Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Federal MPs Busy Toeing Party Line at Votes in Canberra

Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Federal MPs Busy Toeing Party Line at Votes in Canberra

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel Burdon APN Newsdesk

VOTING RECORDS: WHAT THEY MEAN

VOTING attendance records may not be a reliable indicator of the quality of politicians, but they do show a "measure of commitment", Griffith University political expert Dr Paul Williams says.

Dr Williams said it was "very rare" that any MP, especially backbenchers without a ministerial role, would miss many votes, but there were legitimate reasons for doing so.

He said MPs could have committee meetings for inquiries they were undertaking, have a ministerial position with greater responsibility, or be "paired" - the practice of not voting when someone on the opposite benches was absent, to ensure numbers were even in the House.

But he said some MPs, like Bob Katter or Clive Palmer, have argued against attending every vote, on the grounds they "get more work done" outside the chamber, or as Mr Palmer has argued, he exercises more power through Palmer United Party positions in the Senate.

With the vast majority of MPs rarely if ever crossing the floor, Dr Williams said "party discipline" was much stronger in Australian political culture than in the United States or United Kingdom, where crossing the floor was much more common.

"There is a tight sense of party unity in both major parties. It's a culture of 'disunity is death', and voters are really electing a party to government, rather than a local MP," he said.

"But there are also very pragmatic reasons not to cross the floor - most backbenchers want to eventually be a minister, or want to climb up the ladder, and voting against the party line can be seen as a betrayal of the party and affect their future promotions."

But Dr Williams also said if MPs were passionate about a specific issue or policy, they were more likely to raise it within their faction or voting bloc, before bringing it to a party or caucus meeting, rather than publicly crossing the floor.

- DANIEL BURDON

VOTERS on the North Coast can rest assured their local federal politicians are attending their fair share of votes in Canberra, but how they vote is a different story.

Voting records on online political database www. …

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