Their new role is a difficult one. Despite parliamentary training to get them across procedures, they’ve faced an uphill battle, from culture shock at the way fellow politicians speak and interact with one another, the lack of a code of conduct for parliamentarians, having their staffing levels slashed, and issues with getting questions asked and answered during question time.
“There’s no place anywhere else in this country that you would be in a meeting and have people yelling at each other across the front of you while you’re trying to talk,” North Sydney member Kylea Tink told Crikey. “It’s a really intense environment.”
The crossbench has also faced questions on transparency. Tink was questioned over her shareholdings in two fossil fuel companies, Viva Energy and Beach Petroleum; Mackellar’s Dr Sophie Scamps over assets in a family trust; and in February Warringa member Zali Steggall admitted $100,000 in donations from a coal investor was incorrectly recorded (which has since been corrected).
The level of scrutiny and attention that came with the controversy was a bit of a shock for Tink. “I wasn’t prepared for the complete loss of anonymity when I came into this role,” she told Crikey. Around $6000 of shares, she added, were purchased in April — before she entered the political race. Since the investments were revealed, Tink has claimed she was planning to use them to attend annual general meetings as a shareholder activist. The shares have since been divested, she said, with the small profits donated to climate advocacy group Market Forces.
“I’m just a person and I am going to do things that will disappoint people,” she said. “One of the things I think is missing in our political environment generally in Australia is the capacity for us to grow … From my perspective, I’ve undertaken to be transparent.”
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