Health warning over MP working hours.


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30-10-2010 08:14 AM


ABC Canberra 666

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ABC Canberra 666


30-10-2010 08:14 AM



30-10-2010 08:54 AM

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2010-10-30 08:14:31

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JACKSON, Elizabeth




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Health warning over MP working hours. -

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Federal Liberal backbencher Mal Washer has spoken out over the long working hours Federal MPs. Dr
Washer, the only practicing medical doctor in the House of Representatives, says MPs are working
unsustainable hours and has warned more parliamentarians and their staff could turn to alcohol and
illicit drug use if their working hours aren't reduced.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: The only practising medical doctor in the House of Representatives has warned
more federal Parliamentarians could turn to alcohol and illicit drug use if their working hours
aren't reduced.

The Liberal backbencher Mal Washer says an increase in parliamentary sitting hours means federal
politicians are no longer productive because they're fatigued and irritable. He's warned of a
return to the old days where he says politicians were more likely to turn to the bottle or
something stronger.

Mal Washer spoke to the ABC's Andrew Greene.

MAL WASHER: What we're looking for in this country is productivity, and we've got one of the lowest
productivities in the OECD generally, I know there's reasons for that, but also we want
productivity in this House. Now, you don't get productivity by fatiguing people, stressing people,
depressing people and making anxiety happen. You know, you tend to drop off.

Now, we can get productivity gains by shorter speeches, more to the point speeches and more
functional people. And at the moment I've got people walking around with lots of respiratory
problems because their immune systems are being compromised, they're fatigued, they're not as sharp
as they would normally be.

And so we're creating to some level slight dysfunctionality in our politicians. Now, I want them
sharp. They're running the biggest business in this country, these people here.

ANDREW GREENE: You are a doctor; I think the only one in the house...

MAL WASHER: There is one more who can actually practice medicine. Right, we have doctors who don't
practice medicine, or medical doctors, and he's now in the UN for a three-month stint. So, it's me.

And so I see even the senators as well as local mob, and staff of course too. Now, when I'm adamant
about this hours are stupid and I've told the Labor Party categorically, and I've got a lot of
friends in the Labor Party, and the independents are my friends too; I find them nice people.

It's not that it's just us; it's our staff and the whole staff in this Parliament is caught up in
the mess, right. So even if I want to go and martyr myself on the cross, that's very nice, except
I'm taking everyone else with me.

And this again, we're going back to the bad days - the Howard years - when we were working crazy
hours and then people tend to use more drugs, like wine or alcohol, illicit drugs of course, and
health damages and the problems of travel and fatigue.

ANDREW GREENE: Under Kevin Rudd they talked about the Kevin 24/7 phenomenon. Now, this has sort of
continued in the hung parliament; these long hours. Are you hearing from your colleagues that
they're getting exhausted? There is a sense that they're...

MAL WASHER: Absolutely. Andrew, look, there's a lot of dismay about the fact that these hours have
degenerated again and I'm seeing a lot of tired people, a lot of irritable people. I mean you've
only got to come and look at the Question Time Thursdays because they're in their second week of
sitting and you'll see the irritability and irascibility of people. Well, that's not good and
that's not functional and constructive.

ANDREW GREENE: Are we getting the best out of our politicians in this...


ANDREW GREENE: ...hung parliament?

MAL WASHER: No, because you're not allowing them to be productive, which means that they've got to
be in good health, good emotional and physical shape and they need be not battle fatigued so to

ELIZABETH JACKSON: he Liberal backbencher Mal Washer speaking there to Andrew Greene.