Fury over Albanese decision to slash crossbench staff

By Chris Johnson

June 27, 2022

Anthony Albanese
Anthony Albanese and partner Jodie Haydon boarded the plane to Europe for a Nato Leaders’ Summit, on Sunday. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Minor party and independent MPs remain furious over Anthony Albanese’s slashing of their staffing allocations, which they say will severely damage relations between the government and the crossbench.

The prime minister wrote to crossbench MPs and senators on Friday advising that staffing allocations had been reviewed and that the independents would only be able to employ one parliamentary adviser.

“I propose to allocate you one additional full-time staff member at the adviser classification, in addition to your four electorate staff,” he said.

Under the government of Scott Morrison, the independents had four parliamentary staff each — two advisers and two assistant advisers — in addition to their four electorate staff.

Staffing levels are reviewed with each new parliament and allocations remain at the discretion of the prime minister of the day.

Rubbing salt into the wound, Albanese told the independents he would increase resources to parliament’s library to help make up for the staff reduction. 

“My government intends to increase resourcing to the parliamentary library to reflect the support role that it plays to parliamentarians, particularly those on the crossbench,” the PM said.

But the MPs are outraged, with many threatening to withhold cooperation with the government over its legislative agenda.

Labor has a majority in the house of representatives but will need the support of the Greens and at least one independent crossbencher in the senate over any legislation the Coalition will oppose.

“This act, at the beginning of this new parliament and new government, has significantly damaged relationships with the crossbench,” a joint statement from senate crossbenchers Jacqui Lambie, David Pocock, Tammy Tyrrell, Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts said.

“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.”

Lower house independents have also expressed their disgust at the move, conducting interviews and issuing numerous social media statements about it all weekend.

“After coming to power, Prime Minister Albanese stated that he wanted to work cooperatively with crossbench MPs to ensure they were able to contribute fully to the parliament’s deliberations and operations,” Member for Kooyong Monique Ryan said.

“It’s disappointing that his first act towards the crossbench is utterly at odds with that statement.”

Member for Warringah Zali Steggall described the decision as a “damning display of poor judgement” and said Morrison had treated the independents with more respect than Albanese is.

But the prime minister defended his decision, suggesting it was the electorate offices where the MPs should have most of their staff.

“We have one vote, one value in this country,” Albanese told reporters on Sunday before leaving for Europe.

“And it shouldn’t be the case that if you live in an electorate that’s not served by a major party, you simply don’t have the same level of support in an electorate office.”  

Earlier on Sunday, treasurer Jim Chalmers also defended the move.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable or fair for one backbench MP in one electorate to get twice as many staff as a backbench MP in the electorate next door,” he told ABC’s Insiders program.

“They get an extra, quite senior staffer, which other backbenchers don’t get and that’s in recognition of that.”

But with the crossbench insisting they will not be able to properly scrutinise legislation or have any time to propose their own with only one staff member, their default position will be to oppose the government.

This has led to a hint of concession from the government, with finance minister Katy Gallagher saying on Monday morning that “ongoing and constructive engagement” was underway with the independents over the issue while the PM is overseas.


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