Tuesday 25 August 2015
Hansard of the Legislative Council




Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam Acting President, the bill is so straightforward, logical, and necessary that I cannot see why it did not come up years ago.
Ms Forrest - It did.
Mr FINCH - I cannot see why it went down years ago.  In an upper House where independence is at its core, voters need to be clear whether they are voting for someone with a party affiliation or an independent.
We understand, as independents, how important that tag is to us and our standing in the political arena.  I reflect on my own election last year, that my electorate on the western side of the Tamar would be, and showed in the state election, 70-30 Liberal.  When it came to the election for the upper House, people voted 61-39 in favour of me, their independent.  They would have done that because of my track record on the way I assess legislation, and the way I vote.  They can see they are independent votes, not driven by a party by ideology, by philosophy.  It is driven by the assessment of the legislation at the time.  I was gratified my electorate would choose to send me back, despite the fact that the Liberal Party was on a roll, federally, in the state.  Then a good candidate was put up against me, hugely financed.  I do not want to detract too much, but I could not match the outlay of dollars that went into that campaign.  However, the result was clear that my people wanted that independent legislator to be here representing them.  They know that everybody has access to me.  In a lot of cases I do not declare myself on an issue, not even the controversial ones, until we come in here, so that everybody has the chance to sway my opinion or to have their input into where they think I should go with my vote.
Mr Valentine - That is the way it should be.
Mr FINCH - Yes.  If a candidate wants to be seen as independent, let us spell it out for them.  When we googled the Electoral Commission list of candidates in the last election, the incumbent member for Windermere was referred to as a politician.  No reference to your status as an independent, which I think was cockamamie because I have said before, whilst I may disagree with a lot of your opinions, I still respect the fact that you function and work from your office as an independent.  You are open to all the opinions that come to you and you look to represent as best you can.  I am happy to support it, as I am sure other members are. 

The only thing, and you both elaborated on it, is that independent Liberal, independent Labor.  I hark back to the time Sylvia Smith was a representative here.  I made the assessment that she was coming from the federal parliament as a Labor person.  She wanted to come back and still represent in Tasmania.  She chose to say, 'You know it is obvious, you know I am a Labor person.  However I want to let you know that I have a sense that I will be functioning independently of the party'.
Mr Dean - At that time, though, she had been a member of this place.  She had done six years in this place and was re-standing.
Mr FINCH - What I am saying is, she stood when she was first elected as independent Labor and there was questioning of that.  Independent Labor, what does that mean?  I made the assessment that that was what it was about.  She was saying, 'You know I am Labor, I am not going to hide that'.  We have a look at the other example of the honourable member for Rumney who is an independent Liberal.  What do you make of that?  To me it is the same example, he has been a member of that ...
Members laughing.
Mr FINCH - As we know, he is forthright, he is not guided by the party and he is independent in his thinking and the way he goes about the debate.  I have no issue when he says, 'I am an independent Liberal' because he has been a member of the Liberal party, so he is not hiding the fact.  Philosophically, he has that bent, so I am happy to accept that.  I am wondering whether the member might address that point, that somebody might say for those reasons I have stated, 'I am an independent, the party is not pulling my strings; I am here telling you I am going to be an independent person but I have previous affiliations with the party'.  I think it is honest.
Mr Dean - It is a bit like they are putting down Labor-Greens.
Mr FINCH - How do you mean?
Mr Dean - We put down independent Labor or independent Liberal, you put down Labor-Greens.
Mr FINCH - We put that into the job lot to remember who has brought the bill into Parliament.  I just think whether that can be part of it, or whether it is starting to muddy the waters a bit too much.  Certainly independent  is very powerful as far as our voters in Tasmania are concerned.  They are showing it time after time that they want their independents.  They have given a majority government downstairs, but what they have said is, 'We want a balance out here, we want to put independents in here to give it the best shot of having the decisions made here properly, that reflect what people want'.  How often have we heard that the government of the day might have an agenda but people feel and support us and praise us for having the next set of assessment that gives them the chance to put that legislation under the spotlight here?  It might be for, it might be against, but at least they have another chance where their political affiliations might not be aligned to the government of the day.  They have a sense that democracy is better at work because we have an independent or an upper House that is dominated by independents.  I am happy to support this bill, congratulate the member for pursuing it, and bringing it on.  It is a pity it was not passed decades ago.