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Wednesday, 26 September 1973
Page: 1578

Mr BENNETT (Swan) - In speaking to the Estimates we must pay tribute to the present Leader of the House (Mr Daly). I hear some laughter from the Opposition.

Mr England - You will get an extension of time.

Mr BENNETT - Yes, I thought I might. I thought the laughter was coming from members who were not in the last Parliament, but apparently it is coming from honourable members who should know better. We must pay a tribute to the Leader of the House for the hours that have been worked in this Parliament, even though they are spread over a longer period. However the developing committee systems, both Party and parliamentary, also add to the time that a member spends away from bis electorate. In fact one would feel that they could so develop that honourable members would spend so much time in Canberra that they would forget to go home to their electorate and be re-elected. The only thing that could be said for such a system perhaps is that new blood would constantly be coming into the Parliament bringing with it fresh ideas, but then again the knowledge gained over a long period by the parliamentarians in their familiarisation and research into subjects would be lost. If the excellent committee system is to develop in a proper sense honourable members will have to have more facilities available to them. The present Leader of the House has contributed more to the j efficient working of the private member than has any other Leader of the House to date. However, for a private member to keep in contact with the people and offer service to the people who elected him to be their representative with the assistance of one staff member is impossible for any member who is intent on doing his job. He must fall behind in some aspect of his work.

Tribute has been paid already to the wives of members, who on their husband's election suddenly find they have to become a second or shadow member in the electorate and are expected to know all and be part of it all. When one considers the size of some federal electorates, such as my own, containing up to 6 or more State seats, one can see the multiplicity of work involved, particularly with the national Government's continuing involvement in further areas of local administration.

Mr Martin - Are you talking about your wife?

Mr BENNETT - Yes, I was talking about my wife, who does an excellent job.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! I would prefer it if the honourable gentleman would talk about Parliament, which is the matter under discussion.

Mr BENNETT - With the Government's direct involvement in the operations of local councils it is essential that service is able to be offered, that the national representative is able fully and correctly to be informed and that an avenue for obtaining information is readily available to the electorate itself. So often one hears the complaint that members cannot be found, that they are always in Canberra where they .are elected to go. It is up to this Parliament to ensure that a system is evolved whereby members or their representatives are available to the populace.

Some references have been made to matters not being brought before the Parliament. One could say that so much has been happening so quickly that it is not possible to have all matters brought here. But to date the Standing Orders Committee of the Parliament has not brought down any recommendations on this matter, nor in fact am I aware that this Committee has discussed this subject. If the Parliament or any aspect of it is not functioning it is up to the Parliament, through its properly established committees, to solve these issues. It is not a proper course to make a political slanging match of the question, because such an exercise would reflect on the Parliament itself, as it would on a Party which, if it is not functioning properly, should discuss and solve its problems within its own confines. But this is an area which no doubt will have to be looked at by the Standing Orders Committee, seeing that there has been so much comment about it.

No mention has been made of how difficult it is for a backbench member to get the call to ask a question. The system of allowing the Leaders of parties unlimited questions leaves too much in the trust of front bench members. When a leader is questioning a Minister and he feels that he is gaining capital from it, his consideration for the beckbencher is completely lost. It is up to the Standing Orders Committee to look at this matter again. I understand that it was looked at during the last Government's administration. The then members on the Government side, who are now in opposition, rejected a proposition to allow backbenchers more questions. Now that they have experienced the problem they understand what it is.

Some reference has been made to the need to replace Parliament House. When speaking about Parliament House we as members very often look at the question of our own facilities. Unfortunately my office is directly opposite the cafeteria, and every time I walk out of my office and see the staff standing in a queue in the cafeteria I feel ashamed of the fact that they are put to such disadvantage when I can go and enjoy myself reasonably well in a well staffed dining room. I feel that one of the things we have to look at is the facilities of the staff of the Parliament before we look at anything else. Quite frankly I am surprised that we do not have industrial problems. Perhaps it is because we have such a high turnover of staff who do the menial work. I feel that this is one area that must be looked at. I ask the Leader of the House to make sure that this matter is looked at. Perhaps he may be able to work out a system whereby there is permanency of employment in the lower echelons of the staff, because if the Parliament is to function for more hours and function efficiently everybody who works for the Parliament should be able to do so in comparatively pleasant surroundings.

I have often been ashamed when I have gone out to get a car at night to find the transport staff standing around in the rain holding umbrellas for members of Parliament. No thought is given to their convenience. On the way home, driving past the Russian Embassy I find that the police who are guarding the Russian Embassy are better looked after and better protected from the inclement weather than they are around the Parliament itself. I feel that it is about time we started to look at the Parliament as a Parliament and as a functioning place rather than as a secondary consideration. Our first consideration has always been for facilities for the members, but I think we have to give consideration to the staff. I ask the Leader of the House to consider this question when he is replying. I will not take any more time of the Committee as

I understand that other members want to speak on these estimates.

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