Blogging Senate #Estimates (Feb 2014) (Part 5)

For a person calling for Minister Morrison to resign, Sarah Hanson Young is both her own best friend and worst enemy.

She is extremely good at occasionally picking up important contextual information. Her questioning led to Martin Bowles to say ‘nobody had been made aware until Saturday’ of a credible source about where exactly the death of the young Iranian man occurred. Given the information which was flowing in the media, this is perhaps both surprising and disappointing.

Obviously there are serious difficulties regarding the specifics of information in difficult environments. However this was nearly a full five days after the incident occurred. Is this standard good enough? I’m not sure, but the provision of information allows a better conversation about it.

Another example is when Martin Bowles said people were not claiming asylum because of sexual orientation, she questioned how this could be known, given the claims for asylum have not been processed. This is an important note. It is very hard to understand why these people are migrating when assessment interviews do not occur.

However Hanson-Young is not good at following up these important findings. She often leaves questions on the table. After learning it took so long for a credible source, it would have been good to know what is classified as a credible source, given the media didn’t have much trouble finding accounts of what occurred (this was later addressed in further questions). She also seems unable to pursue a line of questioning without sometimes getting into the mud about moral considerations. Bureaucrats avoid this stuff like the plague and easily deflect questions.

I wish I could say as much about Kim Carr. As an ALP member, I am extremely disappointed by his continued poor performance in these hearings. His first set of questions veered all over the place and was more bluster than precision, something not required in an Estimates hearing. He asked about the Minister – which rightly go unanswered – and sought to confirm things already on the public record. Instead of following up on some of Hanson-Young’s findings, he barraged Lt. General Campbell about the similarities of Afghanistan and Operation Sovereign Borders. While I am partial to further highlighting the media blackout, surely the ALP knows that the incident on Manus Island is the central point for these hearings. 

We are over an hour into the questions to Operation Sovereign Borders and at the moment, very little progress has been made. Things should have been different.

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