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The Forum > General Discussion > Your local member

Your local member

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If your local member of federal parliament is only concerned with matters within his/her electorate, s/he should surely be a better local member than if s/he has a portfolio to administer, yes?

If the people of Griffith have Kevvie Rudd as their local member, sitting on the back bench and doing only local membery-type things, then he should be a much better local member than when he was PM or when he gets a ministry in the new Gillard government, you would think?

In fact, when he was PM, how could he realistically have had anything more than a tiny token input into local issues?

How can anyone in the ministry or shadow ministry or with some other important role in parliament possibly be a good local member?

Is it an important basic principle that people be able to communicate and work directly with their local member, and expect to be properly represented by them, rather than by their staff?

Isnít there a fundamental flaw in the system whereby local members can be taken completely or almost completely offline and given other duties that demand all or practically all of their attention?
Posted by Ludwig, Saturday, 24 July 2010 8:57:11 AM
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Ludwig
It depends on the person, many backbenchers are involved with parliamentary committees and the like, and many who do little else may still turn out to be dead losses especially in blue ribbon seats.

In some ways a PM electorate may get more attention than others as it is important in the Party system for a PM to retain his/her seat although this is influenced by the nature of the electorate and if, like Bennelong, demographics change over time which affect voting patterns.

I cannot see any other way a PM role could be organised. Electorate staff are capable of chasing up matters on behalf of a PM should they be absent. I would be more worried if Mr Rudd took up the post at the UN as a part-time job than holding a portfolio responsibility and electorate duties.
Posted by pelican, Saturday, 24 July 2010 1:51:50 PM
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Agreed Pelican.

There are a number of variables that seem to be more important than the actual workload or job of an elected local representative.

In fact, judging by the lack of response on this thread and by the general lack of comment about local membersí roles within our political commentariat, it would seem that there is very little concern at all, and that a local member who is committed to his electorate only is no better than one who is a minister or the PM, all else being equal.

So I wonder; is this lack of concern due to apathy, with most people just being disinterested in the performance of their local member at the local level, or is it due to performance at the local level having very little to do with the local memberís workload?

Probably a fair bit of both.

I think that it makes a mockery of one of the basic tenets of democracy Ė that local members are elected first and foremost to work for their local community.
Posted by Ludwig, Sunday, 25 July 2010 6:04:27 AM
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Ludwig says:

".., judging by the lack of response on this
thread and by the general lack of comment about
local membersí roles within our political commentariat,
it would seem that there is very little concern at all,
and that a local member who is committed to his
electorate only is no better than one who is a
minister or the PM, all else being equal."

Could that be because most of the 'politically aware' realize, however dimly, that the Constitution, on the face of it, has enshrined the erstwhile convention of responsible government, that convention whereby Ministers of the Crown are answerable to, and drawn from amongst the membership of, the Parliament?

I do trust that your use of the term 'political commentariat' refers to that of MainStreamMedia world and OLOArticleDom, not that of these erudite discussion threads, Ludwig. How am I going with anglicised German compound words, BTW?

Returning to article 1 of the memorandum.....

A courageous Governor-General or Administrator of the Commonwealth of Australia could go behind the face of the Constitution, and appoint whomsoever she (they are both currently female) will as Executive Councillors and Ministers of the Crown. The only rider to that is that of Section 64 of the Constitution, which specifies that:

"64.

.

.

After the first general election
no Minister of State shall hold office
for a longer period than three months
unless he is or becomes a senator or a
member of the House of Representatives."




Were I to be a fully empowered Deputy Governor-General enjoying Her Majesty's pleasure, I could turn that expectation right on its head! In the right exceptional circumstances I could draw from a pool of around, say, 1200 persons chosen by lot, and appoint sets of them for a three month stint of duty in the respective Ministries, then accept their resignations, give them each a day's leave, then re-appoint even those very persons to a different Ministry for another three months. I could go on doing that for the entire life of a Parliament, if in my judgment the circumstances warranted it.
Posted by Forrest Gumpp, Sunday, 25 July 2010 8:29:33 AM
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Ludwig,

You have spotted one of the weaknesses in the system.
My experience is that most members don't actually do that much for individuals as such, most of it is actually done by their local office staff.
Mort of their Parliamentary time is taken up, or should be with committee work, research and house time.

I'm of the opinion that often ministerial places are influenced, amongst other things, by this state/electorate.

I favour the executive ministers as being cleared from local duties and based in Canberra.
I am aware of that this would require us moving from the Westminster system which, I believe is outdated, broken, largely inefficient and more often counter productive. Then again, I don't agree with the adversary party (with their internecine undemocratic power groups) system either.

signed G Fawkes' understudy
Posted by examinator, Sunday, 25 July 2010 5:28:42 PM
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You might as well argue that because many politicians have to sacrifice home life through their travel and especially the attendances in Canberra, they should all be represented by proxies.

Actually if they were represented at home by proxies some of the spouses might regard that as equal rights given the 'comfort' services provided by the worshipping groupies (they wouldn't like that title) to pollies. It is a cold heartless place Canberra and pollie and journalist alike seek solace in things warm like Glenfiddich and something wiggly, although journos might always have to pay for both.

There is always the option for leaders to spread the work around and there is always an abundance of backbenchers with both arms the same length and bored looks on their dials. Some PMs have farmed out work to an extent, but there is more ego for the PM and ministers in keeping all of the eggs under the bum. That is especially so where a small executive of the 'IN' group is formed, as is usually the case.

In all seriousness, I have dealt with local members with and without portfolios and I reckon that all members, especially ministers, could do with advice on how to organise themselves and how to delegate. The judiciary is the same and courts would operate much better if judges had management training. It comes down to working smarter and prioritising everything. There are very, very good PAs who can make most managers look good and for senior pollies there are some gifted people available - but not from the party's limited gene pool though.

Apart from that, a PM or minister representing an electorate is a big swinging .... and there is no doubt that their electorates get superb value in representation from the important stuff that is sieved though to them.

Frankly the pollies aren't the problem. Think instead of an apathetic public. The opportunities are there but rarely taken up to take up their civic responsibilities and engage with their local community, including the local members, local, State and federal.
Posted by Cornflower, Sunday, 25 July 2010 8:09:07 PM
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