Sometimes Australian politics bemuses.
In Australian parliaments we have what is known as a pair. Say a Minister wants to go overseas or an MP has an urgent personal commitment, the other side will give him or her a pair, a promise to withdraw one of their own from the voting. Opposition leader Abbott has been known to play hard ball on this one in breach of normal conventions, but this time he has reduced it all to absurdity.
Federal environment Minister Tony Burke who also happens to be a former minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced plans for a new series of marine parks around Australia. Now I don't happen to have an opinion on this one yet, although I have become increasingly critical of what I perceive to be national parks mania based around the increasingly semantically stretched concept of wilderness areas.
The opposition rouse to its feet in uproar at that move. Minister Burke was to go to the Rio environment conference, but the opposition refused to grant him a pair until after the first question time so that Minister Burke could answer questions on the matter. So he didn't go at all.
Fair enough you might say. After all, it's an important issue. Yet so important was it that the opposition actually failed to ask the Minister forced to stay behind any substantive questions. Talk about an own goal as you will see from this story in the Sydney Morning Herald. Tsk.
I have commented before on this blog about the very Australian habit of our political leaders in making domestic decisions or just speeches with blind ignorance of their international impacts. Alternatively, we have a bad habit of lecturing the rest of the world, often with domestic messages implying just how good we are.
Now PM Julia Gillard's lecturing of Europe has apparently attracted a European sniff. We are not amused, said the EU Commission Chief. PM Gillard has come to her own Defence, saying that Jose Manuel Barroso comment that he had not come to Mexico to “receive lessons” was aimed at North America, not her. He apparently laughed at the idea that he was responding to Australia.
Now I would be the first to admit that the fiendishly domestic focus of the travelling Australian media scrum twists things. But I was also left with the uncomfortable feel that the reason why Jose Manuel Barroso was so amused lies in the insignificance of this country!
I haven't yet written on this one yet, so this might be a good one to finish on.
Gina Rinehart, now the world's richest woman, has been making a pitch for influence if not control over Australia's Fairfax Media, one of the two large media groups dominating Australia's press landscape. At the same time, Fairfax has announced very large job cuts associated with basic restructuring linked to the impact of new technology. This case everything except sex, at least to this point! Expect more comments.