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Government Resourcing – Minor Parties and Independents

Extract from Hansard – Tuesday 9th November

MS A.S. CARLES (Fremantle) [3.34 pm]: On 31 May this year I wrote to the Premier seeking an additional staff member for my electorate office. This issue is about equality and fairness. All Independent members should be treated equally regardless of how they choose to vote. That is the big picture. My Fremantle constituents have the right to benefit from an appropriately resourced member of Parliament—an MP with access to the same resources accessed by other Independents in this place. My Fremantle constituents deserve no less than that. The benefit I sought was for my constituents.

I met with the Premier between 3.00 pm and 4.00 pm on 14 October. My understanding from my meeting with the Premier was that I would be able to have an additional staff member if I agreed to two conditions that are commonly sought from Independents. The first was that I would not block supply. I agreed to that because I abide by the unwritten convention of MPs to support the state budget so that essential services such as our hospitals and schools remain funded and so that our public servants continue to get paid.

The second was that I would not vote in favour of a no-confidence motion against the government. That does not mean that I cannot vote against individual ministers. It means that I cannot vote to bring the government down. I agreed to that condition because it is not my job as an Independent member to bring down an elected government. That is the role of voters if necessary. I understand the need for a government, whether it be a Liberal or a Labor government, to operate with stability.

Both of the conditions to which I agreed are consistent with my personal ethos, as I have explained. I did not see those conditions as giving up anything or trading resources for votes, which is what the opposition is calling it. Essentially, I was not trading anything. My understanding was that subject to those two conditions, which I would abide by regardless of any agreement or whatever party was in power, I would remain free to vote independently as I have always done. I remain free to vote against legislation and against ministers who need to be brought to account.

I refer to the issue of oral communication. When two people have a conversation, it is possible that they have different perceptions about what is said during that conversation. Indeed, people pay lawyers big money to write up written agreements so that everyone clear about what was agreed to. I have made my perception of that agreement clear. It appears that the Premier and I have different perceptions. It is possible for two people to walk out of a meeting with different perceptions and with a different understanding of what took place. We are all human; no-one is perfect. My meeting with the Premier was complicated by the calling of a division, which caused some fragmentation. It seems that a misunderstanding has taken place. It is within the realm of possibility that I misunderstood the agreement. If that is what has happened, I apologise to the Premier. It would have been prudent of me to write to the Premier immediately following the meeting to confirm my understanding of what we agreed to and to seek written confirmation of his understanding. I failed to do that. I failed to write to him and seek written confirmation. I admit when I am wrong. It would have been prudent of me to get the agreement in writing. I failed to do that.

A bit of the perspective is required. The opposition is trying to make a Watergate situation from the fact that I am trying to get equity for Independents in this Parliament. Let us not forget that after the last state election we witnessed the most cynical and expensive vote-buying exercise in WA’s political history when the Labor Party offered the Leader of the National Party a billion dollars to secure his vote. How many Labor MPs were privy to those meetings? I wonder how many would face imprisonment if they were pursued by the Corruption and Crime Commission. That is corruption.This is an issue about equity and equality. I conclude by saying that I will abstain from voting, given my interest in this matter.

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