Posted by: jkirkby8712 | March 8, 2011

Monday, 7th March 2011 – debates and politics

This is the day of the week when I introduce the participants to  my readers, of the weekly ABC TV panel show ‘Q & A’ [Questions and Answers], but it’s also an opportunity for myself to catch up on the major personalities in our society these days, and generally learn a bit more about them. Many of them, I am usually quite familiar with, others, perhaps just the name has crossed my mind for some reason, through the media, etc. So apart from the topics which are discussed each week [and which generally relate to the major news stories of the week past, etc,], I like to use this program as a bit of an educational process, for both myself, and anyone else who might be interested. Most of the comments and bios below, about the program come from ABC websites, and I fully acknowledge that. In terms of the bios, no point to trying to reinvent the wheel!!

First of all, a reminder of what the program is on about, and who it’s host is each week.  Q&A puts punters, pollies and pundits together in the studio to thrash out the hot issues of the week. It’s about democracy in action – on Q&A the audience gets to ask the questions. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re from – everyone can have a go  and take it up to our politicians and opinion makers. Energetic and opinionated – Q&A brings Australia’s egalitarian and larrikin spirit into the studio. Q&A is about encouraging people to engage with politics and society. Q&A is hosted by one of the ABC’s most respected journalists – Tony Jones. Q&A is live to air – it’s happening as viewers watch.  If you want a chance to ask the questions,  you are invited to register online.

Tony Jones is one of Australia’s most respected journalists. As host of Q&A he brings over 20 years of award winning journalism to the table. Tony is known for his incisive and probing interviews on the breaking issues of the day. His role on Q&A capitalises on his ability to tap into the political zeitgeist and keep the discussion focused and on track.
 Tony Jones has won pretty much every award an Australian journalist could wish for. He’s covered the seminal news events of the last two decades – from the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, through the collapse of apartheid in South Africa, to the rise of the Taliban and, closer to home, the revelations of sexual abuse in remote Aboriginal communities. Now with Q&A Tony is embarking on a new kind of inquiry.  He wants to put the Australian public directly in touch with the politicians and playmakers – to give them the opportunity to get some answers, eye to eye.  Public democracy, open dialogue, transparency – it’s what every good journalist strives for.

Tonight’s panellists were  Gail Kelly – Westpac CEO;  Kate Ellis – Minister for the Status of Women; Joe Hockey – Shadow Treasurer; Janet Albrechtsen – opinion columnist for The Australian; and Mike Carlton – journalist and commentator

Coming Up on Q&A

On Monday, the eve of International Womens Day, we have a great panel to discuss and debate the issues:

From left to right – Joe, Janet, Gail, Kate and Mike

Gail Kelly is CEO of Westpac, arguably Australia’s most powerful businesswoman. Gail took the helm of Westpac in February 2008, and oversaw the merger with St.George Bank in December of that year. Before joining Westpac, Gail was CEO and Managing Director of St.George Bank for five years, at a time when St.George more than doubled its total assets and profits.  Previously, Gail worked at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, as Head of Customer Service Division and a member of the bank’s Executive Committee. Gail began her banking career as a teller at Nedcor Bank, one of the largest banks in South Africa. She grew up and was educated in South Africa – firstly at Cape Town University and completing her MBA at Witwatersrand University. Gail is currently a director of the Australian Bankers’ Association, the Financial Markets Foundation for Children, and Melbourne Business School. She is married to Allan, and they have four children. The family migrated to Australia in 1997. In October 2004 Kate Ellis made history as the youngest woman ever elected to the Australian House of Representatives, winning the seat of Adelaide. Following the Labor Party’s election victory in November 2007 Kate was elevated to the ministry as the Minister for Youth and Sport, again making history as the youngest ever Australian minister (previous record holder Paul Keating).In last year’s reshuffle she became Minister for Employment Participation, Child Care and Status of Women.
Kate was born in Melbourne in 1977 and grew up in rural South Australia in the Murray River town of Mannum, where her family owned the local bakery. They later moved to Adelaide where Kate attended high school and studied international relations and politics at Flinders University. But a political career beckoned before Kate completed her degree. She began working as a research officer and adviser for federal and State Labor politicians before running for Parliament and defying the national trend in 2004 by winning a seat from the Liberals. In Government Kate has worked to provide a genuine voice for young people and is passionate about the power of sport to strengthen communities, tackle the obesity epidemic and define Australia’s national identity. In her spare time she loves to cook, play netball and ‘attempt to keep her garden alive’. In 2009 Zoo magazine offered to make a $30,000 donation to charity if Kate posed for a pictorial spread, but she declined. Joe Hockey has had to shoulder a big share of responsibility in the Opposition since the coalition lost office in 2007 and some big names left the frontline. Joe is a key member of the Opposition strategy team, and as shadow treasurer he has the challenge of beating Labor on the crucial battleground of the economy. Well-known as a moderate within the Liberal Party, Joe has occasionally been at odds with his colleagues on some fundamental philosophical issues and is seen by many as a future leadership contender.
Joe was born in Sydney in 1965 and has a different background from many of his parliamentary colleagues. His father, Richard, was born in Palestine of Armenian background, and came to Australia in 1948. The family’s original name was Hokeidonian. Joe graduated in arts and law from the University of Sydney, where he was active in the Young Liberals. He worked as a banking and finance lawyer, then as Director of Policy to the Liberal Premier of NSW, John Fahey.  He won the seat of North Sydney for the Liberal Party in 1996, following the retirement of well-known Independent Ted Mack. He joined the Howard ministry in 1998 as Minister for Financial Services and Regulation. His last ministry was in the Employment and Workplace Relations portfolio, which he held while the coalition was fighting an intense political battle over its contentious industrial relations policy, WorkChoices.  Joe and his wife Melissa Babbage live in the Sydney suburb of Hunters Hill. They have three children, Xavier, Adelaide and Ignatius. Janet Albrechtsen is one of Australia’s most prominent conservative commentators. She is a columnist for The Australian and has also written for The Wall Street Journal Asia, The Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Janet was a member of the board of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from 2005 to 2010. She has also been a member of the Foreign Affairs Council since 2003. Janet was born in Adelaide and has a doctorate in law from the University of Sydney Law School. She has also worked as a solicitor, practising in the areas of banking and finance, corporate and securities law. Mike Carlton is one of Australia’s best-known broadcasters and journalists. In a 40-year career, he has been a radio and television news and current affairs reporter, foreign correspondent, radio host and newspaper columnist.  Mike was an ABC war correspondent in Vietnam in 1967 and 1970, and for three years was the ABC’s Bureau Chief in Jakarta. He also reported for the ABC from London, New York and major Asian capitals. In television, he was one of the original reporters on the ABC’s groundbreaking This Day Tonight in the 1970s.  Mike turned to talk radio in 1980, first at Sydney’s 2GB, and then for four years in London at Newstalk 97.3FM. On returning to work in television in Australia in 2008, he reported and hosted Indonesia: A Reporter Returns, a three-part documentary for SBS TV. After 26 years hosting morning radio , Mike finally retired from his Radio 2UE breakfast program in Sydney. He is now columnist for the Saturday edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, having been sacked from the position in August 2008, for refusing to write his column during a strike by journalists at Fairfax media. He subsequently rejoined the newspaper in 2009.
Mike is known for his criticism of conservative public figures such as former PM John Howard, radio personality Alan Jones, and for his criticism of conservative governments, including the United States’ Bush administration. Mike has had a life-long passion for naval history and in 2010 published the book he always wanted to write- Cruiser – the Life and Loss of HMAS Perth and her Crew.  He now lives with his wife and young son on Sydney’s northern beaches.

I actually only realised after the program, that one of the reasons for the concentration of questions and discussions being related to women’s rights etc, was that we have just ‘celebrated’ this year’s International Women’s Day.  Some of the areas covered on the subject of women, and argued about, by the panel, included the fall in relation to most other OECD countries in the proportion of Australian women on corporate boards in this country;  existing pay differences between males and females in the workforce [though this was disputed, if the same work was being undertaken];  a discussion on the use of the word ‘feminism’ today, and it’s significance to the traditional or conservative feminist movements of past years, and so on. Meanwhile there was also some considerable debate about bank fees. The Westpac CEO seemed to have all the answers without actually denying certain fees etc, existed  – in fact, I must admit I was quite impressed by Gail Kelly who spoke confidently, and gave good answers to questions raised about her Bank’s fees, the supposed disparity between salaries of males and females in the finance area of the bank,  and, on quite a personal level, the justification for her substantial $10 million renumeration package compared with average wages and salary levels. She was not afraid to admit it was high while explaining that such a figure was broken up into various packaging components relating to performance levels, bonuses, etc, and that disparity in salaries must by necessity of the levels of responsibilities in roles, and the competitive desire of large organisations to get the ‘best’ people for the job, will always be a major consideration in such matters.

I was interested to hear Joe Hockey’s concern for the low numbers of women in senior roles and corporate boards, and quite obviously, some of the views he expressed tonight would appear in tomorrow’s media! In fact on that very question, this is the kind of report that would appear:-

Opposition frontbencher Joe Hockey says he would back enforced quotas that ensure 30 per cent of board positions are occupied by women. He says corporate Australia has been given long enough to improve gender equality on the executive level after talking about it for more than a decade. “If they don’t meet a reasonable target within a period of time, then more punitive measures need to be taken by the parliament,” he told ABC television on Monday. “I would think that you would need to have a target of about 30 per cent.” Women make up about 25 per cent of board appointments in Australia at the moment, but it slips to 11 per cent for the top 200 companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. On the eve of International Women’s Day, Mr Hockey said it was time for real action, although he insists quotas were a last resort. “Corporate Australia has had so many warnings, they’ve put in place so many programs … but Australia has actually fallen behind,” he said.  “I just don’t understand how you can claim that as a director of a company, that all wisdom and knowledge lies in the hands of men only.” Meanwhile, another panellist tonight, Minister for the Status of Women Kate Ellis said the government was committed to its election pledge to have women make up 40 per cent of public board positions by 2015.  In both cases, the two politicians  suggested that quotas should only be used as a last resort, they don’t want to legislate on the matter, BUT…………  An interesting response came from one of the program viewers with a comment to the affect that   ‘Watching two politicians agree is crazy, amazing – more, more, more’!!

The two journalists on the panel, probably didn’t get much of a go tonight, and when they did, no punches were pulled in their opinions. Janet Albrechtsen came over to me as a bit of a modern day ‘Germaine Greer’ – perhaps a bit unfair on my part, as I’ve not always liked the ‘anti’ tone of some of her newspaper articles that I have read from time to time, the type of journalists [in my humble view] who never seems to have ‘nice’ things to say about the topic she is writing.  Perhaps it just that she is ‘too outspoken’ in a harsh way that gets on my nerves?

One point made tonight [which was basically passed over] – which may in fact have been raised by Janet  –  we hear so much about the advances that women have made in most aspects of modern life to bring them on a more equal footing with men  – but generally, this kind of assessment applies only to women in western countries –  women today remain downtrodden and severely discriminated against in many world societies including parts of Islam and various African and Asian cultures. Like the comment tonight, this fact in the broad sense tends to be bypassed when we look at international improvements in the rights of women.

Of course, with the Labor Government’s plan to introduce ‘some kind’ of carbon tax in the near future,  it was inevitable that a portion of the program would be devoted to that subject – in fact, just briefly, at the beginning and end of the night!  A point made at both ends of the program by Gail Kelly, was that the politics of that type of question was becoming far too personal – if we want to achieve any degree of bipartisanship or agreement on these things, the ‘nastiness’ which seems to be creeping into the debates in parliament and elsewhere, needs to be moderated. It is because of this aspect that ‘progress’ is not been made!  I must agree, and in fact, have been becoming quite disturbed in recent weeks by the vitriol  which seems to be getting thrown around, in both houses of parliament, particularly the emphasis on calling members ‘liars’ etc. We don’t need that!  I would like to see Tony Abbott, as Leader of the Opposition, direct his energies  to more positive forms of ‘attack’ against the government – this sort of ‘letter to the faithful’, I personally don’t want to keep seeing, where the emphasis is on dishonesty, and by association, lies   –  he wrote last week  –  “Julia Gillard couldn’t have been clearer before the last election when she said, ‘There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.’. We now know that keeping the Greens happy matters more to Ms Gillard than keeping her promises. As a result of Ms Gillard’s dishonesty, Australians face higher household bills and lost jobs.”   Okay Tony, you made your point, over the past couple of weeks – but what are you achieving in terms of progress to a better alternative. Your letter indicated that the Coalition had a climate change strategy based on direct action to reduce emissions and improve the environment. Well then, can we please move on  –  direct your efforts into telling the Australian electorate what those plans are, instead of all these constant negative verbal assaults  –  let’s move on!@!!  I think that is what Gail Kelly was attempting to suggest we need to do last night.

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