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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1892


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (12:52): It is a great honour and privilege to represent my electorate. It is an area where I have lived all my life. I was born there. My family has lived there for generations. Just over 1,000 people have been elected to the House of Representatives since this country came into existence. My observation in the four years I have been here is that politicians of all persuasions and political parties work hard in their electorates. They are not working from 9 am to 5 pm; they work six and often seven days a week. Those of us who campaign regularly know that it is required in a marginal seat. Our staffs work very, very hard. Sometimes I think there is a special place in heaven for our staff. They work just as hard as we do when we are here in Canberra; you can see that: staff leaving at the same time as politicians at the end of a long session. And what about the attendants? What about Hansard, and the other staff here? They have to work those hours as well. Thousands of people work in this building. It is not just the 150 in the House of Representatives and the 76 in the Senate but all those other people as well, all the ministerial staff and the public servants.

So I think we have to have some degree of reasonableness and common sense about the hours we work. My first job in life was as a cleaner in the meatworks. I worked a night shift. When the foreman asked me to work other than during university holidays, for example, when I was a full-time student at law school at the University of Queensland, I found it extremely difficult and could barely do it. So I used to restrict my work hours in the meatworks to university holidays.

Let us get realistic. It is not as if we actually start work at the hour prescribed in the standing orders. I get picked up at 6 am and I go for a run and go to the gym. I see many politicians in there getting those few hours of exercise—it is for their mental health, as well as their physical health. I see the member for Ryan here. She and I have had the privilege of making more speeches than any other Queenslanders in the House of Representatives, but it takes time to do that when you are down here. You do your constituency work as well and there are endless meetings. For example, I am more tired after Monday than I am on any other day during the session. I am pretty fit. I run regularly and I lift weights. There are a lot of people in this place who do the same. But I know on Tuesday that I am extremely tired because, generally, we have made lots of speeches and it takes work. We do lots of representations made to ministers.

If you cannot do your work properly, you cannot serve well the people you are elected to represent. I have heard speeches from those opposite and I have heard our speeches in the wee hours in the morning. Some of those speeches are not their finest hour. But it is not just the speeches; it is the decisions that they make. I think the long hours currently in our standing orders and the fact that we seem to more often honour them more in the breach than in the observance, result in the fact that there is more irritability and erasability amongst politicians on both sides. We agree on about 80 or 90 per cent of the legislation that goes through. We disagree violently on lots of issues. I think we are always right and they are always wrong, but they think exactly the opposite. That is what it is in a democracy.

Let us be an example and let us show compassion and understanding. If we believe in good workplace health and safety not for just ourselves but for the staff of the parliament, the public service, the ministerial advisors and our staff as well, let us think about good industrial practices in this place. On our side of politics, we pride ourselves on a simple, fair and flexible workplace arrangements. We might disagree on a few issues on the other side such as industrial relations but I think in their of hearts that they know their employees should also be cared for.

Most small businesses are family business, but most big businesses have human relationship advisors as well because it is important. This place needs to have a bit more emphasis on mental health, not just for the politicians, but for the staff who work with us as well. It is important that we be physically fit and also be mentally fit. The Prime Minister and the cabinet make decisions which affect people's lives every day as do backbenchers. I applaud the member for Moore and thank him for the way he has looked after me at various stages when I have been ill in this place.