Shine spotlight on parliamentary slackers and shirkers

Senator Rex Patrick

Independent Senator Rex Patrick today announced his plan to press for greater transparency for the performance of Federal MPs and Senators so that voters can easily see how their parliamentarians work and what way they vote on important legislation and issues.

“Australians deserve to know precisely what their elected representatives do in Canberra,” Senator Patrick said. “Transparency and accountability are essential for democracy and we need to take steps to ensure that details of the parliamentary performance of MPs and Senators is easily accessible.”

“First and foremost MPs and Senators are elected to perform their duties as representatives in Parliament. Curiously, neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives provides easily accessible and authoritative data on the Parliamentary activities of Senators and MPs. While this information is contained in Hansard and other official records of both Houses, it is scattered, complex and difficult to access.”

“While this information can be compiled by experts at the Parliamentary Library, it is not readily available to members of the public. No doubt the big political parties prefer it that way because the statistics show that some MPs and Senators have a very relaxed work ethic, happy to take their $211k base salary while enjoying numerous absences from Parliament and barely participating in debates.”

“While some absences from Parliament are entirely legitimate, for health, family, or official purposes, it’s been apparent to me that there has been considerable slacking on the part of some MPs and Senators through the 46th Parliament.”

“If these politicians were in any other workplace they would be out the door quick smart.”

“There are many MPs who work very hard and seek to make a difference in our Federal Parliament. But there really are too many slackers who, once preselected by their party machine and elected, are happy to take the money and all of the generous entitlements while not putting in much effort at all.”

“This was, I should add, all too clear through the COVID-19 pandemic which some MPs appear to have treated as something of an extended vacation.”

“Accordingly, if elected to serve again in the Senate, I plan to press the President of the Senate to authorise the publication on the Australian Parliament’s website of a comprehensive and up-to-date compilation of parliamentary statistics and information for all Senators.”

“Such an authoritative database should cover attendance, absences with or without approved leave, speeches and other contributions to debate, questions asked with and without notice, votes for and against legislation, motions and procedural matters, participation in Senate Committees including Estimates hearings.”

“Voters, the media and other researchers should be able to access the Parliamentary record of a Senator or MP at the touch of a button, and should be able to compare the parliamentary votes and actions of individuals and parties with ease using an authoritative and impartial source of information.”

“It is an embarrassment that all this information is not already readily available and updated on a daily basis. If the Senate can be required to improve access to information for the benefit of the public and the media, the House of Representatives should follow.”

“This is one part of a broader and much needed package of Parliamentary reforms that I will seek to champion in the 47th Parliament.”

“If the statistics reveal a pattern of unjustified absenteeism from Parliamentary sittings over a year, say more than 5 sitting days without a legitimate explanation provided to the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the President of the Senate, it should be open to the relevant presiding officer to impose a pecuniary penalty on the MPs or Senator equivalent to salary for those days. “

“It is said that sunlight is the best form of detergent, and shining a light on individual parliamentary performance is an important part of improving the accountability of MPs and Senators. Voters will be able to see whether they are getting value for money. Over time it may well help to weed out some of the shirkers and slackers, and that can only be a good thing.”

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