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Posts Tagged ‘canberra’
Featured, opinion/analysis, Policy + Politics - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 9:36 - 127 Comments
I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore. Let’s fix this goddamn thing from the inside.
For far too long, Australia’s political sector has gotten technology policy completely wrong. I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore. Let’s take Delimiter into the Canberra Press Gallery and literally write the book on tech policy while we’re there.
There was one particular moment during the recent Data Retention debate in the Senate which I will never forget.
The hour was late – close to 10pm on a Wednesday night – and I was tired. Dog tired. It was the third in a series of extremely long Sitting days which started at 8AM in the morning and lasted well past dinner. I can’t speak for the other staff and Senators who were still required to be in the building, but I suspect many of them were exhausted as well.
The reason we were up so late was that the Government and the Opposition were absolutely determined to pass the Data Retention legislation that week. The two major parties teamed up to artificially extend the normal hours of the Senate in an effort to ensure that, no matter what, the legislation would pass.
At the point I mention, I happened to glance up at the public and press galleries which surround the Senate.
I was disappointed to see that, despite the awful nature of the legislation being debated (it was almost universally opposed, except by law enforcement agencies), at that point not a single soul sat in physical witness to its debate. Not a single member of the public, and not a single journalist. Nobody was there to remind our political leaders of how badly they were screwing things up.
Of course, there were very many people watching virtually. Press gallery journalists have in-house TV screens to watch proceedings. And many people were keeping tabs on the debate online from their homes.
But here’s a little-known fact about Parliament House: Physical presence here matters much more than you would think.
This building is commonly considered by its occupants to be a giant ‘bubble’. It has its own rules, its own culture and its own population; a totally self-contained world. There are many things which only make sense here. When you leave the building, or when someone not part of this world enters, the bubble breaks and normality intrudes.
I’ve seen this phenomenon many times. The best lobbyists in Canberra are the ones who often visit APH. The most effective witnesses are the ones who appear physically before committees. If you don’t come to Canberra in the flesh, you won’t have much influence here. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth.
It’s for these reasons that I suspect that having outside observers – even just one — sitting in the Senate galleries during the late night Data Retention debates would have made a difference to the participants. It would have burst the bubble and brought the outside world in. It would have made those in favour of the legislation aware that there were people who cared enough about the issue to be here in person.
Having just one person in the galleries sure would have made a great amount of difference to me. It would have given me heart, and hope, where it seemed there was none. It would have made me feel a little bit less lonely in our fight to stop yet another piece of terrible tech policy from becoming law. Continue…
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