What do people in parliament REALLY spend their time on?

Ok so to answer this question I had to rummage around to try and find a list of all the bills that were tabled in parliament sessions between 1901 and today.  On the Australian Parliament website I was able to find a list of bill extracts in an excel spreadsheet from between 1901 to 1983 so I just had to work off that because I don’t have enough time to manually create a spreadsheet for all the others which are in PDF files across govt websites and Comlaw.

Alrighty, now a word of warning I had to go through nearly 2000 of these friggin things and categorise them all – so some of the categorisations might be a little broad or may not capture some underlying content in the bill since I only had the bill title, but here’s what I was able to analyse:

So…the majority of the time in parliament is spent talking about…tax!  hahaha oh what an exceedingly fun subject matter!  You know I did wonder why refugees and immigration was such an important thing on the agenda even though I rarely hear people talking or complaining about it and now I can see it here in broad daylight…they spend a lot of time talking and thinking about and so they think the Australian public care a little more than we actually do!

I can’t believe how much air time Fruit, Veg and grains get! haha.  And I was a little concerned about the lack of chatter in the primary and secondary area – but its probably because its under the each state’s remit to look after that.  Same with health.  Science and Technology and management of Government debt was pretty abysmal.  All things considered – Natural Resource and Environment Protection got a FIFTH of the floor time of Mining, Minerals and Oil – although it did fair better than international trade agreements and diplomacy.

English: Kevin Rudd, 26th Prime Minister of Au...

English: Kevin Rudd, 26th Prime Minister of Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can see why I think Kevin Rudd struggled in parliament…with an Arts and Asian Studies degree the guy was probably bored out of his brains!  In contrast, whatever your personal opinions of him may be, Tony Abbott studied a Bachelor of Economics and a Bachelor of Law and is probably much more naturally suited to and talented at the elements of policy creation or review.  BUT, lets be honest…the guy sucks on camera.  Which suggests to me that the IDEAL parliament set up of the future should be one where there are two lead roles:
1.  A Prime Minister
2.  A Prime Speaker

The Prime Mister would be the leader of the house within Parliament and during internal discussions and the manager of staff.  The Prime Speaker would be the international states person and media spokesperson for the party – the person who travels internationally, spoke to the media…etc…etc.  I mean, the job is too big for one person anyway – its ridiculous.  The role should be split and given to two different types of people – because they are two completely different roles suited to completely different personalities.

My  question for my NEXT post is going to be…does what a Prime Minister studied at university (and therefore we’d assume is relatively naturally interested in), make a difference to how long they remain in parliament because of their ability to manage the stuff at a federal level that actually takes up the majority of the floor time?

Bill Category Number of Meetings (sessions)
Taxation 501
Immigration & Customs 183
Corporations 112
Justice System 84
National Security and Military 65
Fruit, Veg and Grains 63
Mining, Minerials & Oil 56
Loans, Grants & Subsidies 55
Media and Communications 43
Health 41
Maritime 37
Roads and Transport 36
Electoral 33
Textiles, Machinery 32
Livestock 31
Housing 29
Administration of Govt 27
Agriculture 27
Export Goods 27
Intellectual Property Protection 22
Tertiary Education 22
Banking 19
Unions 19
Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco 18
Aviation 18
Public Service Employment 17
Land 16
Superannuation 16
Employment 15
Public Service 14
Social Security & Welfare 14
Social Services 14
Natural Resources and Environment Protection 13
Aboriginal 11
Commissions & Advisory Councils 11
Democracy and Representation 11
Finance Industry 11
Insurance 11
Police Force 11
Fishing 10
Constitution 9
Deaths and Marriages 9
Human Rights 9
Parliament 9
International Trade Agreements & Diplomacy 8
Animal Protection 6
Government Debt 6
Primary & Secondary Education 6
Utilities Supply 6
Water 6
Coastal Waters 5
National Census 5
History 4
Home ownership 4
Archives 3
Corporation 3
Industries 3
Currency 2
Economy 2
Space 2
Customs 1
Science and Technology 1
Grand Total 1904
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Lack of political education killing true Australian choice

English: Ballot Box showing preferential voting

I don’t understand why in America you don’t have to vote but you are required to learn about politics in school. In Australia you are not required to learn about politics in school but you are required to vote.  And yet the BIGGEST impact a free citizen can have on the outcomes of their country is an informed vote.

Surely if a system places such value on the equality of each citizens opinion that they would force each person to provide their opinion – then that system should be equally interested in informing those citizens about how the system they are a part of works.

Now, I am not saying that the US education system should be copied, nor am I saying that there is no education about politics in Australian schools.  What I am saying is that there is no national standardardised implementation of the study and I see this as a major gap and one of the likely reasons that many Australians profess not to understand how our preferential voting system works.

One of my good friends put this really well in a recent Facebook post:

 The absolute unbiased truth: Vote for minor parties if they represent your values best. Vote for whoever represents your values best. We have a preferential system where YOU choose where your vote goes, all the way through the preferences and it passes on at full value.

In a seat which is a fight between Liberal and Labor the only thing that matters in terms of who wins the seat is which comes first out of those two parties on your ballot paper. They can be last and second last and which ever one is second last will still get your vote AT FULL VALUE. Voting a minor party as 1 sends a message to the old parties that they are not representing your values, and it gives funding to the minor party of your choice WITHOUT HAVING ANY IMPACT ON WHO WINS THE SEAT.”

So…back to the issue of education.  When I was in high school you were able to choose politics as a subject in Year 11 and 12, but it definitely wasn’t “required” like maths or science. And perhaps the only other time it was mentioned was in a couple of SOSE classes in year 8.

In 2014,  the Australian government will bring in required studies of Civics and Citizenship from Years 3 to 10 (http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum_1/learning_areas/humanities_and_social_sciences/civics_and_citizenship.html).  That’s a huge step forward.  But am I the only one thinking…where the hell is the requirement for study in Year 11 and 12?  So right when most Aussie’s turn 18 and are being asked to now provide their opinion on the governance of their country, most of them haven’t even thought or been in a class on it in 2 years.  That’s a lifetime to a young person!!

It also brings up the question of how much influence any government in power should have over the creation of the curriculum.  This whole curriculum has been created while the Labor government was in power.  What does this mean for the neutrality of the information presented to young minds of the future?

It’s almost like the “ideal” scenario is that there is a third party/non affiliated with the government or other association that actually writes that part of the curriculum. Because science, maths, english are fairly solid in terms of their interpretation and application: But history is written by the conqueror and politics is defined by those in power.

So…what of those of us who are voting in the Australian Elections this Saturday?  Those of us who missed out on essential information that governs our potential to have positive or meaningful participation in the system that has been chosen to manage the country they live in?

Many Australians are talking about their apathy toward both parties, but with the 2 major parties having $64 million and $67 million in campaign backing verses $1m backing to the next viable party – the average Australian without any particular interest in politics is simply bombarded with two choices: Labor or Liberals.  And no thanks to US Billionaire Rupert Murduch who owns 70% of Australian media, they are getting even less of a choice by being presented with editorial content in newspapers across the country as if it were news.

Without unbiased, consistent education – no society (no matter how intelligent its people) can be expected to make an informed voting decision on country governance.  I just hope that in 2023/2024 – when those in grade 3 next year turn 18, they’ll be able to make better decisions than the rest of us this year.