Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Political Shenanigans

The Australian government is in its last week of work, with this sitting of the House to end on June 26. Starting about mid week last week, the shenanigans picked up.
  • A female Greens senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, was walking late in the day with her 2 year old daughter in Parliament House when there was a sudden call for a vote. Given the short time frame, she popped into the Senate chamber with her daughter. The daughter was quiet, not creating a fuss. Apparently, in 2003, rules were changed to allow elected women/mothers to breastfeed their children in the chambers, and in the past few years, a few Senators have taken their children into the Senate, but their presence was ignored. So there was an assumption that this would be suitable. When the Labour Party had a change of Ministers the other week, children were present at the swearing-in ceremony, notably with their male parent, in the front row. In fact, the Governor General encouraged their presence when someone suggested the children leave... However, the Senate president ordered the child out of the chamber. That's when the noise level increased, especially by the young child, who was removed from her mother's arms. And if the Senator didn't vote, she would not be doing her "duty" as an elected representative, so she stayed to vote, and the little girl was taken out. Of course this has raised discussion on many issues related to parenting, work, how work intrudes into our private lives but our private lives aren't allowed to intrude into work. The more conservative-leaning Australian Family Association supports this because it opposes long-term day care!

  • The leader of the Opposition, Malcom Turnbull, has created a firestorm about a supposed special favour by the Prime Minister's Office of a friend of the PM. A while ago the car finance industry needed to be bailed out financially (why they "need" this when the rest of us have to forge on without bailing out is an issue, I think). A government office was created to support this endeavour, and apparently a request was also made to support an individual car dealer in Queensland. An email was sent and much was made of the PM's involvement in the case. It now turns out the email is a fake, so there is a major waste of everyone's time while people are blaming each other in every news item that is aired or written. This during the week when the government was trying to pass a new bill regarding Emissions Trading, trying to create change in how pollution is handled. Mr. Turnbull is now back pedaling and assures all and sundry that he may have been "misinformed".

  • A few months ago the Labour Party's introduced a bill to change the taxation of "alcopops". Alcopops are the mixed drinks that are sold in the bottle or can, e.g., the Smirnoff Ice drink we have in Canada. A very popular canned drink here in Aus is a mix of Jim Beam and a cola product. The Labour Party wanted to increase the taxes on these drinks, in an effort to, of course, raise more money, and also to supposedly discourage binge drinking. The coalition of opposition party members in the Senate steadfastly discouraged support, because they say it doesn't do anything about the problem of binge drinking, but is just a money grab by the government. And the Bill has to pass both houses in order to become law. Several opposition members have now decided to cross the floor and are now supporting the alcopops bill. Earlier in the term there was a threat that non-support of the re-introduced Bill by the Senate would cause a double dissolution of the government, causing the government to fall before its term ended. So now they may not be facing an early election.

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