The decisions I make in the Senate matter, and I trust my staff to guide me through them | Jacqui Lambie

The leader of the worker’s party has decided to sack three of the four people who work for me. He’s done it with no consultation, no negotiation, no notice it was coming, and no opportunity to appeal.

You might think: if you’re good at the job, you shouldn’t need a team around you that big.

But that’s not how this works. I’m not an economist. I’m not a lawyer. I’m a regular person who occasionally decides whether a government’s idea should become law.

When deciding whether a bill should pass, my staff takes the daily calls from industry groups and community organizations and work directly with the people affected by a change.

They weigh the arguments for and against what the government wants to do and help me figure out who to believe.

Jacqui Lambie

It’s a huge job.

Take an example. When the Morrison government wanted to ban mobile phones in detention centers, my staff set up a survey to ask people what they thought.

They read and summarized the 90,000 responses and explained the points people made to me. Hundreds of thousands of words, tens of thousands of emails and submissions – and a handful of staff to get through it all. Ultimately, that survey convinced me to say no to the laws.

The prime minister says I should use the Parliamentary Library instead. But it’s apples and oranges.

The people who work in the Parliamentary Library aren’t working with me from daybreak to dinner. You can’t take them into the Senate chamber if you’re going through bills and amendments on the fly.

If I go to them for help assessing what a bill means for Tasmania, they have no idea because none of them spend any time there.

Australia weekend

They’re supposed to give the same advice to everyone. My office, which is in Burnie, will get the same advice as Zoe Daniel’s office, which represents Brighton. Independents get the same feedback from the Library as the Liberal party, the Nationals, and the Greens. It’s just not the same as having your staff.

It’s about more than knowing what the bills do, though. At a basic, human level, I need people to talk to when I’m stuck.

The decisions I make every day in the Senate matter. Every single one is my own. I don’t have a party to tell me what to do. I don’t have the full force of the public service behind me to back up my decision.

I trust my staff to guide me through the choices that weigh on my conscience and heart.

My team they do that all the time. When the last government wanted to give religious schools the power to kick out gay kids – that’s not the kind of decision that can be answered by knowing what the black-and-white laws do or not.

It’s a moral choice. It’s a question of weighing up different people’s rights. It’s a question about what our society should look like. What we value.

When my little team and I (with senator-elect Tammy as our then-office manager) sat down to talk it through, we didn’t agree on the right answer.

Thanks to that conversation, I knew I couldn’t agree with what the government wanted to do. All of us came at it from different angles, with different experiences. But we respect each other, and we trust each other.

I hire people who are smart but also who are decent. I need to trust them. To value their experience. To know they’re coming to work every day for the same reasons I do – to do right by the country.

I do that because I’m not an expert on everything. Nobody is. Not even the PM.

That’s why his government has around 500 staff. And why he’s not cutting a single one?

Senator Jacqui Lambie is an independent senator for Tasmania.

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.