CT is reporting today that the ACT Liberals MLAs are sacrificing about $55,000 p.a. each from their $139,000 electoral staff allowances, with these funds being pooled into additional staff for Opposition leader Zed Seselja’s office. This is on top of the $440,000 allocation that Zed’s office gets already under Assembly rules, as opposition leader.
This leaves each Liberal MLA with just $92,000 – enough for one full-time adviser each to help them with their individual portfolio representation responsibilities.
The reasoning given for this restructuring and resource pooling is that it overcomes the in-fighting and mixed messages of the previous term. Zed’s office is claiming that it has lifted the professionalism, team culture and thereby success of their opposition efforts.
But one can’t help but wonder how the MLAs themselves are coping without adequate staffing? Are they not elected to first and foremost represent their respective electorates, to get out and meet with the constituents and hear their concerns and to follow up issues on their behalf? How do they do this with less staff? Are they in their offices at night typing up corro themselves instead of analysing legislation and policy? Do we elect MLAs to oppose ‘government’ or to be part of it through comprehensive representation? And how can those extra advisers adequately help the respective portfolio holders, when they are not part of their day-to-day interaction with those portfolio issues?
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It may be the “Westminster” way for those who came second to be “the Opposition”, but I’m not sure I want my elected reps to be focused on opposing. I want them representing.