Tuesday 16 November 2010
Hansard of the Legislative Council


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - I am probably in the same boat as the member for Apsley in that it has been really interesting to hear the opinions and to hear the debate, but I am not really fixed in my mind as to -

Mr Dean - It wasn't on the Fortescue, was it?

Mr FINCH - No, that is right - you will be fishing around there for a while, won't you? I respect very much the experience that the member for Launceston brings to this debate as a former President, having been here for 28 years. That opinion is one that we should take into account and respect for the knowledge and vast experience that comes with that opinion. I can only really talk on the time that I have been here, although I will make a note that when I first came into the Chamber I wanted to see how debates unfolded in times of yore, so I went back and read some of the debates that ensued before I got here, when there were 19 members and it was not uncommon for contributions to go for three hours. That is very rare in the debates that we have now. Reading some of those contributions I was thinking to myself, 'Cut to the chase. Just make your point and get out of there'.

Mr Wilkinson - You could drive from here to Devonport from the start to the end of a speech.

Mr FINCH - I am hearing what the honourable member for Derwent has said in respect to the quality of the debate. I have always enjoyed the quality that we have presented here. The contributions in size vary with the strength of the debate itself. If it is something of import, I always find that we make strong and sometimes lengthy contributions. We only have to look at the length of the pulp mill debate, which was a very crucial debate for this Chamber, but it was justified with the importance of the decision that needed to be made. Others of course, enabling legislation, sometimes does not need the quality of debate. We are very efficient in that way. I do not think we overuse our situations here to ramble on just for our own self-aggrandisement. I think we just cut to the chase of the job we have to do. We make those contributions, make our points and sit back down.

I find that with the 15 members we have in the Chamber we have a variation. People here come from all walks of life and all backgrounds and we bring that life experience and knowledge. Where we are working in the community now we hear their opinions and bring that to the debate here. I think our contributions are of a good quality. Whether four more members would improve that quality, I doubt it. I find that we have the variation in here that we need. I am also a great saluter of the fact that we have our gender situation here at a good level. We do not have gender equity but we do have a strong representation from women in the Chamber and I think that is a really good, healthy sign. If we were here sitting and all male in this Chamber, then that accusation of being dinosaurs could be well placed. What I like about it is that the Tasmanian public is prepared to vote women into our Chamber, and into politics generally, so times have changed.

Mr Wing - Does that surprise you?

Mr FINCH - You do not have to go back very far. Have a look at some of the photos on the wall out there; there is a solitary woman sitting over here.

Mr Parkinson - Phyllis Benjamin probably, and then later Kath Venn.

Mr FINCH - It was really inequitable, if that is the word I am looking for, it was really a situation that was not healthy for the debate and the contributions that would come from the community. I appreciate the fact that we are contemporary in that respect. We still have a way to go but anyway, hear them roar.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - It sounds a bit like a threat actually. There were some other things that I was going to say, I am sure. I have got to be efficient. I remember we were talking a little bit earlier about the workload or the advantages that we now have as members. Even the times have changed since I have been here when I think the Treasurer, David Crean, made that allocation to increase us to one full-time employee. It was 0.6 when I came and my PA that I inherited through the system was Tasma Howell. Tasma Howell at one stage, on the top floor of Henty House, looked after six Legislative Councillors. She was 0.6 so each one got 0.1, so she was very efficient with the way she doled out her services. Just look at that change from not so long ago; one PA looking after six members to our now having an FTE each and the car, of course. The increase that this Government has made to our research allowance, to our equipment allowance and those sorts of things have been really beneficial. It is really interesting -

Ms Rattray - Through you, Madam President - Paul Lennon was instrumental in providing all members of parliament resources to adequately do their jobs.

Mr FINCH - Yes, happy to give credit where credit is due. If you look at the situation with our iPads I think others are envious that we have embraced this piece of technology. I remember I sent a message from my iPad just recently and I got a message back saying, 'Wooooo, Kerry's got an iPad, go Kerry'.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - So it was really interesting that we have embraced this technology. We have been able to because of our equipment allowance; we have been able to because of the support that comes to us here.

Ms Forrest - But can you use it?

Mr FINCH - No, I don't have to; it just looks good.

But certainly - and I heard what somebody said, I think it was the member for Launceston - custodians of this House, we strive to leave our circumstance in no worse condition at least. I would suggest that, with the quality of people that we have here, there is no danger of that. I think that the electorate chooses -

Mr Wing - No danger of our leaving it better?

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - I mean no danger of leaving it in worse condition because it is the people of Tasmania who decide who comes here to represent them. So they choose the quality of that person to send them in here to represent them and to me, it is about representation. What we are doing here is about representation for our people. Every voter in Tasmania has a member in the House and, from my experience, our members do represent their constituents well. I have got a handle on what is happening throughout Tasmania because of the representations that are made here on behalf of communities so I have got a lot of respect for the work that everybody is doing in bringing their issues into Parliament. I suppose if we were falling down, that would be a reflection that perhaps we need increased numbers or that we are not up to speed with what we are doing and we are not serving our constituents well. I do not think that is the case. I think we are performing strongly and we are making good contributions. To me, I think 15 represents efficiency in the way we go about our business. I am still like that on the numbers. I have got a lot of time for the 15; I think 15 is elegant sufficiency but if it were to go to 19, I would be interested to see how that performance took place. I know that it would just be a little bit squashier on the chairs.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - A little bit squeezier on the lounges and then we would all be vying for these wonderful seats that would give us just that little bit more room.

Mr Parkinson - No more armrests?

Mr FINCH - No more armrests, you see. So there are downsides to increasing the numbers. I think I will go over and join the member for Apsley and still ponder where I will go with the vote but I do respect the member for Launceston and the fact that he has brought this debate to us to start thinking about what the future may hold. I did hear a lot of comment about the 35-member House. I did not find a strong disagreement with the increase in numbers downstairs and even when it was announced - even though, as has been suggested, it was the three Leaders who have made the decision - I did not see outrage from the community. I did not hear, 'Oh no, those politicians are out of the game!' - I did not get any sense of that. I think the debate has been strong in the community. People have had their chance to consider what has occurred with our diminution to 25. I think they have seen that it is not working.

Dr Goodwin - Through you, Madam President - there is a community consultation opportunity provided. There has been an opportunity for community feedback on this.

Mr FINCH - Yes. I do not know whether you are going to talk about that in your contribution but I just get a sense that the community debate has been had. It is not like other debates where the Government might believe there has been community debate because they have had meetings and committee meetings and what have you and they think that has been enough. I got a sense that the community has been able to contribute through talkback, through letters to the editor, through discussions, through talking.

Dr Goodwin - There was also a formalised process. There were advertisements placed for people to provide feedback as I understand it.

Mr Wing - The Liberal Party and the Greens have a mandate. It was in their policies so the majority of the members of the Assembly have been elected with a mandate to increase the numbers.

Mr FINCH - But I think the reason that it has been quite smooth sailing for the increase to 35 is because it was broken. I do not think it was working. It was broken. It needed fixing and I think the way to do that was to take it back up to 35. I think that the people did get a sense that there were too many minders, that the ministers had too much work, that they did not have support backbenchers to help them with their portfolios, that committee work was not being done properly. I think there was a sense of that from the community so they have accepted that 35 is okay. Up here we 'ain't broke', we do not need fixing and that is on 15 in the last eight years and I think we have done the job well. So I have a sense that I am going with the status quo.