Greens MPs say extra resources fall short of a fighting fund

The Remuneration Tribunal has ruled Queensland cross benchers are entitled to more resources – the equivalent of half a staff member each.

Mar 02, 2021, updated Mar 02, 2021
Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

The independent tribunal took submissions from the seven cross benchers and the Clerk of Parliament, Neil Laurie, before deciding on the additional staffing allocation.

The Greens will now be able to hire an additional staff member to help specifically with parliament work, Katter’s Australian Party will be able to hire one and a half full-time equivalent staff, while One Nation and Noosa independent Sandy Bolton will get to hire half a staff member each.

In its decision, the tribunal noted that the government and opposition received additional staff to do parliamentary work, but such arrangements for cross benchers were “ad hoc” and favoured periods where they held the balance of power.

A parliamentary committee found Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk guilty of contempt for threatening to take away KAP resources.

“Cross bench members need to review and scrutinise legislation from both the government and opposition, attend to committee business and work to keep the government accountable, while also undertaking their constituency and party-political functions,” the tribunal ruled.

“These roles are largely undertaken by the individual members with limited ability to distribute parliamentary and policy workload amongst other political party members.”

Greens MP Michael Berkman, who has been joined in parliament by new South Brisbane MP Amy MacMahon this term, said the major parties had been able to avoid scrutiny for a long time.

“As Queensland Greens MPs we represent both our electorates and the 271,000-plus people who voted Greens in the last State election but who have no other voice in Parliament,” Berkman said.

“The Greens are often the only party opposing the Government on issues like punitive youth justice reforms, new coal and gas support, or Labor’s anti-protest laws.

“The Tribunal’s decision to allocate only a shoestring budget to this work weakens our democracy. Half of one full time staff member per cross bench MP falls short of other States, and makes it harder to hold the government to account, especially in Queensland where we don’t get the scrutiny and proportional representation of an upper house.”

The decision came after Treasurer Cameron Dick declared he would spend more money on the parliament precinct before he gave more money to politicians.

The parliamentary annex has had issues with a crumbling concrete façade, malfunctioning air conditioning and unusable waterworks, made worse by a lightning strike.

“I make it very clear that the government will spend public money to ensure the building is safe and that people who live and work here are kept safe, but the priority of the government is the economic recovery of Queensland,” Dick told parliament.

“My comments are perfectly relevant because the priority of the government will not be spending money on politicians.”

The new staff for cross bench MPs, and flow-on expenses, will cost the government about half a million dollars each year.


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