FEDERAL Parliament needs modernising because of the toll it takes on MPs from remote areas says Melissa Parke.
The Fremantle MP says the time she has to spend away from family played a major role in her decision to retire at the next election, which she announced last Friday.
“There is absolutely no leeway for people from WA and other remote areas like the Northern Territory,” Ms Parke told the Herald.
The former international development minister recently married Perth businessman Warwick Hemsley and admits he’s given her grief about Parliament’s pull.
“Warwick’s always saying ‘why can’t they do some of this stuff by teleconference’,” Ms Parke said.
She reckons they could, but overhauling Parliament’s entrenched bureaucracy could consume an MP’s entire career with no guarantee of success. She says it could lead to better representation in the chamber, particularly for women.
“Look at WA — all the women MPs in WA have no kids, or have grown children in Alannah (MacTiernan’s) case.
“You just couldn’t do the job with children.”
Ms Parke said modernisation could also make huge savings from initiatives like electronic polling which would mean the end of rooms full of people paid to sit and count every single vote.
She says question time is also often a time-waster and needs a rethink.
Ms Parke admits she’s received a flood of correspondence from “disappointed but understanding” voters who’d hoped she’d be a career politician rather than pulling out just shy of her 50th birthday.
But she says after nine years crossing the country and eight years working with the UN before that, she’s done her public service. She’s also planning to keep involved with causes she’s been passionate about in the past, although there’s no decision on what to do next.
Ms Parke counts bringing Labor around to supporting a Palestinian state and recognising animal welfare — particularly in terms of live export — as personal highlights.
She says it was often a lonely ride speaking out on issues such as asylum seekers, and she was disappointed to see the agency she’d worked with as international development minister dismantled under the Abbott government and aid programs slashed.
Ms Parke has thrown her support behind staffer Josh Wilson to win Labor preselection for Fremantle.
She says the Fremantle deputy mayor has a strong local profile and being part of the “broad left” maintains the party’s factional balance. The Herald understands her predecessor Carmen Lawrence, who Cr Wilson also worked under, is also a supporter.
Cr Wilson confirmed to the Herald he’ll be putting his hand up.
“I intend to seek Labor preselection after speaking to many local Labor members in recent days and being encouraged by their support,” Cr Wilson told the Herald.
by STEVE GRANT