Friday, June 28, 2013

'I pray that in subsequent governments we will see a return to civility'

Paul Neville, Peter Rose, Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast, Chaplain, parliament, civility
Among the large number of Valedictory Speeches given in the last days of Parliament this week, many have brought reflections of faith, acknowledgements of the people behind the scenes and hopes for a more civil Parliamentary life in future.

Paul Neville, National for Hinkler, began his final speech by saying, 'Madam Speaker, it would be fair to say that I have had an interesting and stimulating adult life. Very few things have been denied me by a loving God, who has given me just about everything I have ever asked for, though, as I said in my first speech, it was generally in his time frame not mine.'

After looking back over his long career in politics, his singled out a quiet but influential member of the parliamentary community:

'One person who is often forgotten is Peter Rose, our Chaplain, who quietly and unobtrusively goes about the role of counselling, comforting and leading,' Neville said.

'He assists in the national prayer breakfast and ceremonies for the opening of parliament and the start of each parliamentary year. Some of us in the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship gain strength from Peter's Tuesday morning prayers in the meditation room.'

And leaving a message for those who will continue in Canberra, Neville said:

'I am an unapologetic admirer of Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, a saint and a patron of politicians. More, as portrayed by Robert Bolt, said: "When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties they lead their country by a short route to chaos.

'Colleagues, how true is that today? We have seen it, as politicians, in the collapses through the GFC, in the horrors in the Balkans and in the aftermath of the Arab spring. We have seen the truth of these words in our own state and federal politics, especially over the last decade.

'I will not spell it out; you all know it. Little wonder so many say that they do not trust politicians. As I leave this parliament I pray that in subsequent governments we will see a return to civility in this place.

'Surely it is not beyond our capacity to make question time what it should be: quite simply, an eliciting of information rather than a forum for meaningless spin and invective. Like it or not, it is the vehicle by which the public judge us, because it is the forum of the parliament they get to see most often.

'Surely we can do as good a job as New Zealand, Canada, the UK and France. Despite the expectations of the new paradigms, it has been getting progressively worse from parliament to parliament.'

This story was sourced through an alert.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Full text of Kevin Rudd and Anthony Albanese's leadership speeches

Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister, leadership spill, politics, Australia, auspol
As Australian's federal politicians face a 'formidably busy day' today, here's the full text of Kevin Rudd's leadership speech last night, and that of deputy leader Anthony Albanese.

Kevin Rudd:
Let me make some remarks before I turn to the Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. In 2007 the Australian people elected me to be their Prime Minister. That is a task that I resume today with humility, with honour and with an important sense of energy and purpose.

In recent years, politics has failed the Australian people. There has just been too much negativity all round. There’s been an erosion of trust. Negative destructive personal politics has done much to bring dishonour to our parliament but done nothing to address the urgent challenges facing our country, our communities, our families. In fact it’s been holding our country back. And all this must stop, and with all my heart that is the purpose that I intend to pursue as Prime Minister.

Julia Gillard, leadership spill, Prime Minister Labor Party, politics, AustraliaI want to pause to acknowledge the achievements of my predecessor, Julia Gillard. She is a woman of extraordinary intelligence, of great strength and great energy. All of you here in the National Press Gallery and across the nation would recognise those formidable attributes in her and I know them having worked with her closely for some years. Also Julia, as Prime Minister, and prior to that Deputy Prime Minister has achieved much under the difficult circumstances of minority government. And in doing so she has been helped by a group of dedicated Ministers and Members of Parliament whose contribution I also wish to acknowledge.

In Julia’s case let me say this, if it were not for Julia we would not have the Fair Work Act. If it were not for Julia, we would not have a national scheme which ensures that the literacy and numeracy performance of Australian schools is tested regularly and that interventions occur to lift those students who are doing poorly. She has been a remarkable reformer and I acknowledge those contributions again formally this evening.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How can Julian Assange become a Senator while stuck in the UK?

Julian Assange, Wikileaks, Election 2013, Senate, Constitution
Julian Assange's Senate candidacy for the Wikileaks Party throws up some interesting constitutional and political issues.

The Constitution says that a person convicted and sentenced or awaiting sentence for an offense with a penalty of one year imprisonment or more cannot be a Senator. It doesn't mention whether that conviction or sentence is restricted to Australian law, but that is the presumption.

On the face of it, although Assange faces possible charges in Sweden, and arguably the US, this does not disqualify him because it is not Australia that is pursuing him and in any case he is yet to be charged or tried. And although Australia has said it is investigating whether Assange has broke Australian law, there has been recent movement along that path.

Running for the Australian Senate is clearly a tactical move to ward off  foreign powers, particuarly the US, because it would be less likely to pursue Assange if he was a duly elected representative of the Australian people.

A greater threat to Assange's successful career as Senator, apart from the question of getting enough votes, is the Constitutional clause about absence from the Senate:

'The place of a senator shall become vacant if for two consecutive months of any session of the Parliament he, without the permission of the Senate, fails to attend the Senate.' Part II, 20.
If Assange is still holed-up in the Ecuadorian Consulate into next year, he is unlikely to survive attempts to oust him from his Senate position, should he win one.

More likely he intends to make a dash for Australia if he is successful in the election, believing sensitivity to Australian sovereignty will save him in the UK and that the Australian Government will also be unwilling to extradite him to Sweden or the US. But that still seems a long shot, particularly if Australian politicians are making unsympathetic noises here, given the annoyance Assange has been in Europe.

Barring some legal or political solution, Assange's long term Senate prospects seem problematic at best, despite the new 'body politic' he continually proclaims to be creating.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Updated: Restaurant owner's shameful fundraiser menu a symptom of politics of divide

Julia Gillard, menu, mysoginist, Malcolm Brough, Joe Hockey, Joe Richards, restaruant, brisbane
There were a number of attempts at humour on the 'mock menu' prepared by restaurant owner Joe Richards for a Liberal National Party fundraiser but the one at the expense of Prime Minister Julia Gillard was one of the most disgusting insults to find its way into public life.

Having admitted to being the author of the now infamous menu, Richards claims it was not distributed to Mal Brough, Joe Hockey, party members or supporters at the fundraising dinner and would not have seen the light of day, if not tweeted by a chef in the restaurant's kitchen.

'Rudd's a Goose Foie Gras' and 'We were going to serve Swan Foie Gras this evening, though it lost when we put it the vote' are slightly funny and '...The Dill Simon Crean Pollen and Grilled Kilroy Grass-fed Tenderloin' at least a play on words, we think.

And even 'Please ensure you eat all your greens before they take over completely' has some merit, which is all the more reason why the dissolution into personal, hateful and vulgar comments at the expense of the Prime Minister should be condemned.

Now another menu

But wait, there's more, another shameful menu has appeared, this time at the expense of Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull. If it is authentic, then again we learn that there is no one left to cast the first menu...

It may well be as a nation we are learning that the willingness to cut to the bone with our language, whether in private or public, is not something that healthy and whole human beings do. Extreme provocation might be a mitigating circumstance, only slightly, but political opposition is not.

As Australia adds a restaurant owner to a 13-year-old girl, a radio announcer, swimming executive and soccer coach (and the list grows, daily) who have all been held to account for their racist, sexist or hateful words in the past few weeks, the message must be clear - live well, think well, speak well.

But there's another side to this shameful episode/s. It is the claim and counter-claim of politicians as to who is the most sexist or discriminatory or inappropriate in their language that prompted the 'chef' to tweet the menu. (And of course, the high and mighty 'chef' has been caught out with is own offensive tweet...)

Such are the politics of divide - in the long run no one wins, everyone is wary and we are all found out.

A wise book advises, 'Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.' Ephesians 5:4

Note: In our picture of the menu, the vulgar comments about Julia Gillard have been deleted.
Some details updated on June 14, 2013.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

National Tally Room may not make it to the next election

National Tally Room, ABC, Antony Green, electionThe National Tally Room which nearly disappeared after the 2004 election may become a thing of the past with all commercial networks and the ABC announcing they will not broadcast from it on September 14.

The absence of the hordes of TV presenters and crews will leave the Australian Election Commission's National Tally Room a little light on activity.

ABC election expert Antony Green has written on bis blog that what happens to the tally room is matter for the AEC, but ABC coverage would be as comprehensive as ever, regardless of where it is broadcast from.

Antony Green's report here
Tony Wright provides a little tally room history

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Voters consider support for new parties: Morgan Poll

New political parties, Wikileaks Party, Bob Katter, Clive Palmer, election 2013New research suggests three new political parties contesting their first federal election may achieve some electoral penetration.

According to a Morgan Poll conducted this week, the Australian electorate is considering voting for at least three of the new fringe parties – with Wikileaks ahead of Katter’s Australian Party and the Palmer United Party.

Although there are 14 new parties seeking or gaining registration towards the next election, the Morgan Poll focused on the three with the highest profile.

Gary Morgan said of the poll's findings:
'This year’s Federal Election sees the launch of three new political parties onto the Australian political landscape. Each political party is targeting clearly different demographic segments and today’s special telephone Morgan Poll shows that all have some chance of securing representation in Australia’s Federal Parliament. The Wikileaks Party founded by Wikileaks creator Julian Assange, is only running candidates for the Senate in three States – Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia, but it has the highest potential nationwide support of 21%. Importantly for Wikileaks, Victoria is the State where it has the highest potential support (27%) and is where Assange plans to run for the Senate.'
Interestingly for Christian voters, Victoria is also the state that has had a Senator from a party associated with Christian values. Stephen Fielding won a Senate seat in in 2004 and was replaced by the DLP 's Senator John Madigan after the 2010 election.

Read the full Morgan Poll results
Our story on other new parties 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Debate over Christian constituency and who represents it

Christian, ABC Religio & Ethics, Christian voters, politics, constituency, ACL, Lyle Shelton, Rodney Smith
The existence, strength and representation of Australia's Christian constituency has been under scrutiny since Kevin Rudd announced on his blog that he had changed his views on gay marriage.

In the predictable frenzy of opinion that followed, the Australian Christian Lobby's new Managing Director Lyle Shelton said:
'No government has the right to create these vulnerabilities for the church-going twenty per cent of the population in order to allow the point two per cent who will take advantage of this to redefine marriage. Mr Rudd seems intent on burning bridges not only with colleagues, but with a constituency which had long given him the benefit of the doubt.'
ABC Radio's PM program immediately ran a story, asking who is the ACL and what claim do they have to represent a Christian 'constituency'. The story relied heavily on the comments of Prof Rodney Smith of University of Sydney and a 'research study'. Our report here.

That story was followed the next day by a lengthy piece by one of Prof Smith's former Honours students, Steph Judd, which contained a detailed discussion of whether there was a distinct Christian voting constituency and if the ACL could claim to represent it.