Minimum Wage Discussions and PAC Meeting

22 October 2019

Good afternoon from Parliament. It has been a busy morning. I had my first meeting at 8.30 am, to discuss the issue of minimum wage with En.Dany. It was a fantastic meeting, where I learned a lot, beyond the aspirational policy targets.

Then at 9.15 am, I had a meeting with En. Sharyn of CDC, a Khazanah company. Sharyn wrote to me a week ago and requested a meeting to discuss employment opportunities for my Subang constituents. This was also a productive meeting.

Then my 10 am to noon, I had three other policy meetings with my team and Nurul Izzah’s team. Later after lunch, I will have a Public Accounts Committee meeting and this will finish around 5 pm. I will then head to Cyberjaya for an early dinner with Pak Fadhil, an Indonesian expert on palm oil. Everytime he is in town, my wife and I will host dinner for him. Lastly, I have a political meeting from 8 pm to 11 pm.

Update on YB Mansor

21 October 2019

A bit of a drama in Parliament earlier when YB Mansor of Nibong Tebal suddenly collapsed at mid-speech. I jumped up and stopped his fall, YB Syed Ibrahim (who sits behind us) rushed and joined the rescue, and together we lowered him to the floor. YB Mansor was reasonably alert even then, with his eyes open.

YB Kelvin Yii came to administer first aid and lifted YB Mansor’s feet. Dr. Muru, the Parliament doctor and his assistant arrived within a minute and took over. After a few minutes, they got YB Mansor up on a wheelchair and then to the Parliament clinic. YB Syed and I went to visit him at the clinic and he seemed stable and well enough to talk to us. YB Mansor was then transferred to IJN for further observations.

On another sad note, YB Thomas Su’s father passed away. My deepest condolences to him and his family.

It has been a strange and sad day, YB Thomas sits to my right and YB Mansor sits to my left.

Back at Parliament and my Comments on Lynas

21 October 2019

Good morning from Parliament. Today is a super relaxed day for me. Attendance this morning at 10 am was 41, so we do have a quorum. I have no questions in Parliament slated for today, and no speech/debate slot for at least one week. The budget speeches from other MPs will continue throughout the week.

I will be taking this week to do policy work and my officers and interns are in the middle of dissecting the budget of 10 ministries, for me to debate in the coming weeks.

On another note this morning, there was a question on Lynas. The deputy minister of environment has finally confirmed that the condisoil (so called Lynas recon waste “fertiliser”) has “no commercial takers” . Pretty obvious that if you can’t ship the radioactive waste back to Australia, mixing it with other soil and selling it as a festiliser is gonna be a hard sell. Nobody is stupid enough to use this fertiliser to grow food for human consumption! This Lynas fight is far from over.

Lastly, I had only one event yesterday, a football event in Subang Jaya. This is a friendly football league for low cost flats and government agencies. I really enjoyed the event. I used to be a decent football player, playing competitively but now both my ankles are busted. The rest of the day was spent on family time, we had an early birthday party for my daughter (and her school friends).

Saturday’s Community Events

19 October 2019

Today I had three community events. I attended two and due to a wrong location map sent by the organisers, I missed one. My apologies to Puchong Intan organisers, but I did arrive at the Google map site, drove around the area for 10 minutes but couldn’t find the event. And your person in charge did not answer my or my officers calls until I have left.

Nevertheless, I was at Bumi Hijau Program at 8.30 am, an event organised by MPSJ in Taman Wawasan 2/12, where we planted trees. The mayor Puan Noraini gave a speech on Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change! It is very good to know that at least in Malaysia, the municipalities are taking up the issue. I note that local governments worldwide are much more active on SDGs and Climate Action, than national governments. When I was in Kwangju, South Korea last year, the cities are also pushing for human rights ahead of national governments.

After that I attended the P3KU event in the Summit. I arrived at 10 am, to be told that the event will formally start at 11. Anyway, I had an hour to burn, so I went to every single booth to chat with the organisers. P3KU started by Jessie, is the most active support group in Subang Jaya that helps mentally handicapped children and youths.

Lastly, I attended the World Hakka Summit at Sunway Pyramid last night where Kak Wan gave a keynote speech. I am a Hakka (Hopo). But it was also great to catch up with Gillian, my ex officer who is now working for Kak Wan.

Tonight, I am hosting a simple dinner in my house for policy thinkers.

We Need to Talk About Parliamentarian Absenteeism

18 October 2019

Good morning. No Parliament today. My office will be stuck in a very long policy meeting for most of the morning and afternoon. Every officer has to buddy up with an intern, and each buddy team has been assigned to cover the budget details of three ministries. We will also be shooting Monday Night Chat today. And later tonight, I will be attending the 30th Hakka World Summit at Sunway, where Kak Wan is due to deliver a keynote speech.

Now, let me deal with two issues. One on the lack of Parliament quorum, and the second on heavy rains and flooding in my constituency of Subang.

First the lack of quorum in Parliament. Standing Order 13 states that a minimum quorum of 26 is required to enable the house to sit. In percentage terms, you need 12% of the total MPs to be in the Parliament Dewan to enable it to operate.

Based on my personal observations over the last 6.5 years in Parliament, the Dewan only ever fills up close to 99% on the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong’s annual speech day and budget day. Even on very important Parliament legislative votes, you may get around 70% to 90% attendance rate. A typical daily attendance rate for an ordinary day is around 20% to 30%. At 10 am, when Parliament starts, the attendance rate is around 15% to 20%.

The lowest attendance rate at below 15%, will be around 3 pm onwards on a Thursday, where MPs from faraway constituencies leave Parliament building to go to KLIA to catch their evening flights back to their home base, since there is no Parliament sitting on Fridays. Yesterday’s embarrassing vote count was made at 4 pm Thursday.

Now, whose responsibility is it to be in Parliament to ensure quorum is met? Everybody has to do their bit but the cabinet has to lead the way. With 55 ministers and deputy ministers, they should at least meet the very minimum 12% attendance rate themselves, i.e at least 7 ministers/deputy ministers in attendance at all times in Parliament. The remaining attendees can be topped up the other MPs, supplying the balance 19 attendees to meet the minimal 26 quorum. However on most days, there is only one to three ministers/deputy ministers in attendance. And in the case of Khairy’s budget speech a few days ago, he complained about an empty cabinet front bench.

There is also the matter of MPs attending committee meetings in the Parliament building. When the quorum count was done yesterday at 4 pm in Parliament, some 8 MPs including myself were in our PAC hearing. We had to suspend our PAC hearing and rush back into the Dewan to make up the quorum. So while committee MPs are sitting in official Parliament meetings such as a PAC hearing (as opposed to drinking coffee in the MP lounge), other MPs need to do their bit to be physically in the Dewan.

Bottomline, Parliament should publish a list of daily attendance. There is no greater cure to tak apa and sluggishness, than some transparency. Then let the absent MPs explain why they couldn’t be there. Sick leave and those overseas on official business/conferences can be excused.

Lastly, due to the busy lives of MPs we can’t expect full attendance, but their attendance overall should not fall below 70%. They should also voluntarily declare their annual attendance rate. When I visited South Korea last year, a Korean MP told me that some civil society NGOs militantly monitor the attendance rate and publish daily numbers and names. So if the government refuses to take up the attendance reforms, perhaps an NGO reading this, will step up and do it.

Now, to a more localised issue of heavy rains and flooding in USJ. I received an email last night from a Felicia Leow on the matter.

A few months back, we had a very serious case of a flash flood, with cars floating away. After the incident, MPSJ held a couple of meetings and they actually have a solution. But it has always been an issue of money (or lack of money) to construct the solution. Engineers and MPSJ need to factor in whether the sudden storm was a freak event, and judge the cost benefit of the solution. In other words, MPSJ has to make a judgement call to prioritise their budget and allocate limited resources. Either way, they must be transparent to the public about the cost of the solution and their decision on the matter.

At the national level, the Federal government can give grants to Selangor government and the Selangor government can then channel some money to MPSJ. Whether the grants are requested or adequate is a matter of debate. Lastly, on yet another related national issue, climate scientists are predicting the incidence of freak storms will continue to increase due to global warming. The carbon pricing matter that I am pursuing in Parliament, is the single most important policy to try to contain climate change.