Tuesday 28 November 2017
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Tasmanian Parliament - Current Size
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I was travelling okay with my thought processes until the member for Murchison stood up. She has thrown me a bit because I agree with elements of what she is saying about where we put our energies. Of course people are talking about the things that the honourable member mentioned and this is a side issue.
However, it is something that exercises the minds of many people. I have had discussions ever since the reduction in numbers was introduced. There is always a discussion about how the work is either not being covered as effectively by elected members or the cost of the salaries of the advisers brought in because you do not have those elected members - your backbench - to be parliamentary secretaries to make sure the ministers have their workload supported.
We only have to look recently at the discombobulation for the Government with our friend Vanessa Goodwin's situation and then the workload being shifted to other areas and the collateral damage. Look at Matthew Groom. I could not believe the stuff that was shifted into the Department of State Growth - 'Where do you go for this?' and the answer, 'The Department of State Growth.' 'I know what we will do - we will shove it into State Growth.' 'Who is the Minister for State Growth?' 'Matthew Groom.' You see? I thought, 'Goodness me'. From my viewpoint, he was lumbered with all this new work to do, and we saw what happened there when he was given that little bit extra - it was the straw that broke the camel's back. We had him departing parliament because of that overloading. To me, that is a signal. Sure, Elise Archer comes in as a minister to create that balance again but it showed the fragility of the circumstance we are dealing with. I am sure there will be a denial from the Leader, however -
Ms Rattray - The Leader has already spoken.
Mr FINCH - Yes, I know. I am encouraging her to interject. I am waiting for the Hansard of the debate we had about the numbers in the upper House. I spoke on that because I disagreed with the member for Launceston at that stage about whether, if we did increase the number in the lower House, we would go back to 19 from 15. I disagreed with that proposition because I felt there were enough voices in the House to have the debate fleshed out. The Labor Party numbers are building up now with four voices now needing to be covered by one person ostensibly - others can speak, of course. Again, that is a diminution of the opportunity for different opinions to come into play.
It is a changing scenario but every time I have been in a discussion about the numbers in the lower House particularly, I have always been in agreement with the situation that there should be a return to the numbers previously there. It is interesting you mentioned the term 'bell the cat', member for McIntyre, from the Aesop fable.
Mr Farrell - Not Aesop, apparently.
Mr FINCH - Not Aesop? Just rumoured to be Aesop.
Mr Farrell - Rumoured to be but it wasn't; it was much older apparently.
Mr FINCH - Right, okay. Who was it then?
Ms Rattray - He doesn't know everything.
Mr FINCH - Somebody told me he is a bit of a know-all. The Aesop fable is pretty accurate. Who of the mice is going to put the bell around the cat's neck? Who is going to make the bold move? That is what we are talking about here. That is why you suggest the next government because you are hoping it might have a look at that and say, 'That might be something we can consider. Let us step up to the plate and bell the cat.'
Mr Hall - Some leadership.
Mr FINCH - It is interesting. You know, there is always the suspicion there will be odium with a decision like that, that the general public is going to condemn you at the polling booth because of the desire to want more parliamentarians, more elected members. We have talked about the argument before - the balance between elected people who are sent there at half the salary of the advisers you need to get in to cover the work that needs to be done behind the scenes to support the ministers. I would sooner have elected members. The people of Tasmania have said to parliament -
Mr Hall - And accountable.
Mr FINCH - And accountable, that is right. I do not mind the idea. Before I get off the odium of what the public might think, where is the odium that is floating around about the salary increases that some of the members of parliament have received? That argument was always put forward - 'This is appropriate, this is fair. People will not worry about it, people will move on'. That debate, that argument has gone, yet we have a discrepancy in the pay being paid to people in this House. It should be that everybody is on equal terms here. We have a stupid situation. People are not out there arguing about the fact that some are getting more. It should be that everybody is getting the same. It should be that increase.
Mr FINCH - I do not want to make a grown man cry. I am trying to not look over in his direction.
Mr Gaffney - I have heard this argument before. We can get into this place without any qualification. Heads of department get there because they are qualified and they go through various steps and phases to get to that position. Members of this place and downstairs get there because they are popularly elected, without any qualifications. It is the thin end of the wedge to suggest that more members fix the problems and they are better placed to be ministers when we have ministers in the other place who had no experience in some of the portfolios. That is an issue.
Mr FINCH - The Tasmanian public sends people here through quite a long process of choosing who they want to come into here. It is the party in a lot of cases, but it is also about whether they trust that person to come in here. A person has to have a modicum of intelligence. They have to be able to observe things, see what is going on and bring their mind, their life experience, to the table. You could probably cite examples of people who have come who are nuff nuffs and they have not had the skills -
Mr FINCH - Do we want to move around the room and name people up here? Generally the Tasmanian public gets it right with whom they send here. They send us here with certain skills that we then build on. We come with our life experience, then we build on what we bring to parliament. There is not a handbook of how you work the job. I hear what you say about the skills. Then, as I say, the salaries -
Mr Gaffney - The head of agency has had a lifetime of experience to get to that place. We can get there in a year.
Mr FINCH - I am not talking about heads of agencies. It is the others further down the rung who support that work that goes on behind the minister. Then, as the member has put forward, the boundaries. I had a suspicion that if we went back to 35, for instance, that we would have five electorates of seven. When you talk about seven electorates of five, you are talking about the changing of the boundaries to accommodate seven. Have we not had some changes to boundaries federally as far as the state is concerned?
Mr Hall - That was not a proposition I would necessarily agree with. It was one put up by Dr Amos and Mr Polley.
Mr FINCH - It exercised my mind about the complications and the implications of going down this path -
Mr Hall - What you call self-interest, brother.
Mr FINCH - of increasing it back to 35. I agree with what you suggest because that is what I hear in discussions I have with people who understand the process of government and the way the place should run, as the member for Murchison highlighted. In the feedback I get and the discussions I have had, it is all about going back to those original numbers. What happened before has not worked. Part of the plot was to diminish the numbers of the Greens. When the situation occurred, up went the numbers of the Greens. We had five members, so that did not work too well, did it?
I support the motion, but it is not without its complications when you have to find somebody to bell the cat.