Furious crossbench senators threaten to vote against Labor legislation after staff cuts


“If I don’t understand legislation and can’t get across it, if it’s complex or controversial, it’s going to be very hard to vote for the government’s legislation.”

The pair also raised concerns that the Jenkins review into the culture of Parliament House highlighted a lack of staff as something that had contributed to the poor workplace culture and the burn-out of staff. Both senators called for the cut to be reversed.

Pocock and Lambie’s warning follows a similar one from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, which said the default position would be for its two senators to vote against all government legislation.

The sole remaining crossbench senator Labor would be United Australia Party’s Ralph Babet.

The new lower house MPs, who are due to arrive in Canberra on Tuesday for orientation into the 47th parliament, are also furious about the move and working on a potential joint letter to the prime minister that would ask him to reverse the cut to advisers.

Sophie Scamps, Zoe Daniel, Monique Ryan, Allegra Spender and Kylea Tink all ousted Liberal men from parliament.Credit:Jessica Hromas, Penny Stephens, Luis Enrique Ascui, James Alcock, Getty Images

Former independent MP Tony Windsor said the move showed the government was “petrified” of crossbench MPs at the next election.

Goldstein MP Zoe Daniel said that if Albanese genuinely wanted better government, then “surely you enable the independent crossbench rather than nobbling it and drowning it in work”.

“This could backfire very badly for Labor.”

North Sydney MP Kylea Tink said the withdrawal of advisers would damage her ability to be an effective MP and was “really disappointing”.

“I am hopefully the word ‘propose’ [in the letter] means there is some wriggle room for staff to be increased, this is a 24/7 job for me and my staff,” she said.

“Unless there are staff in the Parliamentary Library… dedicated to North Sydney and I can go to them 24/7, I don’t think this cut is an appropriate move.”

Mackellar MP Sophie Scamps said the staff cuts “will present an enormous challenge for the crossbench to effectively undertake the work we are required to do in federal parliament” and that she would ask the prime minister to re-think the cut.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said she had had just two adviser-level staff in opposition and that “we’re all making cuts and savings”.

“I think it’s just over $1.5 million in relation to staffing our side of the chamber and we’re having to be sensible going forward. The budget’s in a terrible shape and we’re all having to tighten our belts,” she said.

Cutting the 12 lower house crossbenchers adviser allocation from 48 advisers to 15 (Rebekha Sharkie, Helen Haines and Bob Katter have been given two advisers because of their vast electorates) would cut the annual wages bill from $6,785,856 to $2,120,580 per year, a much larger saving than the $1.5 million Labor had made.

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Advisers play a crucial role in analysing draft legislation, working through amendments, meeting stakeholders and voters and dealing with the media.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard in 2010 allocated independent MPs one adviser, who earns up to a maximum of $141,372 per year. That was raised to three advisers under Malcolm Turnbull and then four under Scott Morrison.



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