Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Robert Hill

Robert Hill might be a convict, and he might not be. Mary Wade might have been the last convict on the list. Well, let me go see.....

Well, Lord Wiki is taking a long time to load. But I did see, in the brief Google description, that Robert Hill is not a convict. He's some kind of diplomat.

Okay. Lord Wiki is here now.

Hill was a Liberal politician. At one time, he was a Representative to the United Nations. Now he's the head of the Australian Carbon Trust. I have no idea what that is. I guess I'll learn about it later.

Baby Robert was born on 25 September 1946. He's a few years older than my parents. There's not much here about his childhood. Oh, wait. The little box on the side says he was born in Adelaide. And I just found more stuff. I don't know how I missed this.

He went to the University of Adelaide, and also the London School of Economics.

Robert Hill's Daddy was a Liberal Party politician as well. He was a member of the South Australian Legislative Council.

Robert Hill was elected to the Senate in 1980. He would have been about thirty-four then. Before that, he had done the whole barrister thing.

Although Hill was elected in 1980, he didn't get to sit in that senate seat until July 1981.

Oh. This is so out of order. I'm getting confused.

BEFORE he became a senator, Hill was Vice-President of the Liberal Party in South Australia. Later, while senator, he became President of the Party in South Australia.

Starting in 1988, Hill joined the Shadow Ministry. The Prime Minister would have been Keating then, right? Or would it be Hawke?

I'm going to go and ask my trusty Prime Minister site.

It was Hawke.

From 1996 until 2006, Hill was Leader of the Government in the senate. I'm really not sure what that means.

There's two houses in Parliament. I know that. I'm guessing the Prime Minister is the head of one house; and the Leader of the Government in Senate would be the leader in the other house?

I might be totally wrong.

Let me go read about this whole Senate thing. I'm really lost when it comes to that.

The Senate is the upper house. Lord Wiki says it was partly modeled after the American Senate. So I SHOULD understand it very well. But sadly, I really don't understand much about the American Senate either.

Okay, the Senate (upper house) can't introduce bills. Only the lower house can do that. Once a bill is introduced, the Senate can try to amend it or refuse to pass it. I think this was what was happening with that whole ETS thing recently.

Ah. It's good I'm learning this stuff. It fits in well with current events. There's all this talk, in the news, of a double dissolution. In all honesty....although I'm uneducated in these politics, I could sort of understand what was happening. I got the fact that the Labor Party wants the ETS thing passed, and some of the Liberals do not. The Senate voted on it, and it was not passed. Then there was talk of the double dissolution. This is where the Prime Minister calls for an election. I think it's like he's trying to get new Senators in there....ones who will SUPPORT the ETS.

Now I'm reading Lord Wiki, and he's confirming what I thought I knew. I should also credit some commenters in the past. They've tried to explain it to me. Sometimes, I feel I don't understand. But maybe I'm slowly getting it. It's starting to sink in.

Lord Wiki has stuff about the Senate blocking supply. I know this is what happened with Whitlam. Maybe I finally understand all this now. The opposition WANTED Whitlam to call a double dissolution because they thought there was a good chance, they'd get in to the Prime Minister throne. Whitlam refused.

I think it will be different with Rudd. I think he'll want the double dissolution because it seems likely the Liberal Party will be unable to get elected at this point. I'm a tiny bit worried that Tony Abbott will become Prime Minister. But I'm hoping for the best over here.

Lord Wiki says the rule right now is that there needs to be twelve Senators from each state. Then, if I'm reading this right, the two Territories (Northern and ACT) only get two Senators. Is that fair?

I'm looking at Lord Wiki's list of current Senators. There are people on there (like Bob Brown and Nick Xenophon) that I thought of as Members of Parliament. But I don't think I realized they were Senators. I'm feeling a bit stupid.

Most of the Senators are from the Labor or Liberal Party. But there are others who are not. Lord Wiki says the Coalition has thirty-seven seats. I think that's the Liberal Party, plus stuff like the National Party. The Labor Party has thirty-two seats. The Green party has five seats, Family First has one seat, and there's the Independent guy....Nick Xenophon.

I want to compare that to the American Senate.

You know, I still don't know what Lord Wiki meant when he said Hill was the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does anyone know? And who has the job now? I think that's the information I was searching for earlier, and I got really sidetracked. But still. I'm glad to be learning all this.

I'm looking at Lord Wiki's list of American Senators now. There are fifty-eight Senators from the Democratic Party, and forty from the Republican Party. Then there are two independents.

I'm looking at all their religions now. There's a lot more Jews than I imagined. It look like most of the Jews are Democrats. And there's a Unitarian Universalist. That's pretty cool.  The Unitarian Universalist Senator from North Dakota. It would be nice to get some Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, etc. in there as well.

I just looked at the photos of the Senators. We may have a black president, but there sure is a lot of pale-skinned folks in the senate.

Oh wait! I found an Asian. No. Two Asians! They're the Hawaiians Senators. And then there's an African-American Senator from Illinois. Unlike Obama, this guy can trace his roots to American slaves.

I really should get back to Robert Hill...yeah before I further demonstrate how ignorant I am about American politics.

Hill was Minister for Defense from 2001 until 2006.

In 2006, he announced his resignation from Parliament. He claimed that it was his own choice, and there was no pressure from the Prime Minister. But rumors point to this maybe not being true. Some believe Howard was anxious to get him out of there. Why? I don't know.

Soon after he retired, Hill got the United Nations position. Then recently he got that carbon trust position.

Here's the website about that. It's actually part of the Australian Government. I didn't expect that really. I thought it was some sort of private organization.

It was established in May 2009. It seems it's goal is to push households and businesses to reduce their carbon footprint.

Here's a media release about Robert Hill becoming Chair of the thing.

The headquarters are in Brisbane.

About seventy-five million dollars have gone towards the program.

They're going to have something called the Energy Efficiency Savings Pledge Fund. This will include a calculator on the web that allows families to calculate their energy use, and how much they'd save if they did energy efficient stuff. Then they can pledge those savings.

I'm not sure I fully understand. It kind of sounds more symbolic than literal. I'm not sure.

I guess the calculator will show if you're saving money, and then you can use that money to buy carbon pollution targets. The donations to the pledge fund will be tax deductible.

In some ways, it feels like people are playing make believe here.

I mean couldn't people just lie? We use candles all the time and never turn on the light! Here's my pledge to the fund. Now where's my tax deduction?
But still. Maybe it will help people get into the right spirit.

Here's an article about it in the Brisbane Times. They have a photo of Kevin Rudd with Penny Wong. Rudd looks a bit angry. I wonder why.

It's interesting that Rudd appointed a member of the Liberal Party to be chair of this Carbon Trust. Although Lord Wiki says that Hill had been part of the moderate wing of the Liberal Party. Oh, and I missed this before. Before Hill was Minister of Defense, he had been Minister for the Environment. I'm guessing he's not a Climate Change Skeptic.

Here's an ABC interview with Hill. It's from 2006, and it's regarding his resignation from Parliament.

Hill was the defense Minister when Australian troops were sent to Iraq. About the war, Hill says:

I think decisions to go to war have to be looked at in the terms of the circumstances of the time. And the justification, I believe, was valid at the time and I still do now and I suspect if I'm around in 20 years, I'll believe so then. And there was a time where we saw defence simply in terms of almost hiding behind the moat. We no longer do that. We go out and we look after Australia's interests and we become part of an international community that's interested in security and stability, and we're prepared to take risks to achieve those goals.
What if he DID change his viewpoint in twenty years? Would he admit that he thought it was a mistake...maybe even his mistake? Or like most humans, would he refuse to admit something was a mistake, or try to blame it on someone else?

I'd be very impressed with a politician who said something like, I completely supported the war when it was happening, but now looking back....I realize we made a huge mistake. Does anyone know of a politician who has ever said anything like that?

The interview people seem to be trying to get Hill to admit he was pushed out of Senate, and that he got that United Nations job as a way to keep him away from Parliament. Hill doesn't admit it. He says, No pressure, no pressure at all. No, no. I'm sure that my Senate colleagues would continue to back me indefinitely. A bit cheeky to say that, but they've been great friends and supporters and there's not a hint from any one of them that it's time that I should move on.

I'm going to end soon, but before I do....I'm going to read this interview with Penny Wong regarding Robert Hill's appointment to the Australian Carbon Trust.

Wong starts out by dissing the Liberal Party and their feet dragging on the issue. This was from back in July....five months ago. Wong says:

It's interesting to note that what we see from the Opposition is continued disarray and division. Mr Turnbull - yesterday I recall - suggested that the Opposition might move amendments. Senator Boswell indicated that they would be opposing it. We then had the Shadow Minister, Mr Robb today saying that they again wanted to defer the vote, defer consideration of the Bill and I understand the Shadow Treasurer has just recently said that they are willing to move amendments.
Yeah. That Liberal Party is sure confused.

Wong is asked whether the decision to appoint Hill was political. She says he was appointed based on his qualifications.

The reporter asks, The Opposition has said that his appointment shows that both sides of politics are equally committed to the environment. What do you say about that?

Wong responds by saying she hopes that Turnbull unites the Liberal Party and ends its reputation as being environmentally unfriendly.

Sadly, that did not happen.

I like what Wong says here. She's asked about the idea that some Australian politicians have regarding the upcoming Copenhagen meeting. Some politicians think Australians should wait and see what OTHER countries are willing to do before Australia makes any commitment. Wong responds:

The question is not whether we need one, it's how you get one and I don't think you get one by standing on the sidelines. I don't think you get one by sitting on your hands and hoping others will act, particularly when you know it is in the national interest for us to get an agreement.
Are we ever going to get anywhere if each country is waiting for the other countries to take the plunge?

In contrast, this article has a quote from the brand new Liberal leader. There is no point in bringing in an ETS before it has become an established part of the world economy, and the time when that is likely to happen - if ever - is when the United States adopts one.
Well, I hope the United States DOES adopt one. I'll be very proud of my country. But if it doesn't, I hope Australia can ignore what America does, and do something better. I wish I could say that if the rest of the world does the right thing, America will follow. That's not really true though, is it? I think America likes that feeling of having the whole world against them. Then they can change the names of their food. No more French Fries. Now we eat Freedom Fries!

But all that was under Bush. Maybe Obama will be different.

And it's not that I don't think it's brave for one country to stand up against most other countries. There is some courage in that....and virtue in sticking to your principles. However, it can also be a sign of ethnocentrism, stubbornness, and stupidity.

Anyway, I'm just going to hope that this Copenhagen Summit brings us good news, and that I can be proud of Australia, America, and a bunch of other countries.


  1. I just want to explain a little bit about our election system. Normally Senators have six year terms and half the Senate goes up for election every three year. A double dissolution is special because is only possible in some circumstances and it forces the whole Senate to go up for election together (When that happens the first six elected in each state get a six year term and the last six have to get re-elected in three years if they want to stay on. In that half-Senate election the Senators would be elected for a six-year term so then we go back to half-Senate elections every three years (until the next double dissolution)).

    The point of a double dissolution, then, is that it is the easiest way to get the composition of the Senate changed quickly if the public agree with the government that the old Senate was being obstructionist (as opposed to being the good "House of Review" that it is often capable of being. I look forward to being able to deliver a big message to Tony Abbott soon. New Senates always begin in July (you menetioned the delay when Hill was first elected) so after elections sometimes Houses of Representatives still have to deal with old Senates for a while (although the territorian Senators don't wait until July - they go straight in). I think that period may also be shortened after a double dissolution and a Joint Sitting of both Houses together is possible to pass Bills the obstruction of which led to the double dissolution.

    Actually, Bills CAN originate in the Senate but a special class of "money" Bills can't (I believe they would usually be introduced by our Treasurer in the lower house). Mostly relevant Ministers (but occasionally non-Ministers (called private Members)) introduce Bills and there are Ministers in both the H of R and the Senate.

    The Leader of the Government in the Senate (now Chris Evans) is basically the Minister responsible for getting the government's programme through it (with the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Joe Ludwig). They would usually negotiate what is going to happen with their opposite numbers. One is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (currently Nick Minchin, the climate change denialist that white-anted Malcolm Turnbull for Tony Abbott - Eric Abetz, another denialist, is his deputy). They would also negotiate with the President (typically from their own party - currently John Hogg) and his deputies, leaders of other groupings and independents. Good luck with understanding all that! I hope it was of some use.

  2. Martin,

    Chris Evans....Is he the Minister for Migration? I have vague memories of that guy. I didn't realize he was the head of the senate. Although maybe I'm thinking of someone else.

    Thanks for your explanations. I think I'll have to read it at least twenty times to understand most of it. I've already read it twice....

    From your comment, I'm getting the idea that you DON'T like Abbott. I kind of expected that you might...just because you've said things in support of Howard. And Howard supports Abbott. Although I know you can't really lump people together like that.

    Anyway, do you not like Abbott? Am I right about that? Or am I totally reading you wrong. If I'm getting THAT wrong, there's probably no chance in hell that I'm ever going to interpret your other information adequately.

  3. Yes, Evans is the Immigration guy and yes, I dislike Tony Abbott mainly because he is a climate change denialist at the moment but also because I am a Greens supporter as I've mentioned. I'm not as conservative as you may have imagined. I just think Howard gets a raw deal sometimes in the political debate.

    I also think Bob Brown does and I'm about the biggest fan Obama could have in Australia (not that he's behaving all that radically but I think he's the ideal President for the US (and the world) at the moment).

    I'm sorry you haven't found my comment easy to follow. I could blame myself but the topic is a bit complex for many so I understand.

  4. Martin,

    Don't blame yourself. The answer is simple. You're VERY smart, and I'm not. So I don't always follow.

    I do think we're alike in some ways. I feel bad that I assumed you were more conservative than you are. I wonder if people think that of me because I'll sometimes defend right-wing politicians...or the wives of right-wing politicians.

  5. Just to clarify my information (I'm sorry if it's too much - I promise I won't add any more) Joe Ludwig is actually the Manager of Govt Business in the Senate and Senator Faulkner is the Deputy Leader of the Govt in the Senate. So I think Faulkner would be the senior one (out of he and Ludwig) in terms of the business management hierarchy (but formally junior to Evans).

  6. Thanks. I'm not so smart. I just happen to know this. It's just the kind of thing that would be easier to explain in an oral conversation, I think. And you really don't need such detail, I guess. I just thought it would help to explain exactly why someone would want to call a double dissolution as opposed to a regular election and I think you've already worked it out without needing to think about the details.

  7. Energy Efficiency Savings Pledge Fund. First I have heard of it. Few Australians understand how the Senate works and their election. I am among them.

  8. Martin: Okay. Maybe you're not so smart, but you're smarter than me ; ) Is that good?

    I'm going to read your comment for the third time...see if I get anything more from it. See, I just need to keep reading and rereading.

    Okay...so if a double dissolution happens, then half the Senate will be robbed of their six year term. They'll get only three years. Do I have that right?

    Andrew: I'm glad I'm not the only one confused about the Senate. I was embarrassed for being so ignorant about the American one. It makes me feel better that you feel ignorant about your Australian one.

    I never heard of the Energy Efficiency Savings Pledge Fund either...well, not until I did this post.

  9. You don't have to rub it in about me not being so smart. Sheesh! Just joking. I can cope. Yes, that's right so with twice as many up for re-election that's twice as much possibility of changing the composition of the Senate in a way you would like it to be changed so you can get what you want done done (as long as you've read the mood of the electorate (us poor saps who mostly don't have a clue what's going on) correctly, of course).