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Meanwhile in Canberra, cross-benchers must get by with one senior staffer


Crossbenchers angry about their reduced staff numbers will still have the support they need during the next term or parliament, the prime minister says.

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Anthony Albanese told crossbench MPs and senators on Friday that the number of parliamentary staff they could hire would be cut from four to one senior adviser, alongside their four electoral office staff.

“They’re not totally on their own,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“They have access to the Parliamentary Library that we will be increasing support for, they have access to clerks that draft legislation in addition to personal staff.”

There had also been “misconceptions” about the job of electoral office staff, who often did parliamentary work, Mr Albanese said.

Independent ACT senator David Pocock accused the prime minister of making the decision to gain political advantage.

“Cutting back on our small teams creates an unfair playing field which disadvantages our communities and our capacity to actually advocate on their behalf,” Senator Pocock told ABC radio.

“It could be incredibly hard to actually be across legislation and if I don’t understand things it’s going to be very hard to actually vote on them.”

Yet all members of parliament worked hard and crossbenchers should not have an unfair allocation of more staff, Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said.

Under the previous coalition government, crossbench MPs and senators were allowed to have two advisers and two assistant advisers.

“Just because you’re employed under electorate arrangements doesn’t mean you don’t work in the parliament,” she told reporters on Monday.

“These are the stuff resources you have available and it’s simply not right to say, well, they only get stay in the electorate, and they don’t do any work in the parliament.”

Senator Gallagher said the government would save more than $1.5 million in its staffing allocations compared with the previous government through fewer staffing numbers overall as opposed to shifting resources away from crossbenchers.

The Greens will have the same number of staff allocated despite picking up three Senate seats and two lower house seats, and independents will be allocated four electorate staff and one additional allocation.

“This is recognition that (independents) deserve an extra resource to another MP who sits in parliament,” Senator Gallagher said.

“They get one additional personnel allocation and we believe that’s a fair and sustainable way forward.

“It goes back to the more traditional arrangements before we had staff numbers increased under the Turnbull-Morrison government.”

But crossbenchers were allowed two parliamentary staff under the Rudd-Gillard Labor government and Senator Pocock wants the prime minister to reconsider.

“I want to be constructive, to represent a community I love. I’m certainly not going to just vote against things to make a point, that’s not how I do things,” he said.

Monique Ryan, who won Kooyong from former treasurer Josh Frydenberg, said the extra resources were a recognition that independents had to review every bill on its merits and hand all media arrangements and other inquires “without the support of party apparatus”.

“This measure is an attack on the cross bench, on its ability to function effectively and independently, to improve legislation, and to hold the government to account,” she said in a Friday statement.

“After coming to power, Prime Minister Albanese stated that he wanted to work co-operatively with crossbench MPs to ensure they were able to contribute fully to the parliament’s deliberations and operations.

“It’s disappointing that the first act towards the cross bench is utterly at odds with that statement.”

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