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Question Time Ahead of Time

The first Question Time of the week has passed and boy was it a cracker, well, if you like comedic theatre anyway. There were interjections, aggressive answers and a number of Opposition MP’s that found themselves on the end of Standing Order 94a. Tensions were heightened it seemed, perhaps as a result of carry-over energy from the debate of the previous week in the federal parliament where asylum seekers was the main issue early in the week and then debate returned to the carbon tax field. Things were so loud, over the top and angry today that even the Manager of Opposition Business and the Leader of the Opposition found themselves out of the chamber for a beverage break.

After an initial few questions based around the budget and spending priorities from the Opposition through Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, questions returned to that all too familiar area, the carbon price. Today these questions focused around small businesses and the carbon tax, mostly fruit related businesses as it turned out.

The Gillard Government, for their part, was more diverse in the policy areas that were highlighted in Questions Without Notice today. There were questions on the carbon price, the economy and infrastructure. But the Labor Party started out asking itself about education reform with the Prime Minister today announcing intentions to overhaul school funding, but not the funding to match just yet.

With the surprising start to Question Time of the Joe Hockey asking questions on the budget and funding commitments, it seems likely that this area will again be breached on Tuesday and beyond.

The overwhelming focus of the Opposition though, will without any shred of a doubt, continue to be over the price on carbon. Any prospect for a change in this strategy would be simply too hard to believe. The bulk of the Coalition election strategy is built around this area of policy, though not all about the policy itself.

The Labor Party will probably again look to highlight a wide array of areas of policy action with education taking a greater focus as we get closer to an announcement of actual funds.

Labor though will continue to prosecute its case for the carbon tax, mostly around the compensation and how the perceptions of the tax have failed to materialise.

As happened during Questions Without Notice on Monday, it would be reasonable to expect questions from the Labor side also on the economy and infrastructure and perhaps social policy, chiefly the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Was today a sign of things to come this week in the brutal arena that is Question Time? Just how noisy will our MP’s get? And how many more will find themselves being sin-binned?

1950’s Style Brain Farts Continue in Queensland

The Queensland LNP Convention has been and gone over the weekend, just months after the Liberal National Party in Queensland crushed the Bligh Government at the ballot box in an historic victory which saw the ALP reduced to just 7 seats in the 89 seat unicameral legislature. Since the electoral rout pundits have been saying that the LNP would have the ability to do pretty much anything and they have, with some of us, this author included, slow to realise just how far back the Newman Government is prepared to wind the metaphorical clock.

So far, since gaining power the new government have moved to alter, albeit not completely, but 3/4 of the way the civil unions legislation introduced into the parliament by former Deputy Premier and Treasurer, Andrew Fraser.

The LNP administration decided to remove the similarity to marriage as well as the state-sanctioned civil ceremony. To be a little fair, we did expect worse as Queenslanders with the consensus being that a full repeal was on the way. But who’s been hurt by proper civil unions anyway? Certainly not me.

They have also decided to move to ban so-called ‘altruistic surrogacy’ laws brought in by the former Bligh Government which recognised surrogate rights of same-sex couples, single people and couples that have been in de facto relationships for less than 2 years.

And that’s just a start before the over the top and censorial moves that the LNP State Convention agreed to over the weekend.

The first move was a motion put to the convention asking the Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek to ban what was termed as “post-normal science”, read climate science, from the curriculum and examination materials.

Government simply does not and should not have the right to decide what is right and correct science and individual MP’s and the government’s that they represent simply do not have the scientific expertise to determine what is correct and what is not.

Fair enough if the government simply wanted the raw science of climate change to betaught without it being coloured with some of the extreme predictions which have so far failed to materialise.

And then came that motion from Young LNP State Secretary Luke Barnes, who proposed an end to the Abstudy program for indigenous people. The motion narrowly prevailed despite vigorous protestations by LNP federal MP Paul Neville that passage of the proposal would lead to the LNP being labelled “bigots”.

It’s certainly the case that the motion will lead to the LNP being called bigots, but that is nothing new for the party, they’ve been labelled bigots at the state and federal level numerous times before, including for their stance on civil unions and the surrogacy changes.

The LNP in passing this motion, however marginal the motion victory shows a complete lack of understanding of the importance of the Abstudy program to the principle of equality of opportunity in education.

Indigenous students under the program receive an $8000 grant to assist with education, travel and accommodation costs which are quite high for rural and regional students having to travel large distances to have access to education, particularly at the tertiary and secondary school level.

Indigenous students travelling for study from areas outside the major cities and education hubs are often out of pocket even after having the grant, so any downgrade bringing it in line with similar programs would just make it all the more challenging for this group to be able to continue undertaking a basic level of education that is so important to future life opportunities.

Thankfully after the passage of the motion yesterday, it has been slammed by the federal indigenous affairs spokesperson, Nigel Scullion as an idea that nobody with “half a brain” would want to bring into effect, a glorious slapdown to the brain fart of a suggestion put forward at the convention.

Another positive, if it can be called such, is that the federal government controls the Abstudy program and so the Queensland LNP, whilst now being forced to call for the abolition of the grant is unable to touch the important and essential policy, especially after the glorious slapdown by their federal counterparts.

All of these moves are a sign of a party at least as far as Queensland goes and to a similar extent the federal party sliding to the right and further away from the ideology of liberalism that gives the party its name.

Yes, from the beginning it is true that the Liberal Party was founded on a combination of a liberal and conservative tradition, with the latter always particularly based around a form of religious conservatism and that still clearly holds true today.

However, progress should be toward more individual rights  and promoting more opportunities for all as well as less government intervention in the day-to-day lives of the individual and their relationships.

A very strong separation of church and state is also required where at present the collective church is wagging the government tail, more so at the Queensland state government level, but this observation also applies to an extent to the federal government and the opposition.

Of course too, as already highlighted, these moves are in large part a result of the unprecedented power that the LNP gained at the ballot box, especially aided and abetted without an upper house to put a check on extreme use of power to deny individual rights and progress.

It’s about time to head down to that op shop for some trendy 1950s garb, but at least one decision by the state party won’t take Queensland any further back in time despite strong efforts at the weekend.

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