Blogging Senate Estimates (part 1)

Most people don’t find themselves blogging senate estimates. I can say this as the gallery is empty. Sure, there may be a few public servants watching while journalists scour the hearings for stories about 12 month leases costing the tax payer $165,000. Apart from that, its quiet.

I’m interested in migration, so have found myself in the main committee room at parliament house. The Senators present at the moment are Ian McDonald (Chair), Sue Boyce, Gavin Marshall, Zed Seselja, Lisa Singh and one other person whose name tag I can’t read. The agenda for today is here.

What is immediately striking is the Senators themselves.  Senate estimates involves Senate committees enquiring of public servants about whatever questions they want.  Senator Sue Boyce is asking questions about how many migrants and asylum seekers appeal their visa findings who may be disabled or have a particular ethnicity (in this case Hazara’s from Afghanistan).  The line of enquiry opens up a small window into personal interests but more likely political strategy and information finding.

If you have made it past the first two paragraphs, then please keep an eye on this blog throughout the day. I find this fascinating as you get a real insight into the Senators interest and how knowledgable they are about bureaucratic processes. You could infer Senator Boyce has an interest in the disability sector while Senator Seselja has enquired about New Zealand gang members who have received a complementary protection visa. Perhaps the new ACT Senator is wary of motorcycle gang members, like his Queensland brethren. As I type, Kim Carr has opened with an aggressive stream of questions about Sri Lankan asylum seekers at the Refugee Review Tribunal. These opportunities are critical to understanding trends of visa grants and appeals, little nuggets of information which shape public debate about critical policy issues such as asylum seekers.

Stay tuned.

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