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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 2261 ..



In regard to the first line of the budget, I think it is about time that we looked seriously at ourselves and the way that we are funded and operate. A lot of the work that MLAs and ministers appear to be doing is done by their staff. I know that there is a process under way whereby we are setting up a new staffing arrangement. Indeed, there are some pay increases in that staffing arrangement. But there needs to be a consideration of the number of resources that one actually needs to do the job properly, coming from such a low threshold when the Assembly started in 1989.

We, as members of this place, do not only the job of a state or territory parliament, but also the job of a local government regime. We probably work harder than most jurisdictions in the country. I think I can say that because I have actually worked in two of them. As a backbencher in the federal parliament in 1995, I had three full-time staff. I had an office manager/PA, I had a media person and I had a senior policy adviser, probably three times the staff that the non-executive MLAs and non-leadership MLAs have in this place now. I have to say that it made my job as a federal MP so much easier, because I had the tools to do the job properly.

I think that we need to look quite seriously at the amount of funding that MLAs get for staffing and for the things that they need to do. For instance, I received a six-page glossy document from Annette Ellis the other day. Federal MPs and senators have an enormous budget to promote what they are doing and, more importantly, enable them to be in contact with their constituency and alert their constituency as to what they have been up to and what has been happening in their parliament on their behalf.

We are now about 14 or 15 years into self-government. I can understand the reticence in the very early days of self-government to attach what the public would see as the trappings of office to our budgets. We have started from a very low base and I think that over the next couple of years we will need to consider particularly our staff. Some of that will be done in the current round of negotiations. Our staff work long hours for very meagre pay. The allowances that we provide to them for overtime and basic things like a mobile phone and the resources we provide for them to do their job and keep them free from stress are somewhat meagre. I think that this line for the Legislative Assembly Secretariat is the appropriate point to make that comment.

The second area in which we have let ourselves down-we all understand the historical reasons for it; there was a lot of angst over the establishment of this place back in 1989-is the level of staffing and the payment of staff of the Secretariat: the staff in the chamber and, particularly, the staff in the committees. For instance, if you look at the estimates process, you will see that one committee, with one secretary, looks at the entire budget across a two or three-week period and then the secretary gets a report back to members for the discussion phase and the committee gets to table it in the Assembly.

It is interesting that there are, I think, eight estimates committees up in the big house when they do their budget. The Assembly process is an absolute credit to the committee secretariat, but I think that it is time to look at these issues in a more considered way. I welcome the process that is under way. I hope that it will deliver a lot, particularly for the staff, but I think that we need, in the long term, to be looking at the staffing of the Secretariat itself.

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