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Will the minister please answer the question?

March 2nd, 2006 at 02:19am

I was watching Senate Question Time overnight, as I often find it quite amusing the way the various members manage to sidestep questions and provide long convoluted answers to questions which were fairly straight forward. I was most amused by the way almost every question answered by a Liberal senator ended as an attack on the Labor Party.

One question caught my eye (or my ear) in particular, this question (which was one of the planted questions designed to highlight various government “achievements”, and to waste time so that the opposition can’t ask questions) from a Liberal senator to another Libral senator related to the conservation of birds, and the answer was almost entirely an attack on a certain Mark Latham, former leader of the Australian Labor Party.

I have extracted this from the online hansard copy of senate proceedings from yesterday (pages 45-46 of proceedings, pages 59-60 of PDF), but you will need to visualise the standard grandstanding for yourself, as the text doesn’t quite carry the (for lack of a better word) enthusiasm shown by Senator Ian Campbell, and certainly doesn’t include the hysterical laughter from the members of the Senate. I have also made a couple formatting changes to make it easier to read and follow.

Environment: Conservation of Australian Birds

Senator FerrisSenator FERRIS (2.48 pm)—My question is to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell. Will the minister inform the Senate how the Howard government is protecting Australia’s rich and varied birdlife for future generations of Australians to enjoy?

Senator Ian CampbellSenator IAN CAMPBELL—I thank Senator Ferris for a question that I know is dear to her heart. Over the last 10 years the Australian government has spent over $12 million protecting our unique Australian birds. Only a couple of weeks ago I announced a further $1 million package known as the Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds.

As I do with most of my ministerial briefs, I read carefully through the list of birds that we are seeking to protect—some 36 new species of birds. Some of their names would be familiar to the opposition, like the little curlew, which I noticed on the list. There is the ruddy turnstone and the broad-billed sandpiper. But, when I got to the next one, the name stood out and
leapt off the page at me. It was nothing other than Latham’s snipe!

I asked my staff to research this unique Australian shorebird and found that Latham’s snipe has a very long bill—and I think it is getting longer with the addition of the Nikon digital camera to it. It has large eyes and it is known to dash wildly around and to fly in a zigzagging motion. Its other attributes, we found, were that it establishes its territory in open spaces like meadows and grassy floodplains by repeating nosediving displays. In spite of its showy display during the mating season, the parent birds accompanying the baby birds tend to stay in clustered grass and can thus hardly be observed. More than half of them—all senators would be upset to know—never fully mature because of various accidents.

Latham’s snipe is in fact designated as a rare species. It is also prone to suffer accidents because of the places where it lives. Not only do cows often trample over its nests located in the pasture but, sadly, motor mowers hurt parent Latham’s snipes earnestly sitting on their eggs in grass-harvesting lands.

Recently we have seen references to Latham’s lemmings also, as Senator Ferris knows. We know that for many members of the Australian Labor Party there is that iconic Australian sound of the two-stroke Victa coming across those grassy plains and attacking the lemmings, or the Latham’s snipes. These are people similar to Gavan O’Connor, who is under threat from the lawnmower being driven by Senator Stephen Conroy. Gavan O’Connor talked about the sound of the mower coming into his ears—just as the Latham’s snipe would cringe at that sound—when he said, ‘The talent in the Labor Party is subject to sleazy deals.’

Another Latham lemming or Latham’s snipe, someone who dares to challenge the Beazley orthodoxy, is Warren Snowdon, who said today, as he heard the mower approaching:
‘I think what it demonstrates is a small number of people—standover merchants, thugs and other sleazebags—undermining the good name of the Labor Party.’

Mr Sercombe, another Latham’s snipe attacked by the lawnmowers of the Labor Party—

Senator CalvertThe PRESIDENT—Minister, I remind you of relevance.

Senator Ian CampbellSenator IAN CAMPBELL—Thank you, Mr President. I appreciate the reminder. Bob Sercombe, regarding himself—as a Latham’s snipe, the bird that was the subject of the question, would—said that there were ‘sleazy internal deals’. You can see that the behaviour of the Australian Labor Party is no better and no worse than someone driving a lawnmower over the habitat of a Latham’s snipe.

Senator CalvertThe PRESIDENT—Minister, resume your seat.

I am amazed that Senator Ian Campbell wasted money by having his staff investigate a bird, purely so that they could write a derogatory answer about Mark Latham, even more amazing is the amount of time (and effectively senator’s salaries) which was allowed to be wasted on this junk. Admittedly the speaker, Senator Calvert did eventually tell Senator Ian Campbell to sit down, but that was after a rather lengthy spiel about nothing of any value. In fact it was 2:52pm when the next question was asked (although the answer provided to it did not address the topic), a whole four minutes after the bird question was originally asked.

Surely, this would have been better served over afternoon tea, rather than in place of valuable senate time and questions.

Samuel

Entry Filed under: Bizarreness,General News,Samuel's Editorials

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18 Comments

  • 1. John B1_B5  |  March 2nd, 2006 at 5:28 am

    Nothing really new about that sort of question (and reply) Samuel .
    They call them “Dorothy Dixers” , and they have been going on ever since I’ve been watching Question Time on TV — both in the Senate AND the House of Reps, and that’s well over 10 years now !
    An interesting addition which seems to have appeared in the last couple of years, ends the “Dorothy Dixer” with — ” … and does the Minister know of any alternative policies ” ……. indirectly implying that The Opposition is totally “bereft” of policies …… which is probably true in most areas , lol .
    Interestingly, I rarely hear the person answering the “Dorothy Dixer” with the statement — ” I’m not aware of any alternative policies” ( or words to that effect ) . —— I guess it goes without saying that there are NO alternative policies.

  • 2. Samuel  |  March 2nd, 2006 at 9:44 am

    Yes John, none the less they are quite amusing. I quite enjoy watching question time on the TV.

  • 3. John B1_B5  |  March 2nd, 2006 at 10:38 am

    That’s exactly what I told Mike Welsh on The Drive Show about a year ago …. to which he replied …. “I’ve got a life” ….. implying perhaps that people who watch Question Time don’t have a life .

    Oh well …. he’s entitled to state HIS opinion …… after all, that’s one of the purposes of talk-back radio . I’m certainly not going to do a “Roland Manderson” and get all upset about it …….. besides, I suspect Welshy may be a ‘closet Question Time watcher’, and has a Digitor portable TV hidden in the closet at 2CC, where he can secretly watch Question Time before the Drive Show starts at 3pm . harhar .

  • 4. Kerces  |  March 2nd, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    Crikey talked about the Latham’s snipe in September last year, around the time of his diaries being published (unfortunately I can’t find the link). There’s also a scrub turkey with the Latin name Alectura Lathami.

    As to the length of answers and so on, there are standing orders for both houses of parliament outlining the time allowed for questions and answers and the order and other things like that. In Reps the questions always alternate between the two sides of parliament, with one question each. This happens in the Senate as well, except there the person who asked the question is allowed to ask a follow up question straight away without having to wait for another question to be answered in between. You can probably find out more about standing orders on the Parliament House website.

    And lastly, John B1_B5, get with the program. Most comments of yours I have read on Sam’s site in recent times have been totally irrelevant to anything else being discussed in the thread, whether on topic or not (see, for example, the bizarre “Peter Ponder” comments here). Your first comment on this thread makes very little sense.

    Nothing really new about that sort of question (and reply) Samuel .
    They call them “Dorothy Dixers” , and they have been going on ever since I’ve been watching Question Time on TV — both in the Senate AND the House of Reps, and that’s well over 10 years now !

    This is correct (well done). Dorothy Dixers have been in use since the 1950s. The point of a Dorothy Dixer is that the minister knows it is coming, so they have spent the previous night practising their answer over and over in front of the mirror, so of course the answer is going to be lengthy.

    An interesting addition which seems to have appeared in the last couple of years, ends the “Dorothy Dixer” with — ” … and does the Minister know of any alternative policies ” ……. indirectly implying that The Opposition is totally “bereft” of policies ……

    The second part of most Government questions, “is the minister aware of any alternative policies?” is designed to give the minister the chance to deride the Opposition’s policy on the matter at hand. I do not see how this kind of question implies the Opposition is bereft of policies, but if you can explain this to me in a logical manner I may reconsider this.

    which is probably true in most areas , lol .

    I have no complaints with editorialising.

    Interestingly, I rarely hear the person answering the “Dorothy Dixer” with the statement — ” I’m not aware of any alternative policies” ( or words to that effect ) . —— I guess it goes without saying that there are NO alternative policies.

    Ok this is where I believe your logic packs its bags and jumps overboard (apologies for the mixed metaphor). Let’s look at it in its two parts.

    First: I rarely hear the person answering the “Dorothy Dixer” with the statement — ” I’m not aware of any alternative policies”

    Abysmal punctuation aside, this statement says to me the person answering the question does know about alternative policies to the matter at hand and does talk about them.

    Second: I guess it goes without saying that there are NO alternative policies.

    How on earth did you logically get to this point from your first statement? Was it with a half pike double twist? As discussed just above, in the first half of this statement you effectively say the minister practically always talks about alternative policies, yet in this second half you say this means there are no alternative policies. If there are no alternative policies, how does the minister manage to talk about them? Surely the minister does not make them up on the spot?

    As I said earlier, I have no problem with editorialising. However, I must qualify this statement by saying any editorialising that goes on should always be backed up by a certain amount of fact and a bucketload of logic.

  • 5. Kerces  |  March 2nd, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    Also, apologies to Sam for hijacking his thread and for messing up one of my links.

  • 6. Samuel  |  March 2nd, 2006 at 12:32 pm

    No problem Kerces, the comment hit the moderation queue due to the number of links, and I’ll fix up that link for you.

  • 7. John B1_B5  |  March 2nd, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    harrrha ….. don’t try to tell ME what I can and can’t say Kerces …..it’s not YOUR site.

  • 8. heatseeker  |  March 2nd, 2006 at 4:38 pm

    *sigh* wannabee journos are always the most vocal on issues they could never apply if they were ever operating in the real world.

  • 9. John B1_B5  |  March 2nd, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    Lol ….. who’s the wannabee journo heatseeker ?

  • 10. wonko the sane  |  March 2nd, 2006 at 7:47 pm

    I find Question Time depressing. Utterly depressing. As a night owl, and with only advertorials on the other stations, I often used to watch Question Time, hoping to deepen my knowledge of policies on both sides of politics.

    Without exception, QT degenerates into nothing more than a schoolyard slanging match. Like the primary school chess club dressed up in suits droning on about how bad the shadow minister is, what a joke, etc etc.

    It often reminds me of the quote from the school teacher in Happy Gilmore ‘Sir, at no point during your long, rambling answer did you approach anything resembling a logical thought. We are all now dumber from having heard it. I award you no points, and my God have mercy on your soul.’

    It would be funny, but to see our elected representatives treating the country and its citizens’ money with such complete contempt sickens me. No wonder Allan Ramsey is as bitter as he is, having been forced to watch this sh*t for 30 years.

    Utterly dispiriting.

  • 11. Chuck A. Spear  |  March 3rd, 2006 at 1:23 am

    Hello all. I have bad news. The artist formerly known as Chuck Berry is missing presumed dead. He was last seen at the New Orleans Mardi Gras dressed as Jack Van Tongeren.

    I am his replacement. I am looking forward to conversing with you all.

  • 12. Chuck A. Spear  |  March 3rd, 2006 at 1:49 am

    I heard that ‘Dorothy Dixer’ is Alan Jones’ stage name.

  • 13. Kerces  |  March 3rd, 2006 at 9:46 am

    Excuse me heatseeker, not quite sure who you were talking to, but I would just like to say I am logical all the time, except possibly when I am drunk. And even then I use a kind of drunken logic.

  • 14. wonko the sane  |  March 3rd, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    Hey Sam, I’m missing your daily rundowns of your life. How many steps did you clock on the step-o-meter today? how many coffees? ? At what time did you arise and take breakfast? Run any errands?

  • 15. wonko the sane  |  March 3rd, 2006 at 5:14 pm

    chuck… i just got your name. It took me an embarrassing amount of time, but the laugh was worth it.

    I have a few friends with curious names. Annette Ball, Ivor Bonah, Hugh Jass… they were teased terribly.

  • 16. Chuck A. Spear  |  March 4th, 2006 at 2:03 am

    I expect (hope for) a big post from Samuel. Yes Wonko, I also have a friend called Slầk Kốốntz.

  • 17. eebl  |  March 6th, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    I like pies.

  • 18. Samuel  |  March 6th, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    Ah, good, now they have something to talk about when magpies become the topic, which will probably happen just before lunch.


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