The last week in the Senate once again had a much higher number of Bills dealt with than usual – 19 in total in the 4 sitting days. None of these were very controversial, apart from the law to abolish ATSIC. As usual, details can be found on my main website. I left Canberra on the Friday morning, with the Senate not sitting again until the Budget appears in May.
I got back to Brisbane for a couple of hours and then got a flight to Rockhampton. With proposed laws just introduced by the Government aimed at destroying Student Associations and Unions on University campuses, I’m keen to see what might be done to make people aware of just how damaging this will be. It is likely to be far more damaging on regional campuses, so I wanted to meet up with a few people at the Central Queensland University to get a better picture of what the possible impact might be. As well as the Student Association, I also met with a number of academic staff. CQU has the highest percentage of overseas students of any of the 38 Universities in Australia. Its Rockhampton campus (it has 9 campuses around Australia) is one of the biggest single employers in the city and surrounding region and the potential loss of 30 or 40 jobs there, along with the services provided will be felt more widely than just the students.
I flew back home late Friday night and on Saturday morning I attended a rally in my local suburb regarding a proposed tunnel that’s planned to go under the Brisbane River from Woolloongabba to Windsor. If it goes ahead it will be Brisbane’s first step down Sydney’s path of mega-expensive, traffic-multiplying road tunnels, complete with an unfiltered smogstack at each end. The affected communities are starting to wonder when they will actually get some proper information about the project, beyond the usual glib stuff promising that the air will be cleaner and the traffic will be less. It’s proposed by the Brisbane City Council and supported by the State Government. Both Liberal and Labor parties support it. Because I live within a kilometre of one of the smogstacks, I’ve avoided speaking out about it before, as it could look like I’m speaking out of self-interest. I should mention that the Lord Mayor, Campbell Newman, and the Premier, Peter Beattie, also live nearby (even if they are up on the hill, while I’m down near the floodplain). I’ll probably write some more about it soon. It impacts on areas I’ve lived in for virtually all my life, so it does interest me a lot.
Speaking of connections to the local area, I went from this rally to a meeting of local Democrat members. I wrote a brief entry on this site in January about a process we’ve been working on to look at where the party goes from here. The meeting today was to report back to members on some of the major outcomes (so far) with that process. The party organised to have it in a venue we hadn’t used before, which was an old Church hall in the suburb of Wooloowin. This hall actually used to be a church and, unbeknownst to whoever chose it, it was where I was baptised back in 1964. The church closed around 1968 and moved into a new one next door, so I had no memory of ever being inside this building. I guess returning to the place of my baptism could be a good symbol for undergoing a political re-birth. We’ll see if the voters agree by the time the next election rolls around.