Friday, 21 June 2013

Day 193: When a slogan t-shirt=placard=our democratic process

Day 193 (17 Jun) Monday. Day 2 of the special council. I present to the council today. 

In Canberra, in a hotel, naturally I watch the latest political news and get ready for the first part of the morning before breakfast. I don't have a TV and nor do I miss it however, in most hotel rooms I've been in, you can't pick up the AM radio band. I just watch TV for the news, really, at 6.12am. There is ongoing speculation about the leadership. This is our democracy's achilles heel, it really shouldn't be taking so long to sort out.

The news and the day ahead,
at 6.12am
Hotel breakfasts: cereals you haven't bought since you were a teen; the same scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, mushrooms, baked beans and pancakes; tinned fruit and yoghurt choices and bad, bad coffee. Having said that though, this is the only time I eat tinned peaches and/or apricots. I have no idea why. 

Democratic opportunity
Talk at the table, of course, flows overs from yesterday and last night and anticipates the day ahead. Bring together 120 politically driven people and there's little room for small talk. I may not always agree with what my union determines, but I give it credit for presenting us with these opportunities to debate and discuss. Of course, we've all turned up in our red t-shirts...we're off to Parliament House in the first instance to make our point. 

Naturally, Canberra is cold and not really t-shirt weather but we will brave the elements for the cause. For a liberal democracy we have quite strict rules regarding protest: in Queensland, one must seek a police permit to march; some of us are of an age to recall where three people congregating in Queen Street Mall could result in a 'move on' notice...and here in Canberra at our greatest symbol of democracy (or that could be the 'Museum of Australian Democracy' down the road; as someone quipped, 'that's where you find democracy now, in a museum'...discuss) outside Parliament House, there are rules. We must stand on one side of the road, behind the railings, do not carry banners over that railing, do not stand on the footpath, if you wish to approach the entrance of parliament house, do not take placards, do not take banners, t-shirts for this purpose are considered placards--take them off or cover not chant. Crikey.

We do approach the entrance, t-shirts are kind of disguised under jumpers and jackets, we 'sing' a bit in protest. There is a bit of media coverage. We head back to the uni, via the tent embassy, for the day's proceedings. 

The photographer's
 eye always sees...
After lunch (and a caucus meeting) my panel is up to talk to councillors about the 'numbers' side of the forthcoming federal election--the psephologist's delight. I am sharing the stage with Professor Brian Costar, a well-known analyst of federal politics. We have been asked to give an assessment of the likely outcome of the election and in an earlier conversation, we decided we were probably going to say pretty much the same thing. That being the case, I've decided to offer colleagues a view 'inside' the office of a senator who holds the balance of power...takes me back to my position in 1997-1999 working for a Queensland senator. The Union is planning to stump up a substantial sum of money, I feel it is incumbent upon me to let them know how these offices can work, and the bet you make when you play into 'balance of power' politics. 
Stepping stones, at 6.12pm

There is much more discussion subsequently and tomorrow is the main day of debate and voting...unfortunately for me, commitments north mean I will miss the critical moment...but before that, following a post-meeting drink in the Fellows' Room, it is off to a local Vietnamese restaurant with some Qld colleagues, a further informal caucus and much jolly chat. It's a bit of a pressure release and quite enjoyable. It's needed, for tomorrow beckons. 

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