Send in the clowns
The circus that has become federal parliament under the minority rule of Prime Minister Julia Gillard hit town with gusto this week, when a swag of federal pollies flitted in to quiz local industry types over the planned mining tax.
The snazzily titled Senate Select Committee on the Scrutiny of New Taxes, or SSCotSoNT, treated observers to a first class demonstration of the circuitous bickering which now defines parliamentary debate in the national capital.
Committee chairman, WA Liberal senator Mathias Cormann, and erstwhile unionist-turned NSW Labor Senator Doug Cameron, were the stars of the day, continually challenging the other’s questioning of the various witnesses called to appear.
But Mr Cameron was especially entertaining as the class warrior suspicious of big business.
After clashing heatedly with Fortescue Metals boss Andrew Forrest in the morning session, he then seemed to imply the WA Domgas Alliance was merely a front for Mr Forrest because of Fortescue’s membership of the gas buyers’ lobby.
But he met his match when questioning state under treasurer Tim Marney.
After asking Mr Marney to review an obscure east coast professor’s analysis of the limited “true” benefits of mining sector investment, he was unhappy with Mr Marney’s lukewarm commitment to only have a “brief look”.
“I’m not asking for a brief look at it … I am asking whether you will do a proper analysis to advise this committee,” Mr Cameron snapped.
“I will have my people have a preliminary review of the analysis and see whether there is any simple conclusions we can draw,” Mr Marney replied.
“I’m not prepared to allocate my time or that of my staff as a research input into this committee’s operation. I’ve answered your questions as fully as I can, but I’m not going to go away and do work for you.”