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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1894

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (12:57): I also rise to support this motion, not to make our lives easier by any stretch of the imagination, but to make them more effective. My understanding—and I am sure the member for McMillan and the member for Banks can tell me—is that, when this Federation Chamber we are in today under its current name was created, the purpose was so that we could get through more work in reasonable hours. I am sure that was the purpose of facilitating the Federation Chamber. It was acknowledging that we had a big workload, acknowledging that we had many bills and many motions to get through but also acknowledging the fact that, once you get late into the evening, you are past being able to perform appropriately and effectively. That is why we have the second chamber. I have to admit that, while I have been in this parliament, I think there has been only one or maybe two occasions that we have actually met after 11 o'clock. I would also suggest that no politician is saying that their life is not 24/7 on call. At all levels of government, as members, we are there when needed for our constituents, probably local government more so than any other level, where we are able to respond. What we have today in the form of a motion from the member for Moore, Dr Washer, is the fact that we do not perform well when we have had long days. Just as we exhort drivers to stop and revive, this is what we are saying. We are not performing at our best if we are working long hours.

In particular, I wanted to speak today in agreement with the member for Blair about the support staff. It is not about us. I remember working long hours in small business. Who has not worked through the night getting the BAS statement done? Who has not worked through the night getting that tender in? Often, when you check it the next day, you have missed some obvious points because you have been tired. But here in this chamber and this House are the staff. As the member for Blair said, it is not just a handful of staff, our personal staff, but literally hundreds of staff who are here for as long as we are. Those staff have to turn up again the next day. Those staff have families. Those staff have homes that they need to go to, and they do not sign on to work the long hours that we do. We know some of the pressures we are under but the staff who work in this wonderful parliament, who make things go smoothly for us, also have pressures. Madam Deputy Speaker Burke, we can look here to the clerks who assist you with your speaking responsibilities and their officers and also those of the whips. We can also look to the drivers. We talk about being so tired that we do not want to drive ourselves home but we have drivers who are in the Comcars to take us home so that we can front up the next day. We have security staff who work around the clock for us, and of course the Hansard staff who have to be here for as long as we keep speaking or putting motions. In fact, there are a whole range of people who are here supporting this parliament whom we need to be mindful of. And isn't that what the job of politicians is about? It is about thinking of other people and the effect of our decisions on them. That is why I very strongly support this motion.

We talk about our role in speaking in the chamber and participating in the votes, but in this great electronic age we also have hundreds of emails sent to us. When we come down to Canberra we cannot stop doing our work. As the member for Blair said, we have speeches to write and committees to work on but we also have our constituency work, and that must continue as well. As Dr Washer pointed out, if we are going to cope with all of our various roles we do need to draw a line in the sand at some time during the day. I believe we should lead by example. Indeed, the member for Melbourne, I note, in an inquiry into work-life balance, talks about the need for flexibility. So I think everyone in this parliament is probably in agreement that we are not at our best after 11 o'clock at night and so, in the interest of making good decisions and in the interest of supporting the very hardworking staff in this parliament, I urge everyone to support this motion.