Thursday, October 11, 2007

Question Time House of Representatives. 9th August 2007.

This question time dealt mostly with the matters of interest rates, the budget and industrial relations. We begin with the opposition leader Kevin Rudd asking John Howard why he has refused to acknowledge that he and his party made a promise to the Australian people at the last election to keep interest rates at record lows and why is this promise still on the Liberal party’s website today? This question was met with plenty of murmurs and jeers from the House of Reps.

The PM responded by saying the promise he made was that the interest rates would always be lower under a coalition government rather than a Labor government and that that is supported by the experience of the last few years, indeed of the last 25-30 years because even after the latest interest rate increase the housing interest rates will still be 4% lower than what they were under the last Labor government. John Howard continues by saying the promise he made has been validated by the experience of the last 2.5 years and is validated by the comparison to the Government in the opposition.

Michael Ferguson of Liberal Tasmania, the member for Bass asked the Prime Minister if there were any threats to this 33 yr low in unemployment. The PM responded to this question confidently by saying “unemployment remains at 4.3%, the lowest unemployment rate this country has had for 33 years.”

The thing that I observed the most from this question time was that John Howard likes to repeat his statements to make sure what he is saying can be understood by the opposition. Howard also likes to point out when the opposition has lied.

Another thing I have noted about question time is that the speakers are much more formal than during committee hearings and address each other more seriously. Yet, in my opinion I feel that this formality is just that and there is no sincerity behind the respects that the opposition shows toward each other.

I like to listen to John Howard during question time as I find he is quite comical in the way he addresses the House of Representatives and I find it amusing how he likes to point out the opposition’s faults as this receives much amusement and cheers from the sitting party and order needs to be called several times.

I think it is quite obvious that John Howard in this question time has the upper hand and is very succinct with the answers to his questions and always reinstates how powerful his Government and leadership has been.

Question Time Senate. 15th August, 2007.

The first thing I have to say about Question Time is that it is very entertaining. It is really funny to see grown men act like children and stutter and stumble over answers that they clearly haven’t thought about. The first question time I am going to report on was on the 15th August, 2007 and it was directed towards the treasurer with regards to the meltdown of the US sub-primal mortgage markets and the widening debt crisis in Australia. This question time referred specifically to the Australian home lenders Rams and Bluestone. Minister Sherry asked why the treasurer got the Australian financial institutions situations so wrong. This was after the treasurer had spoken about how strong a position Australian financial institutions were in. Senator Minchin replied in saying the treasurer didn’t get anything wrong which was received with plenty of amusement from the members of the senate. In this question time, Senator Minchin describes how Australia is in a very fortunate position and how the treasurer was right on the money when describing our situation in a favourable way. As with most question time sessions, there was a lot of finger pointing going on and the blame game was played out by both sides of the opposition very well.

Standing Committe on Planning and Environment. Tuesday 7th August 2007. Chairman Mr M Gentleman

Reference: ACTION buses and the sustainable transport plan.

This committee hearing was very interesting to me even though it discussed the public transport division of buses in the ACT which is not an area that directly has any impact on my life. The two lobbying points that are discussed in this committee hearing are the issue of disabled people not having enough access to public transport and the unfair discrimination of some of these people by the employees of the ACTION buses organisation. The other main discussion point was that young people are shown almost no significance in their lifestyle habits and their employment schedules such as part time or casual work and are not assisted in any way by the ACT public transport system.
I found this committee hearing very interesting, firstly because I am a young person who is employed in casual work and whose shift times are very different from the 9-5 time quota occupied by most people and also because I have several disabled people in my extended family including one cousin who has cerebral palsy, which was discussed throughout the committee hearing.

The Chair opened the public hearing at 1pm and shortly after Dr Helen Watchirs, the Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner, Human Rights Commission, made her opening comments and then briefly went through her submission.

In her submission, Dr Watchirs talks about how ACTION buses do include wheelchair-accessible buses yet the main issue is that there are not enough routes that these buses go on and that these buses come very infrequently which means a major inconvenience for disabled people, especially if they need to go to work or get around to visit friends or run errands. Dr Watchirs also talks about how people with disabilities could have to wear a pass like a dog tag around their neck to identify their disability which Dr Watchirs claims impairs the dignity of people with disabilities.

Fares are also discussed in this committee hearing. Dr Watchirs discusses how people with a disability who have a carer that travels with them are forced to pay two fares, one for them and one for their carer, yet is out of their control that they need this carer thus they are at a disadvantage of having to pay two fares instead of one. Dr Watchirs would like to see a review on concession fares for this kind of ACTION bus travel for disabled people.

The other issue that was discussed in regards to disabled people was that if they are using the ACTION buses, it has been mentioned anecdotally that bus drivers are sometimes rude or annoyed when they have to assist disable people. Dr Watchirs and the Vice President of the committee hearing, Mr Seselja, would like to see reform to this and put in place a standard of compliance when communicating with disabled people.

This meeting was adjourned from 1:33pm to 3:21pm.

After this meeting was opened by the Chair, Mr Siddhartha Chakrabarti, Policy and Communications Officer, Youth Coalition of the ACT, started his submission and opening statements on behalf of the young people in ACT.

The main issue that was discussed in this section of the committee hearing was frequency and the issue that if buses frequented routes more often then young people would use the ACTION bus service a lot more. The issue with young people from quantitative and qualitative research was that because of their part time and casual employment they needed to catch buses out of peak times when they would sometimes have to wait for buses anywhere between 1 and 3 hours. This infrequency caused the youths to not use the bus services as often as they would if the buses ran more frequently. There was also an issue of safety as waiting at interchanges or bus stops especially at night by themselves was quite daunting, yet this was often the time that the young people’s work shifts would finish.

Youths also commented on the fact that during the day the routes that they would take at peak times, took sometimes up to 45 minutes longer during off peak times. Some young people can’t afford to buy a car and so with the lack of adequate transport facilities they are forced either into unemployment or to not participate in social activities with their friends because they can not get to certain places or facilities to visit them and this can sometimes lead to social outcast which has many more negative effects that spiral down from this.

All in all, I found this committee hearing very interesting and the issues that were raised I thought were very worthwhile and they needed to be addressed and changes need to be implemented in regards to these issues.