Reflections on Senate Estimates (lunch break)

Lunch break. Notes from the first couple of hours:

  • The ALP is a bit all over the place. Whereas Sarah Hanson Young had only 15 minutes to focus, she was able to target governance and budgets and how they might be impacted by operation sovereign borders. This is important as presumably large increases in cost and resources will have negative impact elsewhere. It was noted 40 full time equivalent staffers were placed with the joint headquarters and that the Maritime division was being impacted more than before this policy. This helps to make an argument framed around finance and resources, which is more pertinent with the Commission of Audit around the corner.
  • The ALP on the other hand seemed to get a bit lost. Kim Carr had a good question on the definition of “operational” however after getting an answer akin to ‘common sense definition of what is within an operation’, he didn’t follow it up. Surely the Government has to define what “operational” matters are, given the emphasis and privacy afforded to such events? This might have been the place to start understanding what this all meant.
  • The ALP clearly stated they will sit and enquire about this portfolio all day long if necessary. Kim Carr gave the veiled threat that the Senate could ask for more time with public servants outside of standard estimates hearings if they didn’t get adequate opportunity to ask questions. This is good, however also highlights how the new Senate from 1 July next year has far reaching consequences out of the limelight.
  • Finally, if you are watching these processes, make sure you really listen to the public servants. The nuance of the language used is critical. Everything is said for a very specific reason and each word has a particular meaning. These should be used by cluey Senators are hints about what to further explore and what to leave alone, but it rarely seems that way.
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