Senators Jacqui Lambie, Tammy Tyrrell, David Pocock, Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts are deeply disappointed by the decision of the Prime Minister today to cut the personal staff of crossbench senators from four to just one.
Electorate staff allocations, which are not at the discretion of the Prime Minister, remain unchanged at four full-time equivalent staff.
Personal staff assist senators to research and examine legislation, help prepare private senators’ bills, support committee work and prepare for estimates hearings to hold governments to account, among other duties.
Senators Lambie, Tyrrell, Pocock, Hanson and Roberts say this decision represents a direct attack on democracy and will serve to only decrease scrutiny on legislation the government will be looking to pass in the coming term.
In a joint statement, the senators said: “This is also a direct attack on the people of Australia who decided to put their trust in independents and minor parties to represent them federally, by withdrawing the resources we need to advocate for them in the Parliament.
“Moreover, it flies in the face of earlier remarks from the Prime Minister that he was hoping for a more collaborative term of parliament, where members and senators from across party lines could come together to genuinely improve conditions for Australians.
“We reject comments that senators could draw on electorate staff to help with parliamentary duties. This takes away from the ability of senators to properly represent their communities and engage with people on issues in parliament.
“In the last parliamentary term, crossbench senators were required to scrutinise over 550 pieces of legislation. The Jenkins Review was clear that parliamentary offices are under-resourced and staff struggle to keep up with the significant workload.
“This cut will only further deteriorate conditions in parliament, and make it impossible for crossbench senators to carefully interrogate legislation, hold the government to account and ensure we are supporting laws that are in the best interests of our communities and our nation.
“This act, at the beginning of this new parliament and new government, has significantly damaged relationships with the crossbench. We urge the Prime Minister to reconsider his decision and restore existing staffing in the interests of supporting integrity and accountability in the Australian Parliament.”