Earth Hour’s yearly email trail of anger. Another year of dimming the parliamentary lights for Earth Hour, another year of conservative Liberal MP Dennis Jensen sending a “reply all” email to public servants and MPs decrying the initiative. First an email was sent on Friday to all parliamentary staff about Earth Hour (perhaps encouraging them not to be working on a Saturday night?):

TO: SENATORS, MEMBERS AND OTHER BUILDING OCCUPANTS

Parliament House participating in Earth Hour on 31 March 2012

The Presiding Officers have approved the participation of Parliament House in Earth Hour on Saturday 31 March 2012 between 8:30pm and 9:30pm. Accordingly DPS has registered Parliament House as a participant.

What building occupants need to know

All non-essential building lights will be turned off.

Access to the building will continue as usual with the following exceptions …

And so on. Jensen replied:

All

As much as I dislike doing this, I again protest the politicisation of DPS, which should be apolitical.

I have done a little digging around. Remember first that Earth Hour is a political campaign begun by WWF (what about those who may choose to support Human Achievement Hour, a contra-campaign with the idea to celebrate the human use of energy by turning all the lights, etc on?). DPS, off its own bat, decided to take “Earth Hour” to the presiding officers with the recommendation that Parliament participate in said political campaign. The presiding officers at the time, being of similar political view (i.e. from the left), chose similarly to involve our supposedly apolitical Department of Parliamentary Services in a political campaign.

This is a real slippery slope that we are getting on. What if another government chose to participate in Human Achievement Hour? Do neither the Department nor the Presiding Officers see how incongruous this would be? Do none of them see the dangers of the blatant and clear politicisation of our bureaucracy, the strength of which has always supposedly been that it is apolitical and provides frank and fearless advice. How can the Department now claim this to be the case when it has blatantly joined a political campaign, which is very clearly identified with the “left”.

This is a real problem, and I urge the Department and the presiding officers to send a followup email stating the DPS and Parliament House will no longer participate in this, or any other, political campaigns (as much as I might like Parliament to involve itself with “right” campaigns, I believe it is far more important for DPS to remain apolitical). I have written to the speaker on this issue. If DPS wants to save energy, hence costs, to the Australian taxpayer, then I laud it and urge DPS to send regular email reminders that it is a good idea on leaving the office to turn off lights etc etc, but on a non-partisan basis, and not involving a blatant political campaign.

The mere fact that I (and many others) see this as a blatant politicisation of DPS should give immediate cause for concern to both DPS and the presiding officers. That it has not to date suggests something altogether more insidious.

Kind regards

Dennis

As the parliamentary insider who sent this in to Crikey said: “I’m a resident in Dr Jensen’s electorate — It’s pretty embarrassing being represented by a MP who does this …” Sadly this year’s Earth Hour email trail (because he does this every year) wasn’t as funny as 2009’s, when Rob Oakeshott — plus staffers from Wilson Tuckey and Nigel Scullion’s office — chimed in as well.

O’Farrell gets the television scoop. NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell likes the spotlight. His office is setting up scoops for the TV cameras while snubbing other journalists, according to one source:

“I am a senior journalist for a suburban newspaper group and I am becoming frustrated at the O’Farrell government giving exclusives to the major networks for sometimes even the most innocuous of announcements, cutting everyone else out, especially local media. Local MP in marginal Liberal seats also are secretly unhappy with this as they miss out on local coverage. In all my 35 years in the media, I have not noticed this to this extent before. It is not as if the TV journalist has come across the story themselves. It is of course the government wanting the cheesy 30-second grab — they are by nature one-sided pro-government guff.”

Gillard won’t get up on Sunday mornings? We’re told The Australian was making calls on Friday to producers of the Sunday morning TV chat-fests to build a story around the fact Julia Gillard was snubbing the hard questions and avoiding the shows in 2012. Problem was, Gillard was booked on Ten’s Meet The Press yesterday.

No conflict we can see. Sorry, no truth to the rumour that a Brisbane journalist is talking down an enterprise while consulting a rival. It’s just not happening.

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Peter Fray
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