Sunday, October 28, 2007

Commitee Hearing report - Industry and resources

According to the Parliament of Australia: Committees website the purpose of parliamentary committees is mainly to conduct inquiries into specified matters which includes taking submissions, hearing witnesses, sifting evidence, discussing matters in detail and formulating reasoned conclusions. Committees are a convenient vehicle for this activity and by concentrating on specific tasks or subjects, also offer the benefits of specialisation.

An important function of committees is to scrutinise government activity including legislation, the conduct of public administration and policy issues. Committees may oversee the expenditure of public money and they may call the Government or the public service to account for their actions and ask them to explain or justify administrative decisions.

A parliamentary committee consists of a group of Members or Senators (or both in the case of joint committees) appointed by one or both Houses of Parliament. Through its committees the Parliament obtains information from Government agencies and peak bodies and advice from experts on the matters under investigation.

Public input is also important. Through its committees Parliament is able to be better informed of community problems and attitudes. Committees provide a public forum for the presentation of the various views of individual citizens and interest groups.

On Thursday 9th August 2007 the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry and Resources met to inquire into and report on the development of the non-fossil fuel energy industry in Australia. The Committee will undertake a comparative study of the following renewable energy sectors: solar, wave, tidal, geothermal, wind and hydrogen. The case study will examine the relative state of development of these sectors and their prospects for economically viable electricity generation, storage and transmission.

Today they focused particularly on solar energy. Mr. Steve Hollis, the chief executive officer and executive director of Lloyd Energy Systems Pty Ltd, gave a PowerPoint presentation, showcasing the two types of solar power technology, the ways in which to store solar energy and the expenses involved with solar energy usage.

Mr Hollis showed examples of solar energy plants in the US and Spain and explains the system being built by Lloyd in Cooma. The positives of the project are mainly beneficial to rural areas, improving the energy networks. Throughout the presentation Mr. Hollis states that solar energy is in demand because “it is simple, it is scalable, it is very agricultural, environmentally friendly: there are no nasties whatsoever; there are no emissions or anything like that. It suits remote areas, developing countries and it is very cost competitive in those sorts of applications.”

Mr. Bruce Higgs, the executive director of Cynergy Pty Ltd was also meant to give a presentation but could not do so because of time constraints.

Having experienced a Committee Hearing, I understand the importance of the process and the topics that are discussed at the hearings. This Committee Hearing and the ones following on from this one play a significant role in the development of policies on future ways of creating and storing renewable energy. Without Committee Hearings it would be impossible for the government to get the essential information needed in order to make decisions. The discussions that take place at Committee Hearings are in depth and the chance for evidence to be given from both sides of the argument to be given and the opportunity to ask questions ensures that every avenue is investigated.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Senate Question Time 16th of August – Uranium exports to India

At parliament question time on the 16th of August, Senator Evans, the leader of the opposition in the Senate, asked Senator Coonan, (minister representing the minister of foreign affairs) why the foreign minister believes that selling Uranium to India will make the world a safer and more secure place. Media reports from Pakistan have suggested that should Australia export uranium to India it would only fuel a new nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan (both countries having not signed the non-proliferation treaty).

Senator Coonan argues that the government will have proper safeguards in place which would make the supply of Uranium to India for peaceful purposes only. Senator Coonan believes India to have a good non-proliferation track-record. She states that India is a large contributor of greenhouse gases and that nuclear power is a solution to this problem. Australia wishes to create a strategic political partner in India due to them being an influential regional power.

In my opinion, the main reasons the Australian government wishes to export Uranium to India is not because they believe it will help them cut their greenhouse gas emissions, but they believe it will enable them to develop a cooperative relationship with India that could be important in the future. I also believe that the financial incentives for the government would be a deciding factor in this issue.

I find it somewhat irresponsible of the government to export Uranium to a country that has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treat. India has around 35 nuclear warheads and the US is looking to reprimand the country because of breaches in regards to nuclear testing.

Not the time or place for personal attacks

One thing I have noticed about question time in both the Senate and the House of Representatives is how condescending the comments and remarks are that the senators make about each other. Question time should be an occasion politicians use to find out the details of policies and the issues that are presently affecting Australians. It is fair enough to debate these issues because obviously there will be disagreements but I don’t believe it should be a time for personal attacks. I really admire the way our politicians can be so knowledgeable about the issues affecting their relevant areas and believe that question time is an opportunity for the respective politicians to give appropriate information and expect, at least, be listened to.

House of Representatives Question Time 13th August

Today I thought I would have a look at question time in the House of Representatives. I imagined there would be quite a lot of fiery questions asked between the parties, trying to catch each other off guard about the points of their respective policies. However, what I found very interesting was that members of the Coalition would ask questions of each other. I thought this was pathetic! What a waste of time. Instead of politicians having a debate it was members of the same party asking questions of their colleagues that were obviously prepared and rehearsed before hand. For example, Mr Henry asks a question of Mr Howard beginning with ‘my question is addressed to the greatest Prime Minister in Australian history’. After a long series of interjections Mr Henry finally asks Mr Howard a leading question about the importance of a modern workplace relations system to the Australian economy. Mr Howard answers ‘in reply to the greatest member the electorate of Hasluck has ever seen…’ and then continues to rattle off a bunch of statistics that prove the new workplace relations system is effective and any policies developed by the Labor party would be terrible for Australian workers and the economy.

It was all a little too pretentious for me. I think that question time should not be about asking questions of your own party (because they can do that any time) but about asking the other parties to explain their thoughts about issues effecting the Australian public.

Senate Question Time 7th August

Today was my first question time experience. The first issue that was talked about was very interesting and also somewhat amusing. Senator Crossin asks a question of Senator Scullion about the recent Country Liberal Party fishing trip to Tiwi Islands off the coast of Darwin (a region previously declared a dry Aboriginal area). Senator Crossin asked if Senator Scullion had taken alcohol onto the island or if anyone in the party had done so and if he could explain reports concerning the presence of empty bottles and alcohol containers. Senator Crossin states that this would seriously compromise the government’s efforts to stop the ‘river of grog’ in the Northern Territory that has had a devastating effect on indigenous communities.

Senator Scullion predictably denied that he drank or had taken alcohol onto the island and stated that he did not at any stage actually set foot on land but was on board the boat the whole time.

A police investigation is being conducted but it appears as though the claims are unsubstantiated. If the claims are untrue it would be interesting to see how they originated and whether it was perhaps a rumour started by someone affiliated with the opposition. To me it seems as though it was a trivial claim made for political points scoring only.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Concerning the Affairs of the Public

Hi all,
Here is the first of what i'm sure will be an intellectually stimulating series of thoughts concerning the affairs of the public. I hope you enjoy yourself within my library of wisdom.