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Wednesday, 6 May 1987
Page: 2746

Mr HOLLIS(7.37) —I listened with interest to a speech made by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Beale) in the adjournment debate last Friday. As the honourable member worded his speech in a non-partisan manner I will do likewise. I know he will forgive me if I answer a few questions he asked about members of parliament. He asked: Where are the electronic engineers? We have two on our side; the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Baldwin) and the honourable member for Dunkley (Mr Chynoweth). He asked: Where are the urban planners? My colleague the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Martin) is an urban planner. He asked about nursing sisters. The honourable member for Brand (Ms Fatin) is a nursing sister.

But I take issue with the honourable member using the now fashionable argument that we should bring in some of the so-called experts or high fliers to this Parliament. No one would argue that there is a place here for the business person, the teacher, the lawyer, the union official, the farmer and the adult educator. What interests me is that that many of the these high fliers are too busy to go through the normal preselection process. They are too busy and too intelligent to spend time on the back bench. They want to go straight to the front bench and, indeed, in some cases to the front job. It is interesting to pose the question: What is the role of a member of parliament? It would indeed be difficult to give a job description. Basically, I suppose, we deal with people. We help them with a range of problems. We explain government decisions. We are here basically to assist people and to be part of the legislative process. Would these high fliers have time to deal with the problems of the ordinary people? Would the John Elliotts, the Ian McLachlans and the Bob Ansetts have time to listen to the various problems? Would people get a sympathetic hearing? Indeed, would they get a hearing at all or would the high fliers be too busy or too intelligent to deal with their problems?

Perhaps there is a case for greater diversity in the former occupations of members of parliament, but we do not have an appointed Executive. Perhaps our system is not perfect. I believe that, when a Minister is appointed, someone should be appointed to carry out the electoral duties of that member. Knowing the demands on a back bench member, I do not know how Ministers cope. We will never agree on the ideal member of parliament. One top quality of any member, of course, must be compassion. Members must carry out the duties of an elected representative and help people with their many problems. I also feel that there is nothing wrong with being a back bencher. Perhaps some of those newspaper pundits, who question those in the electorates, might like to offer themselves for election. The vast majority of the population is represented by back bench members on both sides of the House. Personally, I would rather have the reputation of being a good local member who is always accessible to his constituents and who cares about them than be regarded as one of the high fliers.

My local area was recently visited by Mr Bob Ansett, who offered to serve in the Government of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) for a term in order to get the economy on the right track. He went on to say that there were other business people who also might serve a term but most of them would not be caught dead in parliament because they were achievers. By this I suppose he means that they are good at money making. I wonder what sort of Parliament it would be if it were run by these so-called achievers. What help could the needy, the disadvantaged and the sick get? Of course, the businessmen's mates would be helped; the rich would get richer and the poor would get poorer. This would be a nation of have and have nots. If the high fliers are so keen to give Australia the benefit of their skills, let them do as each of us here has done. They should give up their careers-many of us have given up our careers-take their chances in their party's pre-selection, face the people in a general election, and then come into this place.

We might not all be high fliers, but I have never met a more caring group of people than members of parliament from both sides of this House. While the people of Australia continue to send caring people here-people who are prepared to put in the long hours and always be available-I, for one, do not fear for democracy in this country. I would not be so sure if this Parliament were full of the so-called high fliers.