28 June 2022

Pocock warns Labor on legislation after crossbench staff cut

| Ian Bushnell
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David Pocock

Senator David Pocock in the Senate chamber: “This is not a cost-saving exercise, this is a political decision.” Photo: Lincoln Magee.

Key ACT Independent Senator David Pocock has warned the Albanese Government not to take his vote for granted as he and other crossbench MPS and Senators vent their fury at the Prime Minister’s decision to slash the number of parliamentary staff they can employ.

Senator Pocock, who could very well hold the deciding vote on government legislation, said cutting the crossbench parliamentary staff from four to one at Adviser level was bad for democracy and issued a veiled threat that bills could be held up as a result.

“I will need to consider my position alongside my fellow Senate crossbenchers but I am deeply concerned about being asked to vote for legislation that I haven’t been allowed the time or resources to properly examine, consider and in some cases seek to improve,” he said.

A letter from Mr Albanese sent to crossbench members and Senators late on Friday (24 June) advised them of the new staffing arrangements, which also include the current allocation of four electorate officers.

Government, Opposition and Greens MPs will retain their current allocations.

The crossbench sees the decision as a direct attempt to reduce their influence in the new parliament.

While Labor does not need crossbench support in the House of Representatives, it will need them in the Senate to pass legislation.

Mr Albanese said the crossbench could use the Parliamentary Library, which he said the government intended to better resource, or call on the Clerk of the Senate for procedural advice.

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Finance Minister Senator Katy Gallagher said it was a budget-saving decision and it was the Prime Minister’s prerogative to allocate staff.

But Senator Pocock rejected the idea that the government’s motivation was to save money.

“This is not a cost-saving exercise. This is a political decision – a decision that shortchanges the people of the ACT,” he said.

“We already have less federal representation than other states, and this will make it even more difficult to ensure our voices are heard.

“One person to help get across and coordinate our community’s views on the government’s proposed laws and push for the changes on everything we want from equal rights for territories to integrity and climate.”

Senator Pocock issued a joint statement with other crossbench Senators saying the staffing cut was an attack on democracy and would hamper their ability to scrutinise legislation and do their jobs properly.

“This is also a direct attack on the people of Australia who decided to put their trust in independents and minor parties to represent them federally, by withdrawing the resources we need to advocate for them in the Parliament,” Senators Pocock, Jacqui Lambie, Tammy Tyrrell, Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts said.

They said the staffing decision had significantly damaged government relationships with the crossbench.

“We urge the Prime Minister to reconsider his decision and restore existing staffing in the interests of supporting integrity and accountability in the Australian Parliament,” they said.

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The statement said the Jenkins Review of parliamentary workplaces was clear that offices were already under-resourced and staff struggled to keep up with the significant workload.

Senator Pocock said Mr Albanese had sent a “pretty poor message” to those who supported Independents and minor parties because they wanted better representation and a better way of doing politics.

“When the PM took office he told Australians that he would treat the crossbench with respect. Hindering the ability of the minor parties and the independents to properly represent the nearly one-third of Australians who voted for us is not doing that.”

Senator Pocock said the decision was hypocritical and a double-standard that actively disadvantaged community-backed independents while preserving the status quo for the major parties.

He said the decision would also impact the service of electoral offices to the community if staff from there had to be diverted to support the parliamentary office.

It would also limit the scope of his work at Parliament including moving private senator’s bills, and playing a more active role in committees and Senate inquiries, and Senate estimates.

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Oh for goodness sake settle down David. Labor has won government with an expectation from voters that they will fix the over $100 billion deficit created by the Morrison government. That includes cutting parliamentary costs. Turnbull and Morrison increased adviser numbers as an incentive to independents to win their vote. As a suggestion why don’t you and your fellow independents pool your ideas and see what you can come up with. Canberra voters won’t tolerate a wrecker senator threatening to disrupt legislation because he has a hissy fit. You independents have all been elected on mandates of progressive policies to fix the budget deficit and tackle climate change. We have record numbers of people suffering in poverty, in homelessness and a climate change emergency. Grow up and represent the people of Canberra. The situation might look a little different when you come to get re-elected in 2025. Giulia Jones as an opponent might be a lay down misère but party insiders are talking about a Kate Carnell comeback. Now that will be interesting!!

Capital Retro8:40 am 01 Jul 22

Pocock’s statement that “the Albanese government should not take his vote for granted” confirms that Albanese thinks Pocock is standing on a Labor platform yet Pocock claims he is an independent?

Give me a break.

Is there a point to your comment, CapitalRetro?

Zed’s dead – give it a rest!

Capital Retro11:28 am 01 Jul 22

It might not be deep enough for you. Pretty obvious to everyone else although the meaning of the word “independent” is very fluid on this thread.

In the past, CapitalRetro, you you have labelled Pocock a Green, now you are suggesting (without any facts to support it) that Albo thinks he’s Labor.
It’s obvious you are unable to accept that an independent, i.e. non-party aligned, Senator has been elected by a sufficient majority of ACT electors (which obviously does not include you) .

It’s interesting to see the number of ill-informed comments about the workload of independents on here.

As a former IT contractor, some of my contracts had me working, at different times, for each of the Parliamentary departments. Many of the projects on which I worked, necessitated consultation with clients (including MPs). I got to see and hear about the work of MPs – including the independents.

I found, for the most part, all MPs were hard working, but it was the independents who impressed me most with the amount of work they did. While I didn’t necessarily agree with their politics, I certainly understood the need for them to be across a multitude of legislation to ensure that they could vote appropriately – and there was no party support to help them determine their vote.

Senator Gallagher suggests that government, opposition and Greens back benchers have the same requirement, as independents, to be across all legislation. It’s a nice ‘grab’ for the 6:00pm news, but unless things have changed dramatically in the last couple of Parliaments, there’s a bit of poetic licence there. I recall while I was dealing with a party-based MP a division was called. The pollie had me walk with them to the Chamber door, so we could continue the discussion. On the way, we met a party colleague, who asked what the vote was and how “we are voting”. My pollie said he wasn’t sure but advised just “follow our crowd”. Now, I’m sure both of these MPs were across a wide range of legislation – within their area of interst/expertise, but voting along party lines does have its advantages.

It seems that there is no argument (within the political sphere) that independent MPs require additional staff- the question seems to be “how many”.

This article – https://theconversation.com/cutting-crossbench-mps-staffing-would-be-a-setback-for-democracy-185843 – is by Tim Payne (no not Tim PAINE), a former adviser to Peter Andren, who served as an independent from 1996 until just before his death in 2007. Andren was well known for his stance against parliamentary perks and waste – most notably he tried, unsuccessfully, to change the (then) very generous MP superannuation scheme. I assume that as Payne worked for him for just over 5 years, that he shared Andren’s views on waste. So when he (Payne) suggests that “Labor’s planned cuts to the staff of independents will be a backward step for our democracy”, I think he brings a little objectivity to the debate and speaks with some credibility on the subject – and has nothing to gain.

Footnote: Payne also recounts of Andren that “it was common for members of both major parties to ask him privately what they were voting on as they filed in to follow instructions from their party whips”

I worked on a project in Parliament House. The staff I had dealings with were rude. This was back in the mid 2000s. Didn’t come across too many MPs, but I did sit in Brendan Nelson’s chair, in his office and spun around a few times, waiting for his PC to update

“The staff I had dealings with were rude.” If that applied to all staff you encountered, in the many offices that project would have had you working in, Futureproof, perhaps they weren’t the problem.

Oh, please, new MPs, and some old ones: wait until you actually get into Parliament House, get your feet under your desks and see exactly how much work there will be before you start whingeing about lack of staff. I understand that the aim of the reduction was/is to achieve some parity of staffing so that all backbenchers have access to the same resources; sounds fair to me. And please don’t forget (or discount) the brilliant Parliamentary Library which has outstanding staff, researchers, resources and collections – anything that any little old backbencher might need in order to be across and able to scrutinise legislation.

HiddenDragon7:07 pm 26 Jun 22

The cherry on the cake of this episode was Zali Steggall describing Morrison as more “respectful” than Albanese – that’s after one month, with 35, or so, to go – it’s going to be a fun three years.

ChrisinTurner1:51 pm 26 Jun 22

He still has four staffers and one advisor.

Pocock having a sook already. You’re a top end of town salary earner. Work for it, like every other person. After all, your only qualification is throwing a ball and running fast like Forest Gump

swaggieswaggie1:10 pm 26 Jun 22

I voted for the guy and what does he do..complains when he cant get on board the gravy train! Try working 9 to 5 David then doing a couple of hours research on your own at the weekend

“who could very well hold the deciding vote on government legislation” surely the government would spend 5 minutes with the opposition before being bent over a barrel by the fake independent group.

So is Pocock saying he cant get the job done?

While many were phobic of Zed’s religion he did things before complaining.

Nothing surprising about this, the ALP are simply restoring staffing numbers to more normal levels.

Why should independents or smaller parties get special treatment with extra staff?

Capital Retro8:46 am 26 Jun 22

So, he is issuing “joint” statements with other cross-bench senators already.

He wasn’t independent for long, was he?

That’s what you got from this article?

Really?

Oh shock, horror, Capital Retro, Pocock agrees with his fellow independents on a matter and puts his name to a statement voicing that agreement.

You need to take a pill and have a lie down, until you can actually accept that your man, Zed, lost to a candidate who was preferred by a substantial majority of ACT voters.

Capital Retro1:41 pm 26 Jun 22

It’s more than you got – haven’t seen any other comment from you but then you play the man and not the ball.

CR,
LOL, perhaps you should actually read the other comments then?

If you want it explained slowly:

Pocock sits on the cross bench.

This issue affects the crossbench.

Hence Pocock shares an interest with a subsection of the Senate and has thus released a statement with them.

How you’ve construed that as not being “independent”, I have no idea.

Although weren’t you calling him a “Green” before the election? You realise they aren’t part of this statement either right?

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