a residential college affiliated to the University of NSW and owned by the not-for-profit Educational Development Association. Pastoral care for its 125 young men (women are not permitted past the ground floor) is "entrusted" to Opus Dei, a prelature of the Catholic Church.

Warrane College is also the "home" address of about one-quarter of the membership of the Randwick/Coogee branch of the Young Liberals. Of 88 members enrolled in the Young Libs branch, 21 list the college or its post-office box as their address, according to a membership list seen by the Herald….

Parliament of Australia, Papers on Parliament No. 46, December 2006:

Religion and politics has a long and often controversial history in Australia, most of it associated with Christianity. One resolution of the relationship came with the incorporation into the Constitution of s. 116. That section reads:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

In discussions of the religious component of twentieth century Australian politics most attention has been given not to constitutional issues but to the link between denominations and parties in voting and representation, Catholics with Labor and Protestants with the Coalition, as well as the denominational character of the Labor Party Split of the 1950s that produced the Democratic Labor Party. Professor Judith Brett, for instance, begins her survey of the literature as follows:
It has long been recognised that the foundation of the Australian party system had a religious dimension, with an affinity between the main Australian nonlabour parties and Protestantism and between the Labor Party and Roman Catholicism…..

The Howard government is the first federal Coalition government in which Catholics have played a major role. While this fact has been commented on from time to time, sometimes it is submerged under the exaggerated concentration on the religious affiliation and personal religious background of just one of its senior ministers, Tony Abbott. This concentration culminated in the reportage of the February 2006 debates about the so-called ‘abortion drug’ RU-486 (see below). The general trend is of greater significance, however, than the role of any one individual.

Historically Catholic representation in the Coalition parties was minimal, almost non-existent, and there was active antipathy towards Catholic MPs such as Sir John Cramer as late as the 1950s. Professor Joan Rydon notes ‘the almost negligible Catholic component of the non-Labor parties’ in her survey of the Commonwealth Parliament from 1901 to 1980. Representation of Catholics in the Fraser ministry (1975–83) was still minimal, though it did include Philip Lynch, Fraser’s deputy for a time. But it had jumped dramatically 13 years later in both the Liberal and National parties. National Party Catholics have included two Deputy Prime Ministers, Tim Fischer and Mark Vaile. Senior Liberal Party Catholics have included Abbott, Brendan Nelson, Helen Coonan, Joe Hockey and Kevin Andrews to name just some current senior ministers. Prominent Catholics earlier in the Howard era included Communications minister, Richard Alston, Resources and Energy minister, Warwick Parer, and Aboriginal Affairs minister, John Herron. By 2006, other Catholics included new minister, Senator Santo Santoro, and up and coming parliamentary secretaries such as Robb himself, Malcolm Turnbull and Christopher Pyne. One step behind were senators George Brandis and Brett Mason. Prominent in another way has been Senator Bill Heffernan, the Prime Minister’s outspoken NSW party ally and one-time parliamentary secretary. The overall change has been remarkable.

By contrast, the place of Catholics in their ‘traditional’ party, Labor, seems much diminished and less obvious, despite Kim Beazley’s family connections with the church and Kevin Rudd’s Catholic origins. Many of them appeared to be isolated in the Catholic right faction, especially the NSW Right, and the party’s culture and history did not encourage them to emphasise their religious belief, because it stirred internal party divisions and conflict. Furthermore, anti-Catholic prejudice had become endemic in the Victorian branch of the party following the Labor Party split. As a consequence there is hardly a major federal Labor figure whose Catholic identity seems important. Most of the leading humanists in the Parliament are in the Labor Party and several of them, led by Dr Carmen Lawrence, formed a cross-factional Humanist Group in September 2000 to counter what they saw as the growing influence of religion in parliamentary debates and decisions…..

The public presentation of personal religious beliefs, now widespread in public life, is of equal interest to the denominational changes that have taken place. More than any other federal government the senior members of the Howard government have been active, in word and deed, in emphasizing (or at least being open about) its religious credentials and beliefs and in emphasizing the positive contribution of Christian values to Australian society. One has only to compare the publicly Christian approach of the Howard-Anderson-Costello-Abbott team, for instance, to the privately Christian, even secular, approach of the Fraser-Anthony-Lynch team in the 1970s to see that this is true.

The reason for this change might include a combination of the so-called international clash between fundamentalist Islam and Western Christian nations together with the particular personalities that just happen to have emerged in leadership positions in the Coalition. Howard himself, it should be noted, has not been the leading figure in this development, despite the attention given to his personal Methodism-cum-Anglicanism. Perhaps decreasing sectarianism has played a part.

Nevertheless, whatever its origins, this has occurred to the extent that following the 2004 federal election it drew a response from Labor in the form of Foreign Affairs shadow minister, Kevin Rudd, who formed a party discussion group on religion, faith and values to educate Labor colleagues and to warn them very publicly about the dangers of allowing the Coalition to capture the growing religious vote. Rudd and other Labor figures, while revealing a typical Labor wariness of the mix of religion and politics, believed that ‘the Coalition is intent on exploiting religion for political purposes.’ At the 2004 election the contrast with Labor had been made somewhat clearer because Labor leader, Mark Latham, was a declared agnostic. Latham was privately dismissive of religion and these views became public on the publication of his diaries. This has led Anglican Bishop Tom Frame to claim that in recent years ‘Labor leaders have exhibited an open disdain for all things religious.’ By 2005 the new Labor leader, Kim Beazley, a Christian himself, had overcome his traditional aversion to mixing religion and politics by speaking about his own faith at an Australian Christian Lobby conference in Canberra….

Religion and politics is also more prominent, though not widespread, in public appointments. The most controversial Howard government appointment in this context has been that of Archbishop Peter Hollingworth as Governor-General in June 2001. Hollingworth at the time of his appointment was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane…..

The most recent development in religion and politics has been the emergence of the Family First Party. The emergence of this new party at the 2004 federal election was just one aspect of the larger relationship between the Howard government and evangelical Christians. Despite the success of FFP it remains a less significant phenomenon than the direct influence of evangelical Christians within the Coalition. Evangelical lobby groups, like the emerging Australian Christian Lobby, are another notable element of this evangelical story……

Hansard, excerpt from Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison’s maiden speech in the House of Representatives, 14 February 2008:

I turn now to the most significant influences on my life—my family and my faith.

Family is the stuff of life and there is nothing more precious. I thank my family members here in the gallery today for their support. It is my hope that all Australians could have the same caring and supportive environment that was provided to me by my parents, John and Marion Morrison, and my late grandparents, Mardie and Sandy Smith and Douglas and Noel Morrison, whom I honour in this place today. My parents laid the foundation for my life. Together with my brother, Alan, they demonstrated through their actions their Christian faith and the value they placed on public and community service. In our family, it has never been what you accumulate that matters but what you contribute. I thank them for their sacrifice, love and, above all, their example. To my wife, Jenny, on Valentine’s Day: words are not enough. She has loved and supported me in all things and made countless sacrifices, consistent with her generous, selfless and caring nature. However, above all, I thank her for her determination to never give up hope for us to have a child. After 14 years of bitter disappointments, God remembered her faithfulness and blessed us with our miracle child, Abbey Rose, on the seventh of the seventh of the seventh, to whom I dedicate this speech today in the hope of an even better future for her and her generation.

Growing up in a Christian home, I made a commitment to my faith at an early age and have been greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders, in particular the Reverend Ray Green and pastors Brian Houston and Leigh Coleman. My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda. As Lincoln said, our task is not to claim whether God is on our side but to pray earnestly that we are on His. For me, faith is personal, but the implications are social—as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Christian message. In recent times it has become fashionable to negatively stereotype those who profess their Christian faith in public life as ‘extreme’ and to suggest that such faith has no place in the political debate of this country. This presents a significant challenge for those of us, like my colleague, who seek to follow the example of William Wilberforce or Desmond Tutu, to name just two. These leaders stood for the immutable truths and principles of the Christian faith. They transformed their nations and, indeed, the world in the process. More importantly, by following the convictions of their faith, they established and reinforced the principles of our liberal democracy upon which our own nation is built.

Australia is not a secular country—it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose. Secularism is just one. It has no greater claim than any other on our society. As US Senator Joe Lieberman said, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not from religion. I believe the same is true in this country.

So what values do I derive from my faith? My answer comes from Jeremiah, chapter 9:24:
... I am the Lord who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.

From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil. Desmond Tutu put it this way:

... we expect Christians ... to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy believable witnesses.

These are my principles. My vision for Australia is for a nation that is strong, prosperous and generous: strong in our values and our freedoms, strong in our family and community life, strong in our sense of nationhood and in the institutions that protect and preserve our democracy; prosperous in our enterprise and the careful stewardship of our opportunities, our natural environment and our resources; and, above all, generous in spirit, to share our good fortune with others, both at home and overseas, out of compassion and a desire for justice.

ABC Radio National, 3 September 2008:

Well the Australians are going back in history. The first guy to get involved was man named Norman Makin who was actually not considered a right-winger, he was a long-time Ambassador to the United States, but was an early Cold warrior and saw The Family as a useful vehicle for working with the Conservative side of American politics during the Cold War. More recently, I would just bump into - in the documents -minor Australian politicians, Bruce Baird, a fellow named Ross Cameron, and I suppose Peter Costello has been involved, and I don't know how involved and I just, that's not something I followed up on……


The religious makeup of Australia has changed gradually over the past 50 years. In 1966, Christianity (88 per cent) was the main religion. By 1991, this figure had fallen to 74 per cent, and further to the 2016 figure. Catholicism is the largest Christian grouping in Australia, accounting for almost a quarter (22.6 per cent) of the Australian population.

Australia is increasingly a story of religious diversity, with Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, and Buddhism all increasingly common religious beliefs. Hinduism had the most significant growth between 2006 and 2016, driven by immigration from South Asia.

The growing percentage of Australia’s population reporting no religion has been a trend for decades, and is accelerating. Those reporting no religion increased noticeably from 19 per cent in 2006 to 30 per cent in 2016. The largest change was between 2011 (22 per cent) and 2016, when an additional 2.2 million people reported having no religion…..

The Conversation, 21 August 2017:

Even though the 2016 Census revealed that more than 30% of the Australian population identify as having “no religion” – a label that overtook the Catholic faith figure – Christianity’s effect on Australian politics is far from waning.
Surprisingly, Christians currently number more than 40% of the Coalition government and about 30% of the Labor opposition. This is high for a nation labelled “secular”….

 Kevin RuddTony Abbott and former Liberal senator Cory Bernardi moved Christian values from the periphery to the centre when they declared their strong convictions on faith and policy….

When federal parliament is in session, the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship meets fortnightly, with about 60 members from all sides of politics in attendance. This is more than a quarter of total parliamentary members.

Not all Christians in parliament choose to attend the fellowship. Anecdotal evidence suggests that guest speakers, prayer and Bible studies with focused discussions are regular features of these meetings.

2. Faith-based delivery of social and community services

The government has outsourced approximately two-thirds of community services to faith-based agencies at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars…..

The Age, 18 May 2018:

A senior Mormon recently elected to a powerful position in the Victorian Liberal Party has been accused of not being a legitimate member, fuelling tensions over the rising influence of ultra-conservatives in the state branch.

Three weeks after winning a coveted spot on the party’s administrative committee, infectious diseases specialist Dr Ivan Stratov has had his membership thrown into doubt, amid allegations that he did not get the necessary approval to join the Liberals after initialling running as a Family First candidate at the state election in 2010….

The Age, 3 June 2018:

He’s the most unlikely Liberal Party powerbroker.

The son of a leftist migrant from the Soviet Union; brought up atheist in Melbourne’s suburbs; the first Mormon missionary to baptise new believers in Ukraine in the early 1990s.

But nearly three decades later, HIV specialist and doctor Ivan Stratov is part of a new conservative wave that’s seizing power in the Victorian branch.

An Age investigation has confirmed with senior church sources that at least 10 of the 78 people elected to the Liberals’ administrative bodies at the party’s April state council are Mormons.

This amounts to nearly 13 per cent of all those now in key positions within the Liberals’ organisational wing, compared to just 0.3 per cent of all Australians who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Combined with conservative Catholics, evangelical Christians from churches such as Victory Faith Centre and City Builders, the religious right-wing now has unprecedented sway in Liberal Party politics.

And Stratov – a senior Mormon who won a coveted spot on the administrative committee – is their most influential figure.

When conservative Liberals embarked on an anti-Safe Schools roadshow across Victoria last year to highlight concerns about the program, Stratov was a headline act.

When state MPs debated changing euthanasia laws, the scientist whose papers are peer reviewed, sat on a panel at the party’s Exhibition Street headquarters warning them against it…..

And when acolytes of new state vice-president Marcus Bastiaan and federal MP Michael Sukkar embarked on a takeover of the Victorian branch, Stratov was one of Bastiaan's key lieutenants…..

Monday, 4 June 2018

How the media sees denizens of Parliament Drive, Canberra



One Nation’s lifetime president summed up in ten sentences

The Saturday Paper Editorial excerpt, 2 June 2018:

Despite what she says, Hanson is a politician. She’s just not a very good one. Burston’s defection is the end of her balance of power in this senate. The relief at this is great.

To see One Nation break apart again is to be reminded of the brokenness of racism. Hers is a dried-out vision of Australia, mean and unimaginative. It is a pleasure to see it fail. It is like watching a dirt clod give in to rain.

Hers is a country of racist privilege, of conspiracy theories and clapped-out ideology. It is a godsend to see it founder.

Hanson arrived in this parliament with a party of Brits and car thieves. Scandal has claimed member after member. Those who are left, she cannot hold together. And it is good.

Barnaby Joyce’s death is announced

The Australian via outline.com, 1 June 2018:

The implosion of Barnaby Joyce — personally and professionally — in and of itself risks bringing down the Turnbull government. In fact, it puts the political potency of the Coalition at risk well beyond the Turnbull era.

The man once described by former prime minister Tony Abbott as Australia’s best retail politician has become a dead weight around the necks of his Liberal and Nationals colleagues.

The way Joyce has conducted himself generally, the contradictions in his calls for privacy versus selling his story to the highest bidder and some of the specifics (for example, blaming his partner for taking the cash or earlier suggesting the child might not even be his) have put Joyce’s retail days behind him. We’re not supposed to talk about this now that he’s on personal leave but not dwelling on it is perhaps the more realistic refrain.

There is no coming back politically from the way Joyce’s soap opera has played out in public. Anyone in the Nationals hoping for a return of the man who helped the party retain all its seats at the 2016 election, even picking one up from the Liberals, and saving the Turnbull government in the process are kidding themselves. Not now, not ever.

If the best interests of the Nationals are the only thing to consider, Joyce will quietly announce his intention not to contest the next election. He may yet do that. Let’s hope it doesn’t involve another paid interview.

Michaelia the Screecher in a nut shell

The Canberra Times, 1 June 2018:

The Liberal Party's loudest voice speaking up in defence of all the wrong things, while taking zero responsibility for what happens in her office. Who could possibly forget the way she dragged the Leader of the Opposition's female staffers through the sleaze earlier this year? Now she's been subpoenaed to appear before the Federal Court, which is examining last year's raids on the Australian Workers' Union. She's been moaning that it's all a union plot while appearing to forget the Federal Court doesn't get bullied into doing anything.

Liberal MP for almost 17 years and Federal Minister for over 4 years, Greg Hunt, reveals skills acquired as former Captain of Australian Universities Debating Team

Brisbane Times, 31 May 2018:

“He relocated his chair, pointing towards me and said 'you need to f***ing get over it, you need to f***ing make Senator Scullion your best friend'," Alderman Miller told ABC TV.

Monday, 7 August 2017

So why might the far right of the Liberal and National parties being pushing for a postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage?


The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) states this of national plebiscites:

Plebiscites

An issue put to the vote which does not affect the Constitution is called a plebiscite. A plebiscite is not defined in the Australian Constitution, the Electoral Act or the Referendum Act. A plebiscite can also be referred to as a simple national vote.

Governments can hold plebiscites to test whether people either support or oppose a proposed action on an issue. The government is not bound by the 'result' of a plebiscite as it is by the result of a Constitutional referendum. Federal, state and territory governments have held plebiscites on various issues.

Under s. 7A of the Electoral Act, the AEC can conduct a plebiscite as a fee-for-service election, with the AEC entering into 'an agreement, on behalf of the Commonwealth, for the supply of goods or services to a person or body'. The rules for a plebiscite or fee-for-service election are normally contained in the terms of the agreement between the AEC and the person funding the election.

Military service plebiscites were held in 1916 and 1917 but, as they were not proposals to amend the Constitution, the provisions of section 128 of the Constitution did not apply. Voters in all federal territories were permitted to vote. Both the military service plebiscites sought a mandate for conscription and were defeated.

The first thing to note about a national plebiscite is that its outcome is not binding on the federal parliament or on any MP or senator.

Additionally, voting in a national plebiscite can be voluntary, unless otherwise stated in any legislation authorising a specific plebiscite. As was the case in the National Song Poll in May 1977 at which 7.59 million people or est. 90%+ of registered voters cast a voluntary ballot.

Besides being voluntary a plebiscite can also be a mail-out ballot as was the Election of Delegates to the Constitutional Convention some twenty years later in December 1997, at which 6 million ballot papers were returned, scrutinised and counted – that is to say only 50.04% of all eligible voters actually voluntarily voted and an est. 1.13% of these cast informal ballots.

A parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage was calculated as costing $17 million in 2016. A stand-alone same-sex plebiscite was estimated to cost up to $525 million in that same year.

An important point to note about a national plebiscite on same-sex marriage is that it is unnecessary as s51 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act gives federal parliament power to make laws regarding marriage and, parliament exercised that right as recently as 2004 when it changed the definition of marriage in order To ensure that same sex marriages are not recognised as marriage in Australia, inclusive of those performed under the laws of another country that permits such unions.

So one can see why far-right federal MPs and senators would be in favour of a voluntary plebiscite, particularly a postal one.

It may cost taxpayers more but the chances of a high voter participation rate is not as certain and, if the government of the day doesn't like the results of the ballot it can decide to not to act on them.

These parliamentarians probably believe those voters who will be less likely to return a postal ballot will not be those strongly opposed to same-sex marriage, but those who are undecided, neutral, or disinterestedly in favour of rewriting the Marriage Act to allow gay couples to wed.

In the minds of zealots like Eric Abetz and Tony Abbott this is probably seen as giving their cause a fighting chance and absolving them of any responsibility for continuing to actively oppose same-sex marriage.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

And Australian federal politicians wonder why they are held in such low esteem


The majority of those Teflon-coated, masters of entitlement sitting in the Senate and House of Representative in Canberra wouldn’t even make the gesture……


Fewer than a quarter of federal politicians have agreed to commit to new ethical standards devised by legendary corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald - and there is not a single Turnbull government MP among them.

The former judge teamed up with the left-leaning Australia Institute think tank to survey every federal politician on their values as part of a plan to clean up Canberra and build momentum for a federal anti-corruption body.

The Queensland QC – who presided over the Fitzgerald Inquiry that ultimately led to the resignation of former state premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen – developed the questionnaire to test MPs about their attitudes towards accountability, integrity, nepotism, deception and the spending of public money.

But the response from MPs was underwhelming, with just 53 of the 226 signing up to the so-called "Fitzgerald Principles". Thirty-six refused to commit and 137 did not reply to repeated requests to participate.

"The refusal of a majority of politicians to commit publicly to normal standards of behaviour puts the need for an effective anti-corruption commission beyond doubt," Mr Fitzgerald said. 
"The major parties surely realise that the public wants politicians to behave honourably and that the scandals which are causing Australians to lose faith in democracy involve their members."

Thirty-eight members of the ALP agreed to the principles, including Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus. Seven members of the Australian Greens signed up, as did all four members of the Nick Xenophon Team, two independents and One Nation's Pauline Hanson.

No Coalition MPs - who are often instructed not to take part in surveys - signed up.

The Australia Institute, 28 January 2015:

The Fitzgerald Principles are:

1. Govern for the peace, welfare and good government of the State;
2. Make all decisions and take all actions, including public appointments, in the public interest without regard to personal, party political or other immaterial considerations;
3.  Treat all people equally without permitting any person or corporation special access or influence; and
4.  Promptly and accurately inform the public of its reasons for all significant or potentially controversial decisions and actions.

The Australian Government has a Statement Of Ministerial Standards which all federal government ministers are obliged to uphold. However, currently there is no general code of conduct for all members of parliament and, it appears that most of those we elected in 2016 like the freedom to do as they please which this allows and are loathe to alter the status quo.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Should Derryn Hinch really be a senator?


THE PROPHETIC QUESTION IS POSED


Should Derryn Hinch really be a senator?......
One of the outcomes of Saturday's federal election is that Victorians now have as one of their 12 representatives in the Senate a man who has over the past 30 years been to jail twice and fined $100,000 for breaching court orders, and who has been roundly criticised by the High Court for undermining the right of an accused person to a fair trial. We are talking about broadcaster Derryn Hinch.
While Hinch is not disqualified under the constitution from being a candidate for the Senate because he is not serving or waiting to serve a sentence for an offence under Commonwealth or state law punishable by a prison sentence of 12 months or more, the broader question is whether a person with Hinch's record is fit to hold the office of a legislator whose role is to ensure that laws are enforceable and that the rule of law is upheld?

THE ANSWER IS IN THE SENATOR'S FAILURE TO SUPPORT THE RULE OF LAW


it was Senator Hinch - twice jailed for contempt - who declared "the system is rotten".
"The three ministers were well within their rights to do what they did," he told Fairfax Media. "If I was the minister I would have told them to go jump. Courts are not inviolate."…
"I watched the performance yesterday and those guys up there in their black robes, it was like something out of Kafka," he said. "If that's contempt of court, I couldn't give a shit."

What was started by three Turnbull Government ministers allegedly working in unison to attack the judiciary now threatens to widen into something that may not be able to be easily contained.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Ninety-six per cent of Australian federal parliamentarians own a property


ABC News, 20 April 2017:

There's no housing affordability crisis in the ranks of Federal Parliament's members and senators.

The politicians charged with tackling the thorny issue of spiralling house prices are among the nation's most aggressive property investors, an analysis by the ABC has revealed.

The 226 individuals own 524 properties between them and about half of them own investment properties.

That means many of our politicians have a very personal interest in any changes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount……

Ninety-six per cent of parliamentarians own a property. Only 10 out of our 224 elected officials aren't in the game.

Compare that to the rest of Australia, where home ownership is expected to dip below 50 per cent sometime this year.

Register of Members’ Interests for 45th Australian Parliament.

Although a number of investment properties are listed in the members’ register this does not necessarily mean that additional property is not owned as part of superannuation schemes (other than that operated by the Commonwealth of Australia) or included in the assets of a private corporation in which a member has a significant shareholding.

Friday, 16 December 2016

The last Question Time of 2016 and the last hurrah for Malcolm Bligh Turnbull?


The Guardian, 4 December 2016:

Parliament ended the year with a mixture of bang and whimper.

The whimper was the legislative “fight”. It says a fair bit about the way the government is travelling that the big political issue was the backpacker tax (important as it is for farmers, it is not one that should have caused such grief) and the passing of the Building and Construction Commission legislation. This has been so laughably altered from its original intent that the main issue for unions is ensuring the ABCC does adhere to the legislation – such as the requirement that the commissioner performs his or her functions “in an apolitical manner”.

The bang was a protest that disrupted question time.

There was, of course, a lot of hand-wringing over the protest – there always is when the left protests in Australia. After all, we had much the same response about disruption of democracy from the powers that be a couple years ago when students protested against Christopher Pyne during an episode of Q&A.

The protesters certainly did disrupt the proceedings of parliament, but they did no one any harm and were no danger to anyone. Their putting a stop to the proceedings of question time actually produced a net benefit to the nation’s IQ, even if only for three-quarters of an hour.

That’s not to say question time is unimportant or always brain dulling in its idiocy. There are times, mostly by accident, when something worthwhile does occur, but for the most part it is just a poorly scripted play performed by mediocre actors……

It should be noted that on Wednesday it took Malcolm Turnbull two sentences to deliver his answer about attacking the ALP, while on Thursday it took him three.

Notionally his answer was about the passing of the legislation to reinstate the ABCC, but perhaps because the legislation was so neutered he felt on surer ground to talk about the ALP’s faults rather than his government’s achievements.
The ABCC legislation, however, nicely encapsulated the government’s policy process – rushed, sloppy and actually failing to deliver what was intended.

The government was so desperate to get the legislation passed that it agreed to all manner of amendments – including those that were highly protectionist, made the commissioner’s position virtually untenable, and those that didn’t make a lot of sense……

How I’ll remember Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull during Question Time in 2016:

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

SBS News, 6 December 2016:

Voter support for Malcolm Turnbull has fallen to its lowest level since he seized power, the latest Newspoll shows.

The Coalition heads into Christmas with its two-party preferred vote up from 47 to 48 per cent but still trailing Labor, which has notched up its sixth successive lead, on 52 per cent, the poll taken for The Australian newspaper shows.

Mr Turnbull's standing has again fallen, with his rating as better prime minister dropping two points to 41 per cent, the lowest level since he toppled Tony Abbott as leader 15 months ago.

The prime minister's standing has tumbled 18 points over the course of this year.
His margin over Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who is favoured by 32 per cent as the preferred prime minister, has dropped from a 39-point lead in January to just nine points.

The Newspoll of 1629 voters, taken from Thursday to Sunday, shows the government's primary vote has gained one point to 39 per cent and Labor's primary vote fell two points to a two-month low of 36 per cent.

The Greens remain unchanged on 10 per cent while support for independents and other parties edged up from 14 to 15 per cent.


Thursday, 15 December 2016

In 2011 Australia had a Labor government and in 2016 it has a Liberal-Nationals Coalition government - see the difference


What a difference the philosophy a political party espouses makes to the physical and social environment in which they govern.

THEN……

The Australian Federal Parliament was interrupted by a group of protesters shouting 'no carbon tax' during Question Time on 11 October 2011.



This is what the Parliament House looked like after that incident – barricade free.

Photograph by Tracy Best, Saturday 24 October 2011

NOW…..

The Australian Federal Parliament was interrupted by a group of protesters shouting 
'close the camps ' during Question Time on 30 November 2016.


This is what Parliament House looked like after that incident.

A security guard patrols the lawns at Parliament House.
Photo: Andrew Meares, The Sydney Morning Herald 1 December 2016

Security ‘pen’ for journalists. Photo tweeted by James Massola, 2 December 2016

Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Desperation Of Barnaby Joyce: letter publicly released at a cost to Australian taxpayers of an est. $293 per word plus legal fees



The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 October 2016:

Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon has fought for the release of the letter, which was emailed directly to Mr Joyce and Tony Abbott's former head of department Michael Thawley, since the independent Information Commissioner ruled it should be made available.
Mr Joyce's department fought that ruling, spent $80,000 on engaging Ernst & Young to review its public information processes, and then fought the matter through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal before giving up the fight just after Parliament rose for two weeks on Friday.
"This letter shows Paul Grimes was deeply concerned about Barnaby Joyce's behaviour. He was challenging Joyce's integrity," Mr Fitzgibbon said on Monday.
"He clearly thought what Joyce did was not appropriate. This letter indicates he was being bullied.
"What Barnaby Joyce did was to sack Paul Grimes to save himself."
The Deputy Prime Minister's office stressed that Mr Joyce did not sack Mr Grimes, rather Mr Abbott asked him to stand aside on advice of Mr Thawley.