Tuesday 16 November 2010
Hansard of the Legislative Council
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL - NUMBER OF MEMBERS
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
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
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,
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?
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.
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,
Dr Goodwin - There was also a formalised process. There were
advertisements placed for people to provide feedback as I
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
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.