Expansion of House of Assembly Bill 2022 (No 47)
Thursday 17 November 2022, Second reading speech
Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, it is important in this place to be circumspect about our comments on the happenings in the other place. However, we are mandated to express the views of our electorates and Tasmanians do have opinions on this policy, and many of them are held quite strongly. I must admit, I have not heard from too many in my electorate one way or the other about this.
Ms Forrest - You will after it happens.
Ms ARMITAGE - I probably will, after it happens. However, the comments that this place, at the moment, is not as independent as it have been in the past, does not mean it will not be more independent in the future. Things change; numbers change.
Ms Rattray - There were 11 independents here, at one stage.
Ms ARMITAGE - That is right; it does change and go up and down. I cannot agree with a unicameral parliament, as in Queensland. I am not sure that Queensland works all that well. I Googled about the advantages and the disadvantages of unicameral parliaments and it said:
A major advantage of a unicameral system is that laws can pass more efficiently. A unicameral system may be able to pass legislation too easily, however, and a proposed law that the ruling class supports may be passed even if the majority of citizens do not support it.
A bicameral legislature is more accountable to the electorate than a unicameral legislature because the bicameral legislative process is more open to public view.
I would certainly agree with that.
Essentially, we need a parliamentary system which works, which is fit for purpose, adequately represents the interests of the Tasmanians it serves, is meaningfully able to make legislative change and carry out executive functions, and is able to administer public functions effectively.
Tasmanians deserve good governance and responsible and accountable public officials. Will an additional 10 seats in the other place enable this? Should it be five seats? There was a committee that had their findings. I was not part of that committee. I have read the report and, as we all know, the committee process can be quite robust.
There is merit to the notion that a greater number of members will result in constituents having better access to the elected representatives and a fairer spread of workload amongst ministers. It does give the parliament a greater pool of talent from which to draw, but you look at the number of portfolios and are there too many? Has it been split too wide? In the past, there were fewer ministries. Has it been divided up too much? These are all questions I cannot answer.
It should be considered, what additional resources will be needed to facilitate an additional 10 members. This will require funds for 10 additional officers, additional staff, additional support and resources to keep everything running smoothly. We cannot put a price on a properly funded parliament, but I am conscious of the resources that will be needed to carry out this expansion.
I agree with other members, it would have been good to have had an accurate estimate of the actual cost of these increases. As the member for McIntyre said, having heard in briefings this morning that work needed to be undertaken in the other House to accommodate 35 members, we did have a bit of a look and a count of the number of seats there and saw 17 on each side. Hard to imagine what work needs to be undertaken to accommodate 35 members because 35 people could it in there quite comfortably as it is. I am not sure what the work is to be undertaken and these are questions that would have been nice to have been able to be answered in briefings.
I am not going to oppose this bill because they have had a committee and made their decision downstairs and I am quite comfortable with the number we have in this House
Ms Rattray - It was not a committee of the parliament, it was a committee of the House of Assembly.
Ms ARMITAGE - That is true. It would have been good to have had a joint House committee. One of the concerns I have, is when we have briefings it would be nice to have all the information for questions that are asked. Not all the information was available and I have to agree with the member for Murchison that many of the questions could not be answered. That was unfortunate, particularly to do with costs, it went back to 2019. It would have been nice to have had some current costs and up-to-date answers. I am a bit surprised to have briefings and to not actually have all the answers we needed.
I will not oppose the bill before us, but it would have been good to have had more information in the briefings.