1 July 2022

Cutting crossbench staff bad for ACT and an own goal for Albanese

| Ian Bushnell
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David Pocock

Senator David Pocock in the Senate chamber: the more support he can be given, the better the return to the ACT. Photo: Lincoln Magee

The ACT will be a big loser if Prime Minister Anthony Albanese persists with his plans to cut the number of parliamentary advisers the crossbenchers can employ.

It is also a misstep from him if he believes the change would simply be reverting to the situation before his predecessor boosted crossbench parliamentary staff for his own political reasons.

He and Senator Katy Gallagher can call it a rationalisation, a budget saving or revocation of Morrison’s largesse, but they will be ignoring the lessons of the election and the expectations the public have of the new parliament.

The size of the crossbench indicates that a great many Australians do not want to see politics resume as business as usual.

READ MORE Pocock warns Labor on legislation after crossbench staff cut

New independent ACT Senator David Pocock has made the case against the changes, arguing that the public expects more scrutiny of government and legislation, not less.

He has also said that while party members have their own organisations to support them, and most follow orders on how to vote on a bill, independents like him, if they are doing their jobs properly, will need to be across every bit of legislation, and will need all the help they can get.

It’s great to hear that the Parliamentary Library will be beefed up to assist them, but that will not be enough to provide anywhere near a level playing field.

Former senator Nick Xenophon this week attested to the enormous workload and long hours that members and senators endure, in contrast to the popular myth of politicians on the gravy train.

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The Jenkins Review of Parliamentary Workplaces also highlighted understaffing and overwork and the risks they posed to employees and outcomes.

The crossbenchers will still have four electoral office staff, but the temptation will be to divert some to the parliamentary workload, reducing constituent engagement.

The ACT has three MPs but only two Senators, one of which is a senior minister who will have little time for that basic constituent business.

In the last parliament, Liberal Senator Zed Seselja was also a minister, albeit a junior one compared with Senator Gallagher, who is responsible for Finance and the Public Service.

That probably contributed to the perception that he had lost touch with the voters, and Senator Gallagher could face the same problem at the next election.

Senator Gallagher argues her position in the government will make it easier to advocate for the ACT, but the reality is her higher responsibility will be to the party and national interest.

That will leave the three MPs, one of whom is a junior minister, to carry the torch for the ACT, and Senator Pocock.

The more support Senator Pocock can be given the better return there will be to the Parliament, his constituents and the ACT generally.

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Democracy in its rawest form is a numbers game, and when reduced to that level, it can be more a counting game than achieving the best possible outcome in a piece of legislation.

Mr Albanese has been around long enough in the Labor Party to know how to count, and the calculus may be that Labor would be better off not having to deal with the crossbench, but if it did, it need not make it easier for them.

The crossbench certainly sees it that way.

Labor may have also calculated that while Senator Pocock might be a deciding vote for legislation, his progressive record suggests he will support its legislation.

That would be a mistake.

And antagonising Senator Pocock and the other crossbenchers is a poor way to start the new parliament. It’s also a tactical blunder when you have no way of knowing how it will pan out at critical points over the next three years.

The cost of four advisers versus one is negligible, the risk considerable.

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The other point the census has just reinforced is that two Senators for a population of 454,000 is selling the ACT short, especially if comparing the Territory to Tasmania or even South Australia.

The case can be made that the Territory now deserves two more Senators, despite the hurdles in current electoral law.

Nobbling one of the ACT’s Senators in an already under-represented jurisdiction cannot be good for Canberrans.

There may still be the possibility that on his return to Australia, Mr Albanese may gauge whether the decision is worth the pain and negotiate a compromise outcome.

If not, his decision will come back to bite him, eventually.

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First blemish for Pocock. The previous LNP govt allowed too many staffers to work for the MPs. The ALP Govt is winding it back to where it should be, and was prior to 2017 apparently.

These independents whinging about not being able to award jobs in Parliament to their mates who supported them at the recent election is what this is all about.

Clearly they are not different to any other pollie, looking to waste taxpayers money.

HiddenDragon8:08 pm 01 Jul 22

An AFR opinion piece from a few days ago sums it up nicely –

“Their volcanic reaction also demonstrates the inauthenticity of the teals’ insufferable righteousness. Their cherished community-based values system was disposable the first moment something came between them and a taxpayer-funded entitlement.”

https://www.afr.com/rear-window/teal-mps-find-their-appetite-for-pork-barrelling-20220628-p5axgm

Character assessments aside, the crucial words are “community-based” – an MP or Senator who truly enjoys broad-based community support, particularly in an affluent, educated electorate, should be able to come up with a few capable, dedicated (i.e. won’t quit after a few weeks when the novelty wears off) office volunteers to keep the independent flame alive.

On the broader point of representation of the ACT (in all its vastness and diversity……) with only three MPs and two Senators – all of whom now sing from the same progressive song sheet – surely a like-minded ACT government would be prepared to provide useful support to those MPs and Senators on ACT-related issues.

@Hidden Dragon Are you serious? Perhaps the whole parliamentary staff contingent for MPs should be based on volunteers then? After all the major parties seem to be able to call on an army of volunteers during an election.

let me get this straight – the PM is currently juggling a series of major international issues as well as rising inflation and domestic economic matters and these self centred self righteous junior parliamentarians think he should spend his time worrying about them. pleeeeeeze! do some work and earn your pay. learn to prioritise like the rest of us.

Regarding optimal advisory staffing, I do not know how long is that particular piece of string. I suspect a case can be made for independents to have access to some additional resources but I will not venture a view because it seems pretty straightforward, not even very expensive, to engage one or more of those consultant types to do a quick review of our eight and other similar parliaments, and their resource allocations and purposes.
Of course people will disagree at the end but it would still be better than all of this uncomprehending or merely political blathering.

I think there is definitely a case for the additional resources, however, the issue, phydeaux, is that most on here don’t understand the “workload burden” of being an independent.

In the party structures there are portfolios – ministers/shadow ministers in the case of the government and opposition and ‘spokespeople’ in the Greens. As in any team, the workload is shared, which means each MP will be fully across their area of responsibility/constituency interest. In the major parties, this will be one or two portfolios, whereas the Greeens have several portfolios under their responsibility. Consequently, when it comes to casting their vote, members of the major parties will know that their “subject matter expert” colleague has investigated the matter being debated within the context of the party’s position on said subject, and they can vote along party lines without being fully across the matter. Unless, as I said earlier, the MP decides to investigate the matter themselves and vote accordingly (a la Bridget Archer – crossing the floor in the last Parliament).

Whereas each independent is the “spokesperson for everything”. They don’t have the luxury of being able to rely on “the team” to guide them as to which side of the chamber to walk during a vote. Despite what others will say on here, independents are solely responsible for how they vote, and as such they must be across the legislation to be able to vote in the interests of their constituency – otherwise if they don’t fully understand the legislation they should probably abstain, which is denying their constituents any say in the matter.

While I understand the excellent work that the Parliamentary Library (indeed all public service Parliamentary support staff) do, they cannot provide guidance and advice to assist an MP determine their voting position. So I think it’s fair that independents are granted additional staff to assist them in determining how to vote.

Like you, I don’t know “how long is that particular piece of string”. The answer lies somewhere between 1 and 4, and no doubt through a process of research and negotiation an “agreeable figure” will be reached.

It’s a shame that Albanese did not choose a path of negotiation in the first place rather than a bungled attempt at political points scoring. Had he done so, this (and the associated) threads would be non-existent, it would have been just another change in the administrative arrangements – as happens all the time, without the hue and cry this has generated. Just as there were no comments when Howard, Gillard, Turnbull and Morrison progressively increased the number of advisers granted to independents.

ChrisinTurner4:53 pm 01 Jul 22

The Scomo deal where each crossbencher got 8 staff was extravagant. They drop back to 5 staff under Labor. Still one more than a backbencher.

Actually, ChrisinTurner, ScoMo took the staffing level for independents from 7 to 8. The initial number of 1 additional staff for independents was introduced by Howard, increased to 2 by Gillard and increased to 3 by Turnbull, before Morrison made it 4.

From my personal experience in dealing with “Senior Advisors/Advisors”, in my case a Federal Ministers office, most of them are party hacks, wannabes or in some cases friends/relatives of the party not worth the salary the Australian taxpayer gives them. They spent their time getting briefings from Departmental officers (like me), dumb it down and regurgitate it for the Minister/MPs/Senators. The research from the Parliamentary Library is pretty thorough with highly skilled staff who know where the information/data is, in some cases far better that the forced/rushed research of departmental officers. The MPs/Senators only need a skilled political operative and a gofer offsider plus their electorate staff. Ministers need a Chief of Staff, senior advisor and one or two advisors hopefully with the Minister’s portfolio content knowledge. My wife has worked in both a Queensland MP/Minister office as a electorate officer and as an advisor in a Federal Senators Office. Spent most of her time chasing government departments for relevant information so that the Minister and Senator can sound on the ball. For me, retired now but no longer writing sh*t for idiots.

I’m not seeing one reference, in your comment, to the work of independent MPs (your knowledge of it), Earthdog. As you would be aware they have no party apparatus to support them – nor do they have the comfort of being able to, in lemming-like fashion, vote along party lines. The Parliamentary Library staff do amazing research work, but they only present facts. Advisers actually help the MP decide which way they will vote on each piece of legislation.

True. Electorate officers regularly have contact with constituents which provide the ‘voices on the ground’ a little bit of follow up on specific issues , discussions with people with content knowledge, targetted research and discussions with other independents about shared issues/interests. This in effect forms much of the ammunition needed to go into battle in the Chamber and assists with negotiations both before and after. Unfortunately the independent MP/Senator has little chance of being across all issues/papers/proposals re legislation at all levels (international, State, regional, local) They have to pick and choose their battles depending on constituents needs. Advisers are mainly sounding boards, who form opinions hopefully based on evidence and reflect this to their MP.

Agreed – independents do have to “choose their battles”. Arguably, the more advisers they have, the more battles they can fight on behalf of their constituents.
I’m not sure if your time in the Parliament goes back to the days of Peter Andren, bit I found this article (https://theconversation.com/cutting-crossbench-mps-staffing-would-be-a-setback-for-democracy-185843), which I’ve mentioned in other comments, to be quite enlightening on a Reps MP’s legislative workload.

Maybe the question is the quality of the advisors as opposed to the number. Given the support that Senator Pocock and others independents received in the lead up to the election maybe he could call on supporters in a part time capacity to provide expert opinion on specific issues. Or there could be a shared pool of advisors for a number of non party MPS/Senators. Major parties are never going to play fair. As for my public sector time unfortunately I go back as far as Malcolm Fraser and some days I feel every year of it.

Capital Retro3:31 pm 01 Jul 22

They got heaps of money from Climate 200 to get elected, though.

No prizes for guessing who they will be supporting.

Yes, the climate.

Brilliant, Capital Retro.

Yes, CapitalRetro, no prizes for guessing that all “teal” independents will follow through on their election promise to pursue action on climate change. So what? Have you actually got something meaningful to contribute?

Earthdog, I absolutely agree that the quality of advisers is paramount – it doesn’t matter how many advisers there are if they quality of advice is poor. Nevertheless, despite the protestations of others on here, I do think that the extra workload associated with being an independent MP needs to be considered. I’m not sure that 4 advisers are needed, but I do think it probably needs to be more than 1.

Agreed. There is only one Chief of Staff in my home and I had better make her dinner.

LOL – happy wife ….

Capital Retro5:27 pm 01 Jul 22

Wrong again, phydeaux.

The correct answer was the renewables and zero emissions industries, neither of which have anything to do with climate.

Have trouble connecting things, CR?

USB Type C plug goes into a USB C socket. Further help is available.

ACT should get more senate staff

Tasmania has 12 Senators for a population of 569,800
ACT has 2 Senators for a population of 454,000 people.

TAS – 1 per 47,483
ACT – 1 per 227,000

Pocock could join the teals and rip in about the lack of representation for the ACT on the support staff, but the actual issue the number of people that represent us on the floor

Gooterz,
On that basis, NSW is getting a far worse deal.

NSW 12 senators for a population of 8.25 million

NSW 1 senator per 685 000.

But of course this is actually part of the design of our federation of states, to prevent bigger states dominating the smaller states.

gooterz

Section 7 of the Australian Constitution guarantees equal Senate representation between the states. Section 122 allows the Federal Parliament to determine the representation of the Territories “on the terms which it thinks fit”

Up until Parliament passed the SENATE (REPRESENTATION OF TERRITORIES) ACT 1973, NT and ACT had no Senators.

So, you are right, it is possible for the number of Territory Senators to be increased by a vote of Federal Parliament. However, I imagine this is one area where Labor and the Coalition would combine to vote down any attempt to do so. I suspect, the last thing the major parties would want to see is potentially more independent Senators.

Most likely the number could increase by 2 Which would likely mean a green and 2nd labor.

Hypothetically, if the number of Senators for the territories were increased to 4, using the most recent election results as a guide, the 2 new postions would have gone to Liberal (Seselja) and Greens (Goreng Goreng).

However, while I agree it would be great to have greater representation in the Senate, it would still require action by the Federal Parliament – and as I said, I just can’t see Labor and the Coalition (who have a majority of the votes in both House of Reps and Senate) agreeing to the change. Mind you that is today, down the track …..

This is is lot of words to say that you think independent politicians should get preferential treatment and staffing levels.

Why should they get more staff than other backbenchers?

@chewy14
The matter of independents getting additional staff is not even up for debate. What is being debated is how many extra staff (above and beyond the 4 electorate staff) the independents will get.

Just Saying,
Yes it is entirely up for debate.

Why should independent MPs get extra staff above larger party backbenchers?

They should be happy that the number of additional advisors isn’t cut to zero.

If they don’t have enough staff to research legislation, that is exactly what the parliamentary library is for. And they will do so in a far more objective and comprehensive manner.

If there’s an argument that ALL politicians should get extra advisors due to workloads then it should be made. But

Actually, chewy14, when I said ‘not up for debate’, I meant that Albanese had already conceded that independent MPs WILL get one extra staff (an adviser) above and beyond their electorate office staff.

You can debate it as much as you like but it is happening.

I suspect that through a process of negotiation, independents will get more than 1 extra staff but less than 4 extra staff.

Whether or not you believe independents have a different workload to party-based back benchers is irrelevant. The fact is that Prime Ministers have acknowledged that extra workload, back to the days of Howard as PM, and thus granted additional adviser staff – the only thing that has changed is the number allocated.

Just Saying,

I know that Albanese has agreed to provide them with an additional staff member.

But this article is entirely about debating what staffing levels “should” be, not what is agreed.

And it’s just as easy to argue that they should receive zero additional staff as it is to say they should get more.

Why are people so accepting of the fact that large party backbenchers seemingly don’t have to be across legislation and can just vote blindly on party lines?

How does that benefit their constituents?

It’s actually a sad indictment on the operation of parliament.

“Why are people so accepting of the fact that large party backbenchers seemingly don’t have to be across legislation and can just vote blindly on party lines?”

Are you pretending to be naive, chewy14, or are you truly ignorant of the reality of large party MPs?

I have seen first hand party-line voting. Additionally, Tim Payne (adviser to former independent MP, Peter Andren) commented in a recent article

“Why are people so accepting of the fact that large party backbenchers seemingly don’t have to be across legislation and can just vote blindly on party lines?”

Are you pretending to be naive, chewy14, or are you truly ignorant of the reality of large party MPs? I have seen first hand lemmng-like party-line voting. Additionally, in a recent article, Tim Payne (adviser to former independent MP, Peter Andren) commented that it was common for members of both major parties to ask him (Andren) privately what they were voting on as they filed into the chamber.

I suspect you are neither pretending naivete nor ignorant, rather you are letting your obvious prejudice towards Pocock cloud your objectivity.

Just Saying,
“Are you pretending to be naive, chewy14, or are you truly ignorant of the reality of large party MPs? I have seen first hand lemmng-like party-line voting.”

This is exactly my point, so I don’t know why you are disagreeing.

Why are we so accepting that large party back bench MPs are not across legislation and do not need advisors?

The point being those people are also voting on legislation in the exact same way the independents are yet need no advisors/rely on their party machinery to tell them what to vote.

And I should also say I’ve read the article you discuss and it’s hardly surprising that a former advisor to an independent thinks there should be more of them.

But it doesn’t really make the case in my opinion that they need significantly more personal advisors. I think it actually makes the case that there should be more party independent support for all MPs through a broader and better resourced parliamentary library.

chewy14

Yes – Tim Payne was a former advisor to an independent MP, which means he has actual experience in that area of politics (particularly in his understanding of the workload) and as such is very qualified to offer an expert opinion.

You on the other hand are making general observations based on your perception of what support MPs should have and/or require.

“The point being those people are also voting on legislation in the exact same way the independents …”
True, chewy14, but when you follow party lines you don’t have to give a lot of thought to how you vote you just go to whatever side your “team” are on, because it’s what everone expects them to do – whereas every time an independent votes it’s up for public scrutiny.
Oh unless it’s Bridget Archer, who was actually across a single piece of legislation (giving religions the right to discriminate against transgender people) and made national headlines for crossing the floor.

Just Saying,
This is a meaningless logical fallacy.

I can easily point to the numerous other people with significant experience in politics who are arguing the opposite. And you have exactly zero knowledge of my own personal experience either.

But regardless it’s nothing more than their opinions and also doesn’t relate to my general point about whether they need more staff than other politicians.

I understand that party politicians are generally going to vote along party lines but I think it’s a horrible outcome that they would be doing so without understanding the specifics of what they are voting on.

We should demand better from them, the same way we should demand better from all politicians.

Which is why I think the should generally have access to the same level of support unless there is strong reason for additional support such as for ministers.

@chewy14 – see my reponse to phydeaux above apart ‘sharing the workload’ which obviously happens in the major parties, thus negating the need for each MP to be across the minutiae of every piece of legislation. It’s a very efficient use of resources – unfortunately, independents don’t have the luxury of relying on the work of their team mates.

@chewy14 … I’d be very interested to hear your experience within the parliamentary sphere – for your comments to date (IMO) don’t reflect a knowledge of what actually goes on. Instead you deride the opinion of someone who has actually worked in that space, as adviser to an Independent. It’s also worth noting that former independent Senators, Nick Zenophon and Rex Patrick, have also supported the need for additional advisers to independent MPs.
Nevertheless, please point me to those who have “significant experience in politics” (and importantly understand the work of an independent) who are arguing the opposite,

Justsaying,
No one forces a politician to be an independent, it’s their choice to do so.

So you can’t on one hand use the freedom of being an independent without accepting the downsides that come with it.

You keep talking about their workload but it is fundamentally no different to that of a backbencher. Their responsibilities and votes are worth the same.

They should equally be across the issues they are voting on and its an abrogation of responsibility if we accept that large party MPs can and should vote blindly on issues.

@chewy14
I have demonstrated why I believe an independent’s workload is higher than that of a backbencher – basically a team sharing the workload versus the loner. However, without offering any cogent support you argue that their workload is the same as any other backbencher. Proof please – not just empty “because I say so” statements. However, I do agree that their responsibility and vote are worth the same – it’s the process of arriving at that vote that is different.

Then you offer “the freedom of being an independent without accepting the downsides” – what do you mean? The freedom to vote how they choose on any matter rather than following party lines? Well yes, but they can only exercise that vote with conviction if they are across the matter.

Finally, the strawman argument “its an abrogation of responsibility if we accept that large party MPs can and should vote blindly on issues”. Perhaps the MPs in the parties should be across issues on which they vote. Welcome to the real world of party politics.

Justsaying,
Yes, you have demonstrated why you “think” an independent’s workload is higher.

Which is exactly what I’ve argued against in a perfectly logical and cogent manner. Either you don’t understand the points being made or are deliberately being obtuse.

“– basically a team sharing the workload versus the loner.”

To make it even simpler for you, I am not OK with large party MPs voting blindly on legislation because their “team” tells them too.

Apparently you are either ambivalent or OK with it. You can’t just pass it off as the reality of party politics without admitting your OK with members of our parliament voting blindly on legislation. There’s no strawman there, by arguing that independents have to do more work, you are stating a position on what backbenchers workload is also.

An independent’s vote is worth exactly the same and a large party MP/senator’s vote. They should be equally across the legislation they are voting on. Their responsibilities and workloads are identical.

To say they aren’t is to say you are happy with the status quo of our parliament.

Wouldn’t you prefer ALL our parliamentarians to be better informed?

Wouldn’t you think that would result in better legislation? Better governance?

@Chewy14

“I’ve argued against in a perfectly logical and cogent manner …” Really, chewy14? You have not presented anything but your personal unsubstantiated opinion.
Having had some experience in the parliamentary sphere, I presented my own observation (plus an article from an experienced adviser to a former independent MP) on the knowledge of the vote of major party MPs heading to the chamber. You simply dismissed this and took umbrage at my querying of your experience. Despite my offer for you to demonstrate your experience, you came back with nothing.

Then you derided my reference to that same article, plus comments from former (independent) Senators Xenophon and Patrick, which point to their knowledge of the additional workload of independents – countering that you “can easily point to the numerous other people with significant experience in politics who are arguing the opposite”.
I asked you to provide those references – particularly with respect to the workload of independents, again you came back with nothing. All you come back with is your opinion “They should be equally across the legislation they are voting on. Their responsibilities and workloads are identical.” again without any substantiation.

After providing you with the reality of what happens in the Parliament – that teams share the workload and that major party MPs vote along party lines, you come back with you are “… not OK with large party MPs voting blindly on legislation because their “team” tells them too”. Well sorry, chewy14, but what you are or not OK with matters nought to me.
However, you suggest that by stating the reality of what happens, I am “… either ambivalent or OK with it”, when I offered no opinion on that reality.

Now you are blithering on about ‘political nirvana as prescribed by chewy14’ which is not related to the debate on adviser staffing levels. Nevertheless, yes, I would like all MPs to vote on the merit of legislation, having regard to the will of their local constituents, rather than be constrained to vote along party lines (except on the rare occasion when they are allowed a “conscience vote”) – but to achieve that would require the disbanding of political parties in the Parliament and even you would have to acknowledge, that is not going to happen in the foreseeable future.

As is often the case when you and I engage in a lengthy debate on a matter, chewy14, we reach a point where it’s time to call it an impasse and move on – which is exactly what I am doing and you can come back with the final word.

Justsaying,
“You have not presented anything but your personal unsubstantiated opinion

Don’t worry I’m happy to have the final word.

“You have not presented anything but your personal unsubstantiated opinion”

So your choice is wilful ignorance.

“Having had some experience in the parliamentary sphere, I presented my own observation (plus an article from an experienced adviser to a former independent MP) on the knowledge of the vote of major party MPs heading to the chamber. You simply dismissed this and took umbrage at my querying of your experience. Despite my offer for you to demonstrate your experience, you came back with nothing.”

I said the experience is irrelevant to the points because it’s a logical fallacy, a “call to authority” if the points being made don’t stand on their own. The points that I’ve argued consistently against from the beginning where you decided to reply to my initial comment.

I specifically explained why the biased position of someone who worked for an independent MP doesn’t tell you anything, when equally experienced people have said the extra positions aren’t necessary. You know the exact experienced people in government who have changed the allowed staffing levels and argued why the change is reasonable?

There is no objective right answer.

You attempted to narrow it down to only people working with independent MPs which once again is useless for this discussion due to the inherent bias involved. You might as well ask members of the ALP which political party is more suited to government.

And I didn’t take umbrage at anything, I explained that you know nothing of my experience and it is just as irrelevant as your own apparent experiences when talking to random anonymous people on a public website. I specifically don’t bring up my experiences often because they don’t substitute for a logically argued position.

“After providing you with the reality of what happens in the Parliament – that teams share the workload and that major party MPs vote along party lines, you come back with you are “… not OK with large party MPs voting blindly on legislation because their “team” tells them too”.

Perhaps you need to work on your comprehension skills, when from my initial comment, this has been my clear position.

That I don’t accept that our parliament functions well and that we are well served by the large party duopoly. That we should be improving it.

You may say that you also don’t like that system, but by arguing for special treatment and resourcing for independents, you are arguing for the status quo, that large party parliamentarians don’t need to be fully across the legislation they are voting on.

Sorry, chewy14, you are going to have to have “one further” final say.

Your initial comment in this thread, in relation to (in your words) “preferential treatment and staffing levels” for independent MPs, was to query “Why should they get more staff than other backbenchers?”

I then corrected you and stated that whether they should get additional staff is not up for debate – but rather how many they will be given, as Albanese proposes to still give them one additional staff.

You then state that the “article is entirely about debating what staffing levels “should” be, not what is agreed.” Which is a reasonable position as the article does argue against cutting staff for independents.

However, you then introduce the fact that major party backbenchers vote across party lines:
“Why are people so accepting of the fact that large party backbenchers seemingly don’t have to be across legislation and can just vote blindly on party lines?
How does that benefit their constituents?
It’s actually a sad indictment on the operation of parliament.”

An irrefutable acknowledgement on your part that major party MPs do vote along party lines and later you even make that very statement:
“I understand that party politicians are generally going to vote along party lines but I think it’s a horrible outcome that they would be doing so without understanding the specifics of what they are voting on.”
And when I comment on you being “ignorant of the reality of large party MPs” and that I have seen first hand the “lemming-like party-line voting”, you emphatically agree:
“This is exactly my point, so I don’t know why you are disagreeing.”
You then make a totally unsubstantiated statement of ‘fact’:
“The point being those people are also voting on legislation in the exact same way the independents are yet need no advisors/rely on their party machinery to tell them what to vote.”

Having just admitted that major party MPs vote along party lines, you cannot then say they are voting on legislation in the exact same way as independents – who have no party line along which they vote. You even make the point that with respect to major party MPs:
“They should equally be across the issues they are voting on and its (sic) an abrogation of responsibility if we accept that large party MPs can and should vote blindly on issues.”
You are talking about what should happen, whereas I am talking about what does happen.

And your final acknowledgement that major party MPs vote along party lines:
“To make it even simpler for you, I am not OK with large party MPs voting blindly on legislation because their “team” tells them too.” As I responded, what you are or are not OK with is irrelevant … it still happens.

So, if you accept that currently major party MPs generally vote along party lines and I assume that you accept independents, by virtue of the fact they are party-less, cannot vote along party lines, then you must also accept that independent MPs do have to be across legislation in order to cast their vote in a considered manner – acknowledging as I do, your desire that all MPs would be across legislation before they vote and also acknowledging your disappointment that this is generally not the case for major party MPs.

What you don’t seem to accept is that in order to be across that legislation and to cope with this extra workload the independents, need additional adviser staff and that is where the impasse has been reached and we shall have to agree to disagree.

For the record, chewy14, I have never said that independents should maintain their current level of additional staffing, I actually stated in this thread “I suspect that through a process of negotiation, independents will get more than 1 extra staff but less than 4 extra staff.” I also made the same comment to phydeaux in response to his erudite comment above on this matter.

OK final go.
“Having just admitted that major party MPs vote along party lines, you cannot then say they are voting on legislation in the exact same way as independents – who have no party line along which they vote.”

To fully clarify, by “voting on legislation in the exact same way as independents”, i mean they literally go into the chamber and vote on the legislation. Their vote is counted in the exact same fashion as an independent’s and is identical in its value to whether the legislation is passed or not. Their role and level of responsibility is identical.

My entire point is that why are people so accepting that members of the large party are voting “lemming like”? That type of behaviour is the exact thing I’m against and is what leads to such poor outcomes from government and what leads to such woefully ignorant parliamentarians.

You may say it’s just the reality of the situation, which is exactly why I’m arguing it should be improved. I don’t think it leads to good outcomes.

So if independents need more staff to be fully across the legislation, so do backbenchers. If independents need 2,3,10,20 whatever extra staff, then so should backbenchers.

I’m not arguing that independents shouldn’t be resourced appropriately to whatever level is assessed as reasonable. I’m arguing that all parliamentarians should be resourced appropriately in a similar fashion. To not do so is to expect less of our large party members than we do of independents.

Hi Chewy. To this member of the peanut gallery on this particular thread, your argument seems to have devolved into something pretty much like this:
– Person A is not doing their job properly, having a bit of a slack time.
– Person B is trying to do it despite the difficulties entailed, so might need more resources for success.
– If you were to give person B effective resources then Person A ought to have the same if only Person A were doing their job properly in the first place.
– Therefore …. what? That Person B should be restricted from being an effective (thoughtful) worker until Person A smartens up and performs as you desire?
Doesn’t sound a good way to run a business or even a parliament. If not that, what is your concluding point regarding resourcing for independents, not possible resourcing for random others who you hoped were behaving differently? No whataboutism please.
Maybe, if you want to increase independence of A, reward B as a shiny incentive! It won’t actually cut it, because the first aim is election which behooves party loyalty. Party parliamentarians will not change behaviours much under our current electoral system.

My own conclusion (way above) was a short comparative study of practices in related parliaments within and without Australia. That our parliament is not ideal is not something I can change by tomorrow.

Thanks. I’ll pass the peanuts on.

Sorry, chewy14, I know I’m making more come backs than John Farnham, but there’s one issue I have with your stated position bemoaning that “My entire point is that why are people so accepting that members of the large party are voting “lemming like”?”

The simple answer is that it is how they want their representatives, especially in the Senate, to vote.

Most voters for the Senate in the recent election voted “above the line”. You can check it on the AEC website (https://tallyroom.aec.gov.au/SenateStateResultsMenu-27966.htm), which I assume you will accept as factual, or am I again committing a logical fallacy via a call to authority?

Let’s take the ACT Senate race and use the ALP (major party) as an example. The ALP received a total of 95,184 first preference votes – 76,909 above the line, 17,721 for the #1 ALP candidate (Katy Gallagher) and 554 for the #2 candidate (Maddy Northham).
So that’s an overwhelming majority of ALP voters who voted for the candidate, rather than an individual candidate.

So, it is not unreasonable, in fact it’s logical, to infer, that the overwhelming majority of ALP voters in the ACT would prefer Senator Gallagher vote along ALP party lines rather than according to her own preference.

I am going to make a huge assumption here, and state that the same would apply to every Senator who was successful at the election – except in the case of most of the independents, it is a party of 1.

So, in the Senate we can definitely assume that the majority of electors actually want their representatives to vote along party lines – even if you are against it.

You can bray as much as you like about “poor outcomes” and “woefully ignorant parliamentarians” but that’s democracy.

Now to staffing … you haver stated “I’m not arguing that independents shouldn’t be resourced appropriately to whatever level is assessed as reasonable. I’m arguing that all parliamentarians should be resourced appropriately in a similar fashion.”

However, chewy14, given that the major parties only have to come up with a decision on how the whole party vote then according to your “all parliamentarians should be resourced appropriately in a similar fashion” ethos, each of the major parties should only need (across the whole party) the same number as allocated to independents.

So why aren’t you creating a hue and cry over the grossly inflated (compared to independents) number of additional staff allocated to say the 16 Greens MPs – which is 10, not to mention the even more grossly inflated additional staff allocated to the Labor Party and the Coalition?

It seems to me that 4 additional staff for the independents is a bargain – but as I have already said, I’m not sure the independents do need 4, but I think the number is somewhere between 1 and 4. I actually like phydeaux’s suggestion (above) “to engage one or more of those consultant types to do a quick review of our eight and other similar parliaments, and their resource allocations and purposes” to determine the optimum number of addtional staff for the independents

Phydeaux,
Welcome to the ring.

The first issue I have with your comment is the assumption that Person B inherently wants to do their job more effectively or diligently than Person A.

I don’t think that’s the case. Some of the independents can be just as slack and ignorant as major party politicians.

Historically because there’s been so few of them and they’ve generally been self funded/motivated, you could argue that generally they might have been of a higher calibre.

But I definitely wouldn’t say it’s a hard and fast rule and I think it would become less applicable in a future where there were significantly more independents, particularly when they are supported financially from outside big money interests on all sides of the political spectrum.

So to your question of what the specific outcome I think is reasonable?

Almost identical to what you’ve suggested. An assessment of what is reasonable resourcing for politicians through benchmarking, consideration of workloads etc.

Those resources would then be available to both Person A and Person B equally.

At worst, in your hypothetical, Person A is still a slacker but Person B is resourced appropriately. Small misallocation of resources considering these parliamentarians are supposed to be running a $1.5 trillion + GDP country. No real harm done.

But on the counter, perhaps Person A uses their extra resources the same as Person B and becomes more informed on the issues they’re voting on? Perhaps they use that extra knowledge to inform others and initiate slow change in policies and legislation.

Or perhaps not.

Hi chewy. The words “inherently” and “hard and fast rule” impute something I did not say then argue against that. You know what fallacy that is called so we can safely drop (or feed to a cow) those paragraphs.

I appreciate that you agree on a review of comparative staffing for independents. I see no reason whatsoever to predetermine an outcome of such a review, as you apparently wish. I am willing to accept the outcome for independents, the topic, then turn to your next, separate, mission if need be.

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