Raising the BARR – Week ending 28 July 2017

Does a Parliament Recess Mean a Holiday for an MP?

I frequently get asked what an MP does when Parliament is not sitting.  And this is more so the case when something like a “winter recess” is called for Parliament.  All such enquiries are completely understandable.  To be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to answer these questions myself, prior to becoming an MP.

The first thing to understand is that Parliament generally sits in chunks of time.  The chunks generally line up with school terms.  In the middle of the year, our winter, Parliament takes a break, a recess, for 5 weeks.  At the end of the year, our summer time, Parliament generally takes a recess for about 8 weeks.  In April and October Parliament also takes a recess of 2-3 weeks for each.  You are probably now thinking, well when does Parliament work?  Good question.  In truth Parliament sits for about 22 weeks of the year, which is 22 of the remaining non-recess weeks of the year.

When Parliament is not sitting, the local MP is often back in the Electorate; the area and the people that they represent.  The days can be full of meetings with locals that have a concern or problem with the way that they are being treated by Government or with regard to something that the Government are doing that is not liked.  The time can also include going out on-site to visit a person, or a group, at the site of a problem that they are having or an idea that they have for a better future.  And of course, many people just need a bit of help in sorting through the complexity of various Government Departments.

The rest of the time in the Electorate is taken up by doing research and background work on the issues that people have raised, making representations on their behalf to various Ministers and Ministerial offices and of course following up when a Minister or their office does not respond.  In addition, there are the various forms of communication that people use to touch base with the local MP including phone, mail, email and social media.  I do my best to keep up with all of this, but it is not easy and I am not always 100% successful. None of us are perfect, right?

In general, my time in the Electorate, meeting and working with local residents, is the best part of the job.  I got into this line of work to try to help people and that is what my local work allows me to do – with some wins and some losses.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy the debate of Parliament; it’s just that it can be a bit surreal and removed from the real world and real people.  I can’t imagine a collection of life’s experiences and people better than that offered here in the Cessnock Electorate; from West Wallsend to Wollombi and from Branxton to Barnsley and from Pokolbin to Paxton and Putty and everywhere in between.