Anthony Albanese has started a war with crossbench MPs and Senators by cutting the rights of their parliamentary staff by three-quarters.
Most important points:
- In the last parliament, crossbench MPs and senators were entitled to four parliamentary assistants
- Mr Albanian has reduced that allocation to one parliamentary staff member
- He said the government was planning to increase resources for the parliamentary library to support MPs from different levels
The Prime Minister has sent a letter to the cross-benchers informing them that in addition to their four electoral staff, they will only be entitled to one parliamentary staff member.
In the last parliament, crossbench MPs and senators were entitled to four parliamentary assistants.
Crossbench MPs and Senators are outraged, viewing the cuts in staffing levels as a political maneuver to thwart them.
“It’s a dog act,” a crossbencher told the ABC.
The Prime Minister has advised cross-benchers that they can instead use the Parliamentary Library for Research or the Senate Clerk’s Office for advice on parliamentary procedure.
“My government plans to increase the resources for the Parliamentary Library to reflect the supportive role it provides to MPs, especially those sitting on the sidelines,” said Mr Albanese’s letter.
“The Ministry of Finance provides the necessary administrative support for the employment of your personal employee.”
While parliament isn’t expected to resume until July 26, Mr. Albanese’s decision on rights has done what few could have ever predicted: uniting a motley crew of One Nation senators, teal independents and other cross-benchers.
Clearly, crossbench senators are debating whether or not to abstain from parliamentary votes to protest the decision — a tactic that could derail the government’s legislative agenda.
Labor won 77 seats in the May 21 election and does not need bank support to pass the legislation through the House of Commons.
But Labor needs the Greens plus one more vote in the Senate to pass legislation the coalition opposes.
There are 12 crossbenchers in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate.
The Liberals, Nationals and Greens have made several staffing agreements with the Labor government.
Pocock says employee discount reduces opportunity to participate
Independent Senator for the ACT David Pocock said cutting three quarters of his projected parliamentary staffing resources “takes away transparency, hinders the democratic process and reduces our ability to participate fully in parliament”.
“In consultation with my fellow cross-benchers, we have shared our concerns about voting on legislation that we do not have the resources to adequately investigate or ensure its integrity,” said Senator Pocock.
“Parliament should represent all Australians.
“To represent my community, I must have the means to hold the government accountable.”
The Greens said the move contradicted the wave of support for small parties in the federal election.
“It is unbelievable and so shortsighted that the government would cut crossbench staff when the public has just delivered the largest crossbench representation ever,” said a spokesperson.
“The Greens have faced, in real terms, a staff shortage with no increase in the overall workforce, despite a large increase in the number of Greens MPs.”
The Greens have the same staff allocation for 16 MPs and senators as they had for 10 in the previous parliament.
The ABC has asked liberal and national parties to disclose their staffing arrangements, but has not yet received a response.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s Office pointed to the resources available to all MPs and senators.
“Assignment MOP(S) Act [parliamentary] staff are reviewed and reassigned after each election,” she said.
“In recognition of the enlarged crossbench, the government plans to increase the Parliamentary Library’s resources for all MPs to use for information, advice, research and analysis of legislation.”
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