2012 - FCA (Online)

My article about the FCA's trip to Canberra in November 2012 (edited by Heidi Gmür) appeared on the FCA website:

Today’s Canberra

FCA visits the capitol city

Text by Sonja Goernitz and Heidi Gmuer

On 26–27 November 2012, in the last Sitting Week of the Parliament, and only about a month before the start of Canberra’s Centenary celebrations, 16 FCA members, most of them based in Sydney, visited Australia’s capitol city. A truly international group, by the way, as they represented media from the USA, China, Japan, Brazil, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland and Australia too.

While enjoying some cultural highlights of this quirky town on the first day, the second day was packed with meetings at Parliament House. Foreign Minister Bob Carr found some time to meet with us during the morning when the Labor party – behind the scenes – had been busy convincing the Prime Minister not to vote against the upgrade of Palestine’s status in the General Assembly of the UN. Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles gave us some insights on Pacific issues and Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop - who had led the attack against the PM about the union slush fund allegations in Question Time just hours before – answered questions about Opposition policies and politics. On the program as well: Background briefings with MPs Shayne Neumann (Labor) and Sharman Stone (Liberals) on indigenous affairs, with Senators Larissa Waters (Greens), Bridget McKenzie (Nationals) and Anne Ruston (Liberals) on environmental issues.

Prior to our visit to Parliament House, the Creative Director of Centenary Canberra Robin Archer briefed us over breakfast on the activities that are planned for the celebrations in 2013. Each month has a certain theme, and instead of investing in one huge show, such as a Rolling Stones concert, funds are pushed into plenty of arts and sports events. “We put money into things we hope to continue, so that we’ll still see them in 2014,” Archer said. For her, the two main aims of the centenary festivities are: “To reinforce this place [Canberra] as a great symbol of democracy” and “to understand what this city is like today,” pointing out that she “could go to a cultural event every night.”

While in Canberra we also visited the fascinating National Portrait Gallery and the Eros Association’s headquarters, where Robbie Swan, Media Director and Political Advisor to the CEO and President of Australia’s Sex Party Fiona Patten, showed us their extensive erotic exhibition in a house in leafy Yarralumla, including a mysterious box with artifacts – and letters from the 1950s that were allegedly the first "Dirt Files" of Australian politics.

On a different note: You might like to try the Segway to move around Canberra in a fun way. After some instructions most members turned out pretty handy on this two-wheeler, although we probably need some more practice before heading out during traffic hour. While driving along Lake Burley Griffin and around Old Parliament House, the fact came up that the inventor of this battery-charged vehicle had died with it, running off a cliff. But on the largely flat grounds in town you’re rather safe – it has a built-in 15-kmh speed limit –, and it might be perfect for exploring the city next year – avoiding public transport or driving in rush hour with a (there) often indecisive GPS.

The FCA thanks the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Tourism Australia, ACT Tourism and Centenary Canberra and the East Hotel for supporting this trip.