Day One – Canberra

Today I arrived!  If you don’t already know about my Canberra trip, please read about it here.  So far day one has been AWESOME!  I left Melbourne at 6:45am (that bit was not so awesome) with the aim of at least getting to part of Question Time this afternoon.  I stopped in Gundagai for lunch and had to take the obligatory photo.

I arrived at the hostel where I’m staying just before 2pm, quickly dumped my stuff then headed off to parliament house where I caught the last hour of question time in the house of representatives.  I absolutely loved being there!  It was so different actually being there in person.  I knew it would be, but it was even better than I expected.  Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take any electronic devises in, so no inside photos were taken 😦

Here is a photo I took out the outside of parliament house as I arrived feeling very excited!

This is what it looks like inside the house of representatives (stock photo).  The gallery you can see up the top is the press gallery.  The other 3 sides are for the public and I spent most of the afternoon sitting on the right.  After question time they close the 2 side galleries coz there aren’t as many people, so I moved to the gallery up top behind where this photo was taken.

Now for my observations.  It was not as rowdy and insane and I expected it to be.  I mean, there was lots of heckling and childish insults being thrown around, but I had assumed there was a lot more of that going on that the microphones on tv didn’t pick up.  But it’s not true, you hear pretty much everything on tv.  Clearly there is lots of childish idiocy going on, but what you see on tv is what you get.  I do not envy Harry Jenkins (the speaker) his job.  Although I do adore him.  One of my goals for the week is to somehow meet Harry!

This is Harry.

I was saddened by the way the politicians on both sides of the house constantly vilify the other side.  There was at times real debate, but a lot of the chatter was just saying how much the other side suck and how they’re totally incompetent.  Ok, so you think they’re crap?  Tell us why you’re better and what you’re going to do.  Don’t just say “I’m better”.  That’s not debate.  I was particularly disgusted with the rudeness (and apparent arrogance) of a number of the liberal party.  Tony Abbott spent a huge proportion of the time not even bothering to pay attention to whoever was speaking, and actually had his back to them.  He was carrying on conversations with his front benchers for most of the time.  I was appalled at how rude he was in his total disregard for others.  Quite a number of the other liberals did this too.  At one stage Christopher Pyne just got up and walked over to someone else and had a chat with them.  It’s one thing to need to tell someone something and pass on messages about the debate topics, but these were just side conversations!

These are the people who are running our country.  That makes me sad.

After question time the chamber emptied.  There are 150 seats in the house of reps and about 5 minutes after qt ended I counted 16 people left.  17 if you include Harry.  They then proceeded to pass a few bills with only 16 people there to vote!  If there is some way those who have left can vote on bills then I don’t know about it (if you do, please let me know).  After about half an hour I counted 9 people left in the chamber.  This is unbelievable!  Although I do assume that those who leave can get the feed (both audio and visual) in their offices because it’s in the front foyer and on a few screens around the public parts of parliament house.  I sure hope they pay attention to the feed coz it was serious debate about current and important topics.  After qt I heard Malcolm Turnball speak very well about the NBN and why he doesn’t think it’s the best way to give Australians access to fast, reliable internet.  But…. as soon as Turnball spoke (which he did for half an hour) he just left!  I hope he was listening to the response, but he certainly wasn’t in the chamber anymore.  However, the labor reply to him was pathetic.  The woman who replied (whose name I forget) just had a whine about Turnball and the negativity of the liberals in general, but it was a ludicrous reply because Turnball spoke very well and was very constructive.

I popped in to the senate for a short time after this and that was much rowdier.  There were only about 9 senators there, but 3 of them were in a rather vocal sledging match.  The topic was climate change, but it seemed to be more about personal attack.  It was rather funny until you realise that these are elected officials who make decisions about the life of our country.

All in all I had a wonderful day and I am so looking forward to the rest of the week, but our politicians leave a lot to be desired…

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4 Replies to “Day One – Canberra”

  1. Audio from the chamber is piped into the offices out the back. A member need not actually be on the floor of the chamber to hear what’s going on; Hansard also records verbatim every word spoken in the chamber, so a politician can actually be quite informed about everything spoken should they choose to be so.
    Because of the operation of the parliament, very few members are on the floor during the reading and first amendments of bills. Parliamentary “whips” employed by the political parties will pass around the offices out the back with all sorts of notes and inform members when a Division is required.

    Also, (and this is fun to notice) in the headrests of the benches there are speakers of what is going on inside the chamber. Some members sometimes look like they are asleep when in actual fact they have their ears pressed hard up into the speakers; trying to blot out the distractions from the rest of the chamber.
    Kim Beazley in particular was a master at this. He’d look like he was off having a nap, and then suddenly rise to his feet with some incisive comment.

    1. I get that on some level, but there were 16 people there! 16! There is no way the rest of them bother to catch up on everything they miss. Summaries are helpful to a point but…

  2. Hello Megan,
    I am really enjoying your commentary on Parliament. I know I gave you a hard time about going but I am enjoying your response. I will be waiting for your next instalment.

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