Tag: Parliament

Victorian Parliamentary library turns 170, survives the internet age

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Photo- Victoria Parliament website

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 24 November 2021: The library at the Victorian Parliament is now 170 years old. If you enter the Parliament Hall after security and getting your entry pass, you can walk straight crossing a door and reach the library. It’s not open for general public.

Known as the ‘gentleman’s library’ in its early years, the library which keeps the Parliament and its members informed, has served 59 Parliaments and more than 1800 members , says an article in the Parliament website.

The library kicked off 170 years back at Bourke Street when the Legislative Council chamber was there. It was located on the lower floor in St Patrick’s Hall. Since it came to its present location (1861), the library is more a supportive library.

Its major purpose is to support the Members of Parliament, but it’s also to support the members’ electorate offices, because they do research on behalf of their constituents.

On sitting days we will have members come in and say “I’m speaking on this bill in two hours’ time, I need some background information on this topic”, so we’ll put that background information together.

“We also prepare research papers for topical matters that we think may end up as part of some piece of legislation in the future,says chief librarian, Carolyn Macvean (Manager, Parliamentary Library and Information Service). (Our Living Library, Parliament website)

So in the age of the internet, what’s the relevance of libraries?, says Carolyn Macvean, “Well librarians know the difference between the chaff and the hay.

The internet is good, it serves its purpose. But there’s a lot of rubbish out there as well, and unless you know what you’re looking for and you understand the nuances then you could be led up the garden path. But with librarians, we know how to find stuff. I mean, that’s it in a nutshell, if you’re looking for something halfway across the world it might not ever have been published online but a librarian will know how to track it down, so it’s our knowledge of other networks, not just the electronic network.

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Photo- Victoria Parliament Website

The material that we produce, we know it can be verified. It’s peer reviewed and it’s good quality information and it has to be, because it’s being spoken to in Parliament and what gets reported in Parliament is reported in the papers. So it comes back to us to make sure that we put together the most precise information that we understand at the time.

So that’s where our role, our skill set comes in.”

Technologically, the library is being constantly upgraded. “..started down the machine learning and the AI [Artificial Intelligence] path and obviously digital assets are huge, and we’ve started with that.

One example is the library’s semantic AI-enabled ontology classification. That’s software used for classifying our externally generated online media content.

These articles are automatically extracted and classified into our database, and that gives us a far more accurate result. Over the last two years, for example, the system automatically indexed on average 164,000 news articles and 8,000 TV and radio clips, ” says the chief librarian.

So, there is no looking back for the Victorian Parliament Library and it’s marching into the future with a bang.

Indian Parliament logjam continues over Pegasus probe demand; Supreme Court starts hearing snooping petitions

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Opposition uproar over Pegasus snooping. Photo, ANI, 5 Aug 2021.

From Meetu Jain

New Delhi, 5 August 2021: The monsoon session of the Indian parliament has been logjammed for the 17th straight day as an adamant opposition demands an inquiry into the Pegasus spyware scandal that has consumed the globe. The government on the other hand is obdurate, refusing to admit that it was involved in surveilling its own citizens and showing little interest in getting to the bottom of who was behind this surveillance that first came to light after it was reported by a consortium of 17 media houses worldwide last month.

The opposition is clear that while countries including Israel are distancing themselves from NSO, the company that designed and exported this military-grade spyware to governments worldwide, the Indian government is following an ostrich-like approach.

Criticizing opposition parties for stalling Parliament over the Pegasus spyware controversy and other issues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asserted that they cannot stop the country from marching forward. These parties are trying to stop the transaction of business in Parliament, he said in a no-holds-barred attack on the Opposition.

As if on cue, former Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, at a presser at the BJP’s national headquarters in New Delhi, said that the government was willing to discuss all issues on the floor of the House, but asked, “Is there any prima facie evidence that [phone] numbers were indeed put under surveillance?” The former IT minister had famously told Parliament when the scandal first erupted two years ago that to the best of his knowledge, “no unauthorized interception had been undertaken” by the government of India.

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Lok Sabha Speaker conducts proceedings. Photo- ANI, 5 August 2021.

Wednesday cemented opposition unity after 6 Trinamool Congress MPs were asked to withdraw from the House for unruly behavior. In a joint statement signed by floor leaders of 14 parties, they said that the Opposition stands firm and united in their demand for a discussion on the Pegasus issue in both the Houses, while also seeking a reply from the Home Minister as national security dimensions were involved.
But Thursday was also a day when the Pegasus scandal came up in the Supreme Court which was hearing a clutch of petitions filed by civil rights activists and journalists including those whose phones were suspected to have been compromised.

A two-member bench, headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana said, “the allegations are serious if the media reports correct”. The CJI went on to say, “Reports of snooping came in 2019, I do not know whether any efforts were made to get more information. I am not going into the facts of each case, some people claim phones were intercepted. There is Telegraph Act for complaints.”

The CJI asked all petitioners to serve a copy of their petitions to the government. Justice Surya Kant is the second judge on the bench. The court will take up the petitions again on Tuesday, saying the Centre has to be present at the hearing.

The head of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, who won a hard-fought and bitter electoral battle against the BJP three months ago has set up a commission of inquiry – consisting of a retired Calcutta High Court Chief Justice and a retired Supreme Court judge – to probe the scandal.

Indian MPs offered sleaze debate

The Indian government has offered to hold a special session of parliament to discuss an opposition demand for a joint probe into a huge corruption scandal.

Parliament is deadlocked over demands for an inquiry into the sale of 2G phone licences, estimated to have lost the exchequer billions of dollars.

The offer came hours after the opposition held an anti-sleaze protest.

However, the ruling Congress party also accuses the opposition of hypocrisy.

Investigators are looking into why so-called 2G phone licences were sold for a fraction of their value, costing the government an estimated $37bn (£23bn) in lost revenue.

A cross-party parliamentary public accounts committee is examining the federal auditor’s report into the scandal.

But the opposition has been demanding that the matter be investigated by a joint parliamentary committee, which has more scope.

Federal Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee made the offer of a special session of parliament at a TV awards function on Wednesday night.

‘Plenty of evidence’
“If [the opposition] assures us that there will be a debate, I am ready to call a special session before the budget session so that this issue is debated,” Mr Mukherjee said.

The leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj, who belongs to the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said it would wait for a formal offer from the government before responding to it.

BJP President Nitin Gadkari told the BBC on Wednesday there was plenty of evidence to suggest corruption went to the top of the government.

Wednesday’s rally came days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a Congress party conference that he had “nothing to hide” from the 2G spectrum investigation.

He told a party meeting he was ready to be questioned by a parliamentary panel over the matter.

Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi told the same conference that corruption was a “disease spreading through our society”.

Another high-profile corruption inquiry is continuing into claims that organisers of the Delhi Commonwealth Games swindled millions of dollars from the October event.

An apparent scam involving homes for war widows going to cronies in Maharashtra prompted the Congress party last month to sack the chief minister of the western Indian state.
Source- BBC