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Local journalist, former ANU Research Fellow share Senate writing prize.

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Local Journalist, Former ANU Research Fellow Share Senate Writing Prize

The President of the Senate, Senator Paul Calvert, today announced that a Canberra journalist and an American political scientist were joint winners of the inaugural Richard Baker Senate Prize for writing that promotes public understanding of the Senate.

The Prize has been awarded jointly to Verona Burgess for a collection of articles about the Senate published in the Canberra Times, and to Dr Stanley Bach for a book entitled Platypus and Parliament: The Australian Senate in Theory and Practice.

The winners will each receive $2,000.

"Entries came from almost every State and overseas, and I was delighted that the age range was from 19 to 90," Senator Calvert said.

“It is my hope that through this annual prize we can encourage writing, and reporting in any medium, that will increase community understanding of the work of the Senate and also encourage debate about its place in Australia’s democracy.

The Prize, named in honour of the first President of the Australian Senate, Sir Richard Baker, is awarded for the best essay, article, book or journalism on the Australian Senate.

Presenting the Prize to Verona Burgess at a ceremony in Parliament House today, Senator Calvert said that the judging panel had been impressed by the range, depth and detail of her coverage of the Senate, particularly the work of its committees.

“You not only report what goes on here you also provide a very valuable service to your readers by explaining the background and context of what is happening in Senate inquiries,” Senator Calvert said.

Verona Burgess has been the public service reporter for The Canberra Times since 1990.

Senator Calvert told Dr Bach that the judges were impressed by his detailed knowledge of the Senate and its operations, and by the readability of his book.

“Its publication at this time should make a substantial contribution to the current debate about the role and powers of the Senate,” Senator Calvert said.

Dr Bach, a former officer of Congressional Research Service in Washington, was awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award in 2002 to study bicameralism in the Australian Parliament.

While in Canberra he was a Research Fellow at the ANU and was also awarded a fellowship in the Department of the Senate, which enabled him to observe the activities of the Parliament at first hand.

“The role and work of the Senate needs to be better understood, particularly in the light of the current debate about reform,” Senator Calvert said.

“Although all adult Australians are entitled to vote in Senate elections, most of them have very little knowledge of the Senate’s powers, or the way it works.

“It was my hope, in instituting the Richard Baker Senate Prize, that it would encourage more scholarly writing and journalism about the Senate and in this way contribute to a greater public understanding of this part of our democracy,” the President concluded.

Ends 13 October 2003

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