SUBJECTS: Political Retirements, The Senate, By-Elections.

GREG JENNETT: With the retirements that we know about already the ranks of Labor MPs with actual experience in Government are clearly shrinking, Kim Carr will soon be the longest serving member of the Senate and he has seen a lot of turnover in the upper house in recent years and he reckons too much for the Senate’s own good.

Kim Carr welcome to National Wrap. A bits happened this week in your own party in particular.  We have seen Jenny Macklin announce her intention to leave at the next election, Michael Danby too. This is significant turn over and a reminder perhaps for political mortality for all of you.

SENATOR KIM CARR: Well the average duration age of politician’s contribution in the Australian Parliament is about seven years. So for a member of parliament to serve for twenty is unusual in the modern period, both members have contributed a great deal to the Parliament,  to their electorates,  they have both made the point that it is a great honour to serve and it’s a proposition I think that can’t be said often enough. People don’t really appreciate the great capacity there is to make a contribution through parliamentary process and both of them have made remarkable efforts in that regard.

JENNETT:  Michael Danby a career backbencher, not so Jenny Macklin. In fact if a Shorten Government is to be elected there will be a dwindling band of people who were around with Government experience. So how do you feel about this balance between renewal and in government experience?

CARR: Well it is a problem; you have got to make sure that there is a proper balance. The best governments are the ones that keep the balance in order. Sir Humphry Appleby made the point in the Yes Minister series just when the politician gets to know something they move them on. So you do have this pattern and I have seen it in my own direct experience when I look around the room and I think to myself that my knowledge of the field might actually me stronger than the people in this room because there is so much turn over in the public service. So it is a problem with the Australian political system that there is such a rapid turnover both in terms of public service as well as the elected members of the parliament.     

JENNETT: Let’s talk about that, in the chamber that you sit in – the Senate – it has had enormous turnover and it’s going to have some more quite clearly at the next election. News actually came through this week about two LNP Senators – Ian Macdonald being the very much long serving – what’s the next affect when it comes to managing parliamentary business when experience turns over so quickly?    

CARR: In this Parliament I think it’s close on twenty five per cent of the Senators have been moved on.  That means that the level of experience is diminished,  it means that a government can more easily manipulate the agenda,  can more quickly pull the wool over the eyes,  particularly when you have got a large cross bench.

JENNETT: And do you think that you are seeing that?

CARR: Oh yes, absolutely. We saw that in the last parliamentary sitting period where the government was able to move procedural measures which we rarely see. Namely for instance on a message between the House and the Senate and in all my time I don’t recall there being a guillotine on a message…     

JENNETT: This is on personal income tax.

CARR: On the taxation issues, when the House put’s a view and the Senate puts a different view - that is a matter that we have always discussed. On this occasion because of the large turnover of Senators that government was able to secure a guillotine where there was no debate.  

JENNETT: But it think when Labor has the numbers with the Greens at a period in time, it’s often cited I think the number was 40, not adverse to the use of guillotines in certain circumstances.

CARR: But not on the message. 

JENNETT: Some turnover is of course inevitable in politics, we have got a set of by-elections at large at the moment.  What sort of message would it send if Labor were to lose on or even two, which is being tipped?

CARR: The High Court has changed the rules in regard to the citizenship matters,  the very best legal advice was available to us as the situation has emerged where by the rules have changed. I’m of the view that we should not prejudge the outcome three weeks before, that’s the first point I would make to you. The second is that the prospects of the public taking  the view that they made the right call to begin with is more than likely.

JENNETT:  So you actually think they will be a little forgiving? Because there is a view out there that they are angry about being held out 

CARR:  That’s a press view, not necessarily an electorate view.  I think there is always a big gap between what is said in the Gallery here and what the public at large thinks about these sorts of questions. But to take up the point directly, even if the Labor Party isn’t able to secure the sorts of results that I would like them to secure, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there would be any instability in the Labor Party leadership. We are very determined to take a far reaching agenda to the Australian people to an election which I think is very close, the federal election is very close, and I have every expectation that we will be highly competitive at that election under the leadership of Bill Shorten.   

JENNETT:  Between now and then sits a winter break, Kim Carr thanks for joining us.   

CARR:  Thanks you.


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