Citizenship Ceremony – Albert Hall

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The Rai family above proudly became Australian citizens along with almost a hundred others at the Albert Hall recently.  As the presiding officer I had the pleasure of welcoming the Rai family as new citizens and new members of the Canberra community.

Canberra’s Albert Hall was the venue of the first Australian citizenship ceremony on 3 February 1949.  Prime Minister Ben Chifley conferred citizenship on seven men, one from each State and Territory.

During 1949, almost 2500 people from more than 35 countries became Australian citizens at ceremonies.  Most were migrants from Italy, Poland, Greece, Germany and Yugoslavia.
Since the first citizenship ceremony 65 years ago, more than 4.5 million people have chosen to become Australian citizens.

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Your health in their hands

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Golden staph and other deadly hospital based infections could be better controlled by hospital staff simply washing their hands more often.
There were 41 cases of golden staph at Canberra Hospital last financial year.
Statistics show Canberra Hospital staff still miss washing their hands a quarter of the time.
The World Health Organisation recommends health staff wash their hands before and after touching a patient, before and after a procedure, and after touching the patient’s surrounds.
When I was a young dental student hand washing was drummed into me, along with the legend of the Hungarian Dr Semmelweis who dramatically cut maternal deaths at Vienna General Hospital in 1847. He just encouraged doctors to wash their hands before delivering babies.
Australian hospital statistics show doctors are the worst for washing their hands and, dare I say as a dentist, hospital dental clinics record the highest rates of hand washing.
There are plenty of examples in American hospitals (see my Croakey article) where they have dramatically increased hand washing rates. This cuts infection rates, saves lives, and frees up beds. Let’s do it.

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UCPH design consultation

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I am with Health Minister Simon Corbell, Mary Porter and Stephen Parker (UC Vice Chancellor) at the site of the new University of Canberra Public Hospital for the launch of the design consultation phase. The Hospital will be in the north-west corner of the UC campus bordered by Ginninderra Drive and Aikman Drive.

Recent consultations covered the Service Delivery Plan – how the hospital functions. These have been incorporated in a basic design of the hospital which is now up for public comment and suggested improvements. These ideas will be collated and provided to potential contractors to address as part of the tender process.

ACT Health is holding evening information sessions on the reference design on 31 March and 8 April 2015. You can register to attend by emailing HIP@act.gov.au or calling 6174 8088.

On completion, the University of Canberra Public Hospital will deliver sub-acute inpatient and day services covering rehabilitation, aged care and mental health.

UCPH design

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Proteas welcomed at the South African High Commission

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At the South African High Commission welcoming their national cricket team, the Proteas, before their clash against the Ireland at Manuka Oval.

The High Commissioner, Mr Sibusio Ndebele (blue suit standing centre), hosted the gathering and I welcomed the team on behalf of the ACT government.
More than 8,800 spectators enjoyed the South Africa vs. Ireland, day-night match at Manuka. The game was Canberra’s final match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 and was made possible by our upgrades over the last few years to bring the oval up to international standard including light towers for night games.
The star of the South African innings of 4-411 and man of the match was Hashim Amla (kneeling front row with the long beard) scoring 159 runs. South Africa beat Ireland by 201-runs.

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‘Walking the Line’ at Crace

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At the Crace pub, “The District” launching the Crace Field study, an exhibition by the ANU Environment Studio’s artists inspired by the new suburb and the natural and urban environment.
Looking on is Professor Helen Berry a lead researcher of the University of Canberra’s study of the Crace community’s health and happiness.
I declared the exhibition open and invited guests to go on the exhibition walk and talk at various locations in Crace where the art is on display.
The Crace “Walk the line” event is included in the Craft ACT Design Festival from 20 to 23 November 2014.

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Close run in CPA Chairperson election

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It was a close run in the CPA chairperson election on Thursday in Cameroon.  The candidates Dr. Shirin Chaudhury, Speaker of the Bangaldesh Parliament, and Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Speaker of the Caymans Island Legislative Assembly, both gave speeches which detailed their credentials and their vision for CPA.  Voting was by secret ballot with 137 valid ballots and 1 spoiled ballot.  With 70 to 67 votes Dr. Chaudhury was declared elected.

There was a heated debate about the CPA constitution with passionate speeches for and against a proposed amendment.  This episode reflected the tension between parliamentarians who see CPA as a continuing professional development organisation and those who want it to become an international advocacy organisation.  After this difficult debate the beautiful voices of the University of Buea choir sang of peace and harmony.

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The final presentation was by Pakistan who will be hosting the 61st CPA conference in Islamabad in 2015.

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CPA workshops

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The first workshop I attended on Wednesday was “Unity in Diversity: the Role of Parliament”. The discussion leaders from Cameroon were two academics and two parliamentarians who described how Cameroon had achieved unity with a diverse population. The constant political push for unity was emphasised by former President who constantly used unity in his speeches. Prof. Jean-Emmanuel Pandi described how the German, French and English colonial past overlayed a mosaic of many African languages along with multiple religions including Christianity, Islam and Animism. The preamble to the Cameroon constitution celebrates diversity and promotes unity according to Social Democratic Front legal adviser Joseph Mbah-Ndam MP. He said that ‘unity doesn’t mean uniformity’. Mary Meboka MP talked about the practicalities of delivering unity within a decentralised state, two official languages and both French and English legal systems.
Questions asked by delegates focused on the two official languages and why no African language was similarily acknowledged. The answer was that language diversity was respected and encouraged with most Cameroonians speaking 3 or more languages. Crispin Blunt MP, UK, asked about how the protection of human rights included same sex relationships. The answer was that there was a very strong intolerance of same sex relationships in many African countries who did not view this within a human rights context.
The second workshop examined financial oversight in Westminster and Francophone parliaments. Marc Tanguay MNA (Quebec) talked about the need to build and maintain trust by the people in Government and that good communication about the financial oversight processes and outcomes is essential. Prof. Rick Stapendhurst described the French system as having a stronger mandate and Westminster as having more robust activities. Thomas Docherty MP (UK) recommended proper training for parliamentarians in conducting an enquiry, they need to be well prepared and well resourced. My question to Prof. Stapendhurst was “did he recommend amalgamation of estimates and public accounts committees?” He agreed that this was his conclusion.

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Cameroon President Paul Biya speech to CPA

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Monday’s conference session was held at the Yaounde convention centre and delegates were greeted by a host of dancers.

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Inside the hall the University of Buea choir provided excellent entertainment which inspired South African delegates to dance and sing along.

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The President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, addressed the CPA conference. Most speeches on the day were in English but President Biya spoke in French. Cameroon is a bilingual country with eight Francophone and two Anglophone province, a product of Cameroon’s colonial history. We were well equipped with wireless headphones that provided an English translation of the President’s speech. President Biya noted the considerable threat from ebola as well as hotspots of violence around the world. The millennium development goals and the repositioning of the Commonwealth for the post 2015 development agenda were major topics in his speech. The President said there can be no development without security and listed the millennium goals that will not be achieved by 2015 including unemployment and hunger. He said that good progress had been achieved in education, immunisation, HIV and malaria. More solidarity is needed for development and the African nations propose re-alignment of the development agenda with international programs to eradicate poverty, promote peace and sustainable development.

The newly elected Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Martin Chungong, talked about the role of women in policy development and building better communities. He said that the Commonwealth should no longer be a “Gentleman’s club” but a “Gentleperson’s club”. This point was highlighted by Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, who congratulated Cameroonians on their 2013 election results which had lifted the number in parliament from 14% to 31%.

During the plenary session after lunch I raised the representation in Parliaments of Indigenous minorities in post-colonial societies. For example in Australia our 10 parliaments have 830 members but only 11 are Indigenous. Martin Chungong gave a clear response on behalf of the IPU, unfortunately there was no CPA response. This was disappointing and a matter which I will pursue.  I was interviewed by Cameroon TV about the CPA conference and the role of good governance in supporting the millenium goals; and they wanted a comment in French!

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Of course no conference is without the big group photo seen here on the steps of the convention centre.

 

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The Speaker of the National Assembly of Cameroon, Cavaye Yeguie Djibril, opening the 34th Small Branches Conference yesterday, told delegates that Cameroon joined the Commonwealth in 1995 to support human rights, parliamentary democracy, rule of law and good governance.

Hazelhurst Sir Alan Hazelhurst, CPA Chairperson, reminded delegates that the real value of the CPA was the opportunity to discuss issues with colleagues from across the world particularly from small parliaments.

The CPA has 43 small branches – parliaments with a population of less than 500,000 – including the Maldives, Jersey, Malta, Dominica, Northern Territory, St Kitts & Nevis, Norfolk Island, Isle of Man, St Helena, Gibraltar, North West Territories (Canada) and the ACT.

Two discussion forums were held by the small branches yesterday:
– the importance of education for small state resilience, and
– the role of Parliaments in supporting the vulnerable.

The discussion on these broad topics was wide-ranging and illustrated both differences and commonalities between jurisdictions.  One interesting point was that several small parliaments do not have political parties, effectively all members act as independents.  This seemed to be a characteristic of the smaller, both population and geographically, branches.

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I provided an ACT perspective talking about my time as Education Minister when the Gonski review of school funding was released. I was immediately able to gather all the ACT education stakeholders – Government, Catholic and Independent schools, unions, parent organisations, community groups, and universities – to a round table meeting to discuss the review, provide information and form collective support for a consistent position. This rapid response was evidence of a strategic advantage for small jurisdictions.  I also talked about the ACT Government work on supporting vulnerable families with a whole of government approach and devolving decision making to front-line workers and my opinion that this would have a long-term benefit in reducing incarceration of those many men who have disengaged from education at a very young age due to extreme disruption in their home.

Roger Phillips & Juan Watterson - Isle of Man delegation

Roger Phillips & Juan Watterson – Isle of Man

I took the opportunity for informal discussions with delegates including learning how the Isle of Man had begun insourcing Hansard to Gibraltar, Guernsey and Alderney with significant cost savings to these parliaments.  We discussed other opportunities including parliamentary websites and libraries .

Charles Charles Chauvel is a former New Zealand MP and current adviser to the UN Development Programme on democratic governance.  He is a strong advocate for diversity in parliamentary representation and we discussed my views about the potential for affirmative action within political parties to increase Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander representation in Australian parliaments.

I also had a wide ranging talk with the speaker of the Parliament of Maldives, Maseeh Mohammed, about subcontinent issues including Indian PM Modi and the possibility for reform. Maseeh is an Australian postgraduate with a masters degree in international developement and we were able to compare the Maldives, which has a population of over 300,000 spread across a thousand islands, with remote Australia in terms of service delivery, community infrastructure and social cohesion.

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Death of CPA Secretary-General

News that Dr William Shija, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), had died this morning postponed the start of the opening ceremony for the 34th Small Branches Conference scheduled to preceed the 60th CPA  Conference here in Yaounde, Cameroon.  Dr Shija, a former Tanzanian politician and minister, had held the CPA Secretary-General position for the last 8 years.  He was very popular with the CPA secretariat who are shocked by his sudden death.

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