Thursday, August 17, 2006

Parliament House

Had my first round of interviews with Members of Parliament. They are much more accessible than members of Congress, and much less formal. All spoke to me by themselves -- no staff. Parliamentary debates can be uproarious, with members seeking to insult one another while staying within the confines of legislative decorum. It's far more colorful than C-SPAN. Technically, questions raised during debate must be answered in a germane form, and members may not disparage the reputation of another member. Technically. But the envelope, how shall I say it, gets pushed. One common method is to disparage the reputation of an entire party, which solves the problem of any one member. There's an old British joke about one MP calling another a liar. When informed that the remark was out of order, he agreed to rephrase it, stating instead that the right honorable gentlemen had committed a gross terminological inexactitude.

Question time, where the Prime Minister and the Cabinet face members, is televised in the afternoons.

The capitol building, Parliament House, is an unusual structure, and interesting from an architecture perspective -- it would be much more interesting, I'm sure, if I knew the first thing about architecture. On piece of symbolism that's impossible to miss: the whole structure is built into a hill, and there is a park that spans the roof. So people get to walk over their government officials.

Parliament House holds all legislative and executive offices, and it's not very big. While I was being escorted from one appointment to another, we walked past a suite with a sign, "Hon. John Howard, MP," which is the equivalent of walking by the West Wing. During another trip across the building a parliamentary vote was called, and the Attorney General and Treasury Minister walked by on their way into the chamber.

This weekend we're off to the coast, to Bateman's Bay and Pebbly Beach, where, we've been assured the kangaroos will come right up to you and the parrots will land on your shoulder. Always wanted to be a pirate.

Hard to believe, but we've been here a month.


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