Threats of retaliation have not stopped the government from moving forward with plans to cut the staff of crossbench MPs and senators.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese advised the independents of the changes via a letter on Friday, slashing additional crossbench advisers from four down to just one.
The decision prompted fury from the independents across the parliament who have threatened to block government bills unless the change is reversed.
But Treasurer Jim Chalmers stood by the call on Sunday.
“It’s not surprising that members of parliament want to have more resources to help them do their job,” he said on ABC’s Insiders.
“What we’ve recognised with the crossbench, is that there are some additional pressures on crossbench members. That’s why they get extra staff resources.
“But 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.
“That’s what this commonsense proposal reflects.”
Each MP and senator receives four staff who are predominantly located in their electorate office, and mostly deal with constituent matters.
But the allocation of additional advisers for crossbenchers crept in during the Coalition’s nine years in government to four, as a sweetener to crossbench MPs.
Independent Kooyong MP Monique Ryan said the decision to wind back staff was a “mistake”.
“If (Mr Albanese) really does want to work collaboratively with us, it’s inexplicable that the PM’s first act of engagement with the new crossbench is to attack our ability to work independently,” she tweeted.
New ACT Senator David Pocock agreed, insisting it was “bad for democracy and transparency”.
“This decision is hypocritical and a double-standard that actively disadvantages community-backed independents while preserving the status quo for the major parties.”
But Education Minister Jason Clare said the decision was “pretty fair” given government staff had been cut by $1.5m, and opposition staff by $350,000.
“Well, if you’re a Labor MP or a Liberal MP or a National, you get four staff, and if you’re a Green or if you’re a crossbench MP you get eight, that seems to me a bit out of whack,” he said on Sky News.
“What Albo is saying here is that if you’re a crossbench MP, you’ll get an extra member of staff above and beyond what a Labor or Liberal or … a Nat MP will get and we’ll put extra resources into the parliamentary library.”
Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said Mr Clare had a “rather unsympathetic view” of the crossbench concerns.
“I do understand, it’s a pretty high workload.”
Labor has a majority in the lower house but will require the support of the Coalition or the Greens and one crossbench senator to pass legislation.
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