Independents and minor parties are up in arms after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese cut their staffing allocation to a quarter of what it was in the previous parliament, leaving them with only one adviser each to work through reams of legislation and threatening the new government’s relationship with the crossbench.
The previous government gave permission for crossbench MPs and senators to have two advisers and two assistant advisers, plus the electorate office staff each member can employ.
But on Friday, Albanese informed them the special allocation would be cut.
“In recognition of your role as an independent member (ie not a member of the government, Opposition or the Australian Greens), I propose to allocate you one additional full-time staff member at the adviser classification, in addition to your four electorate staff,” says the prime minister’s letter, seen by and .
“The Parliamentary Library can assist all members and senators with information and advice, including research and analysis of legislation … The Clerk of the House and officers of the Department of the House of Representatives are also available to you for advice on parliamentary procedure and to provide assistance with drafting private members’ bills.”
The Greens have also had an effective staffing cut, being allocated the same number of staff as before despite their party room growing from nine to 16 members.
The decision threatens to damage the relationship between the new Albanese government and the crossbench on which it will rely to pass legislation in Senate. The easiest route for the government is with the support of the Greens plus one crossbencher to pass any legislation the Coalition opposes.
Labor has a slim majority with 77 MPs in the lower house.
Independent senator David Pocock labelled the decision “extremely disappointing and damaging to the relationship with the crossbench”, saying he was extremely concerned about voting on legislation without adequate resources to scrutinise it.
“Cutting three-quarters of our parliamentary staffing resource removes transparency, hinders the democratic process and reduces our ability to participate fully in the parliamentary process,” Senator Pocock said.
“I was elected by a community who want transparency and integrity in politics… This decision is bad for democracy and terrible for transparency.”
A spokesman for the Greens said the decision was “unbelievable and so short-sighted” when voters had returned the largest crossbench ever.
A spokesman for One Nation said cutting staff to a quarter of what it was would make it “enormously difficult” to properly consider legislation, particularly controversial bills that attract a lot of attention from lobbyists and interest groups.
“If you’re not adequately staffed that means this government expects legislation to be rammed through without proper consideration,” the party spokesman said.
“If we don’t have time [to properly consider bills], the default position that should be taken by every independent and minor party should be to reject government legislation.”
To give an idea of the scale of work, he said the Senate had dealt with 160 pieces of legislation over the past three years.
Other crossbench offices said it would be catastrophic for their ability to look after constituents and scrutinise legislation. They hoped the fact Albanese said he “proposed” the allocation meant it was open for negotiation.
Independent MP Zali Steggall said Albanese had “shown a damning display of poor judgment” and called for staffing allocations to be set under law, not at the whim of the prime minister.
Newly elected independent MP Zoe Daniel, who represents the Victorian seat of Goldstein, said: “Welcome to politics. So much for the new era.” Fellow incoming incumbent Monique Ryan described it as an attack on the crossbench.
A spokesman for the prime minister’s office said the allocation of staff was reviewed after every election.
“In recognition of the enlarged crossbench, the government intends to increase resources of the Parliamentary Library which all parliamentarians can use for information, advice, research and analysis of legislation,” he said.
After the so-called teal wave at the election, the number of independent and minor party MPs in the lower house grew from six to 12. In the Senate, it has shrunk from six to five. If they were all allocated the four advisers allowed previously, that would be 68 staff.
The number of Greens has also increased, with 12 senators and four MPs, up from nine party members previously. The Greens have enough members to grant them full party status, which gives them a greater entitlement to staff allocations.
The opposition is allowed one-fifth the number of advisers across its ranks of what government ministers and MPs can have.
- Breaking News – ‘Stuff it, shove it’: a furious Michael Gunner calls out those against vaccine mandates
- Electricity grid chaos to charge up power bills
- ‘A perfect storm’: Up to 70,000 women may have been coerced into withdrawing super
( Information from smh.com.au was used in this report. To Read More, click here )