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Wednesday, 4 April 1973
Page: 1089

Mr WHAN (Eden) (Monaro) - Most of the discussion on this Bill has been devoted toward electoral ends, lt seems to me that we need to return to examine just why it is we are in this place as individuals. I think members of Parliament have 3 basic functions. Firstly, they have to represent electors in 2 ways, and 1 will come back to this point. Secondly, they have to take part in the determination of policy in this place and thirdly, to examine the actions of the Government and its bureaucracy. As to the policy determining role and the examination of the actions of government, this could be done by people outside the Parliament. They would require special skills, other attributes and experiences. I think that in this sense members of Parliament are accountable to the electorate and in that sense and only in that sense do they differ from people outside with the same skills and mix of experience.

It is on the first function that I think .we need concentrate. In this function we find justification for the Bill that is before us today. In representing the electors we have 2 separate jobs to do. We have to represent the individual elector who may have been subjected to an error by the bureaucracy or some form of injustice or who may just need some form of advice on what to do and how to go about his problems. In this sense the members we as individuals represent are absolutely vital because it is that specific number which determines the number of telephone calls to be attended to, the letters to be answered and the representations that we have to make. What I believe to be the most serious level of our representation is the need to represent individual people and to try to overcome their problems. It is inevitable that a bureaucracy will make mistakes. It is inevitable that each of us will have to contend with these errors. It is in this respect that 10 per cent is a very wide margin to consider when we compare different electorates. At another level we represent our constituents in the form of submissions which have to be prepared for various interest groups in our electorates. These might be business groups, local council groups or social interest groups. But these submissions require a great deal of work and attention and the number of submissions prepared by a member of Parliament is roughly proportional to the number of people he has in his electorate. Also., of course, the . number of submissions is proportional to the number of interest groups that are represented in the electorate. There is no way on earth in which the number of interest groups in electorates can be equalised. My own electorate of EdenMonaro is divided by a scarp which runs right down its eastern side. There is no way that geographic distinction will not separate the interest groups on the coast from those on the tablelands and also the interest groups of people who live in the country from those who live in the 2 cities of my electorate. So in any electorate there will be a disparate number of interest groups represented.

This brings me to a point which has been made time and time again in this chamber and which I believe to be the main deficiency in our capacity to perform our task. I believe that members of Parliament should have access to research skills and to people who can prepare the submissions that we are called upon to make. I doubt whether there is any member in this chamber who could actively participate with interest groups that he has to represent in this Parliament in order to prepare their submissions and put their case squarely before the country. We need to have this sort of resource and it has no relationship at all to the number of people we represent. I am speaking of the access to resources which none of us enjoy at the moment. We need research skills and a person on our staff who is capable of marshalling the arguments and representing our constituents in a way which is in their best interests.

I believe that the Bill before us today concentrates our attention on the reason why we are in this Parliament. First of all we are here to represent individuals and injustices that are perpetrated against those individuals from various sources. In that sense we are strictly related in our functions to the number of people we represent. As I said before, 10 per cent is far too wide a margin in this respect. The age pensioner whose cheque has been delayed for 3 weeks in my view has to get top priority over any profound policy functions that the politician has to perform. These people who have to represent 80,000 people in their electorates just cannot contend with the volume of work that comes through at this level. It is absolutely essential that we equalise that work load in particular. Members of Parliament have other functions to perform in this place in regard to their activities in policy determination and examining the actions of government and the bureaucracy that works for it. With this in mind 1 believe it would be very useful for members to have access to personal research assistance. I know-

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order!I remind the honourable member that we are debating clause 3 of the Bill. 1 suggest that he relate his remarks to that clause. He is diverging quite widely.

Mr WHAN - Clause 3 of the Bill refers to community of interests, means of communication and travel, the trend of population changes and all of the factors for which we need to have research assistance. As I was saying, the other functions that a member of Parliament has to discharge in regard to policy and the examination of actions of government also require this sort of personal research assistance. When we look at the sort of representations that we have to make for individuals, I believe it would pay us to bring these cases together and to examine in the aggregate the sort of problems with which one is confronted. In the short time that I have been here I have made 32 representations to the Postmaster-General's Department, 19 to the Department of Repatriation, 44 to the Department of Social Security, 35 to the Department of Education and 14 to the Department of Health, as well as many other representations for individual cases that

We have not characterised in these terms. But I put this as an example of the type of representation that it is necessary for us to bring into this place. If we examine the breakdown of representations we receive we discover certain pockets of bureaucratic inactivity or other omissions which affect individuals in our electorates. If we had research assistance we would be able to put these cases into a systematic form-

The CHAIRMAN - Order! I remind the honourable member that the subject of the clause is not open to a general debate on representation. The subject matter of clause 3 is: Matters to be considered in distribution of a State'. The subject of the clause which the honourable member read out a moment ago refers to matters to be taken into consideration by the Distribution Commissioners. I would suggest that the honourable member is getting a little wide of the clause. His remarks would most likely have been in order during the debate on the second reading of the Bill. I think they are somewhat out of order at the moment.

Mr WHAN - Thank you for your guidance, Mr Chairman. The matters contained in clause 3 show that the individual member has to diversify his activities in such a way that the amount of time that he is able to devote to these activities is determined by the number of individuals he has to represent. As I have said, I believe that this is a most important factor in determining the allocation of his time. I am suggesting that the matters contained in clause 3 give rise to the extra work that a member has to do and this work would be covered by the facilities I have mentioned. I believe that this approach to the problem of representation in this Parliament, as portrayed in this clause, is the only way in which a member can effectively discharge his responsibility and perform the functions for which he has been elected to this Parliament.

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