Monday, October 8, 2007

Pearson, you little beauty!

I attended the Committee Hearing on the 24th September at State Parliament in Sydney. The Committee for State Development was holding an inquiry into the future and viability of NSW Agriculture. Being from a rural area myself, I think that the management of rural development is an extremely important issue. The hearing looked into the problems that Agriculture may face in the future with the growing trend of urbanisation and the initiatives that can be developed to further assist in its growth. These strategies are trying to improve the economy of rural communities by undertaking subdivision and encouraging settlement of new residents and businesses.

The Chairperson for the hearing was The Hon. A. Catanzariti. At the beginning of the hearing the chair took the opportunity to explain what is expected of the participants in terms of behaviour and order. I thought this was perhaps a good idea as is Question Time I always manage to miss this part (even if they have it all) and clearly they need a bit of this behaviour and order.
The Committee witness for the hearing was Richard Pearson, the Executive Director for Rural and Regional Planning, is actually from the NSW Department of Planning. The purpose of this committee witness is basically to be a spokesperson for the councils of NSW to explain matters in which the committee have questions. In Pearson’ s opening statement he outlined what he was going to be talking about as well as thanking the government for this opportunity. What really struck me was his passion for the subject. No doubt you do not get to the level he has in has area by not being passionate, but in general I was amazed at his eager and confidence.
However I was a little surprised he told the committee to look for themselves on the department website for regional strategies. I thought he would at least provide a few statistics on these strategies to wet the committee’s appetite and then perhaps direct them to the website for further information.

The use of jargon in this hearing initially confused me. Contrary to my hopes, this hearing was not exempt from the parliamentary jargon dilemma I continually face in this public affairs subject. This jargon included Pearson’s use of words such as ‘SEPP’. Obviously these committee hearings are not meant to be viewer-friendly.

Although the topic was initially of interest to me I must admit I did start nod off until I heard the word Bathurst, and immediately came to. He was using the town as an example of how the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) would be in the same format but have regional differences in controls as opposed to say areas like Tweed. The way he explained it was obvious as the two different areas would obviously need different controls as the two area’s main industries differ greatly.

When topics were discussed such as the Central West rural lands inquiry in providing advice and a way forward to resolving the issue of rural subdivision in the Central West and its potential to impact on agriculture, it makes me a little sad. Sad in the fact that the thought of rural subdivision means that some little farmer that has built his land up over many years through sheer hard work and hardships and has to sub divide his land just because he lives close to town. On the other hand, the fact that this land has to be subdivided because of the growing population in these rural towns makes me look on the bright side and have hope for these rural communities. And this is the attitude I think that Pearson would like rural communities to have, to accept change and embrace it.

Committee hearings are an essential part of the democratic process as it is a good chance to set the record straight and answer any questions the committee has in the topic. It is a direct way of having these questions answered rather than going through various secretaries and bureaucracy to get one answer.

This topic particularly interests me because being from regional NSW and having the life plan of eventually moving back, I care about how such regional development is managed. It is good to see people care about the country for once (by the way, the recent announcement for the $300 million for drought assistance to farmers by the Howard government is long overdue but greatly appreciated).

Also the point Pearson makes about “needing to better educate tree changers and people moving to rural areas about farming and what it means” proves to be close to the heart with my recent internship at ‘The Tree and Sea Change Expo’ at Rosehill Racecourse. Also known as Country Week, it tries to encourage urban residents to see the advantages of living in regional areas such as lower housing and living costs, lower restrictions on water, and more time with the family. Although it does not give people the access to the disadvantages of living in the country. Listening to Pearson gave me another way to think about the situation – the necessity of educating city people on the less-appealing issues of a tree change and help them before they make such a life-changing decision. Eg. Goulbourn council providing booklets on what issues a land purchaser should consider before moving to a rural area.

I find it quite intriguing that there is only one speaker as a representative for the Rural and Regional Planning Office. I would have thought if there were two or three with specific topics they specialised in, I guess they could speak more comprehensively than one on all the subjects. Although, this may cause confusion and clutter in the hearing.

We do see a little humour or I guess you could call it sarcasm from The Hon. Melinda Pavey towards Pearson. I suppose it wouldn’t be a parliamentary activity without a little sarcasm. On several occasions Pavey interrupts Pearson and asks him to repeat what he had already explained and asked him if it was true.

In conclusion, although this was more ordered than question time, I don’t think I enjoyed the show as much.

Monday, September 17, 2007



This question time was rather interesting. The reoccurring issue that kept popping up was to do with advertising campaigns – the trend that I have been noticing since I started my question-time-watching career, the most hotly contested issues of the day’s question time will most inevitably end up on the evening news.

I quite like the fact that when a member asks a general question, they also ask for specifics about their local electorate, no doubt so they can get quick answers and go back to their local areas and issue a press release on the findings. It also provides an opportunity for the member’s local area for publicity and recognition in parliament and even perhaps in the media if they find it worthy for publication. One such example is from today’s question time in the House of Reps (This is now my favourite question time, as opposed to Senate question time).

For example, Mr Hargrave, the liberal member for Moreton asks “Would the Deputy Prime Minister update the house on how the government’s plan for infrastructure is building the road and rail networks Australia needs for the future, including in my electorate of Moreton?

And for a very humble response to the member of Moreton, Mr Vaile responded:

“I thank the member for Moreton for his question. I recognise what a great job he has done in representing the constituents of Moreton for many years, given his 37-year history as a local in the area. He knows what his people represents…that obviously can not be said of his Labour opponent…he does not know the constituency.”
So a bit praise and paying out (at any opportunity) at the same time, as one could imagine a shot back to Mr Hargrave showed a very happy and proud man.

It did make me chuckle, the fact that the deputy prime minister was giving this guy a huge wrap and as if all the others members wanted to hear it, and wouldn’t it just be wasting more time (especially for those PR students out there who are being forced to watch it!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

House of Reps - Canberra Superstars


Roll up, roll up to the House of Representatives question time featuring the superstars of Australian politics. With the likes of John Howard, Peter Costello, Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett, there is a politician for everyone.
This is the glitzy question time quite often shown in snippets on the evening news. As the federal election nears and the polls creating gossip and rumours, there is not a more important time than for the Coalition to counteract negative polls and for Labour to win the hearts of the Australian population.

Today in particular is an important day as it is the day before the sixth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The question time today includes quite a few questions regarding the War on Iraq. I enjoyed listening to these as I think it is an important topic for our generation to understand. Previously it has all been a bit of mumble jumble in not really understanding the topic. I always feel I should be doing other things rather than sitting down during the day and reading. This is one of my faults. So this question time helped me to understand the War on Iraq.
The first question today was from Kevin Rudd to John Howard regarding wether the Australian Government’s plan for Iraq was to follow that of the UK and the US with the draw down of forces after the election.
Howard answers the question in the first line of response, “We do not have any proposal to draw down forces in Iraq.” This technique corresponds with what we were taught in our media conferences last semester – to answer the question quickly and efficiently.

Howard makes an interesting point, which I have not previously been aware of:

Prior to the surge there were about 130, 000 American combat troops in Iraq, the surge has added approx. 30, 000. The force levels that Australia had prior to the surge are exactly the same as the force levels that are there now.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Question Time's Weakness = Attractiveness


To me, Question time’s downfall is its sole element of attractiveness to a younger audience. I am talking about the immaturity that seems to go on between the two major opposing parties. It is rather amusing to watch one senator have a dig at another with sly remarks or just straight out rudeness.
A good example of this is from 7/9/07 question time in the senate. Queensland Senator McLucas (Labour) calmly asks a question to South Australian Senator Minchen (Liberal) about the government intervention of the Mercy Hospital in Tasmania. Senator Michen responds with the comment “Thanks for that question, it is interesting a QLD senator has to ask a question on a TAS issue, where is the TAS senator, the labour party is clearly all over the place on this issue,” – blatant dig.
I also had to chuckle later in the answer to Senator McLucas’s question when Senator Minchen started imitating Kevin Rudd in saying he only really had two policies.

The drama is as follows:

Minchen imitating Rudd (high-pitched and sarcastic voice) when being asked on his position - “Oh I don’t have a position; I’m just going to have a look at this, see this and see that.”

Minchen being the comedian of a senator he thinks he is: “Rudd only has two policies for this election,
1) To wreck our industrial relations system,
2) To cut 60% in carbon emissions.
We cannot find any other policies. When we make a significant intervention to ensure the retention of health services in Tasmania, Mr Rudd is nowhere to be seen, and nor are any of his Tasmanian senators, which is fascinating.”

Haha – funny. Almost like a slinging match from Home and Away with slightly less attractive people and in parliament.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A new era has started for Ali...

Look out to the world of social media!!!