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WHIPS IN SMALL PARLIAMENTS


THE ROLE OF THE WHIP IN A SMALL PARLIAMENT


Whips are often resented for enforcing party discipline and requiring Members to be present in the Chamber when they would prefer to be working elsewhere. But, counters an Australian Capital Territory Whip, in small Parliaments they are essential not just to the smooth operation of Parliament but also to the ongoing effectiveness of Parliamentarians as individuals facing seemingly insurmountable political, professional and personal challenges.


Mr John Hargreaves, MLA, in Canberra. Mr Hargreaves has been an Australian Labor Party Member of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly since 1998. He entered the Assembly after a career in the public service and has served as a Government Whip and has held several ministerial posts.


In 2010 there was an inaugural meeting of the Commonwealth Whips Network initiated by Mr Alex Somlyay, MP, and Mr Roger Price, MP, both Whips from the Parliament of Australia, sponsored by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and attended by Whips or their equivalents from a range of Commonwealth jurisdictions. I attended for the Australian Capital Territory (A.C.T.) Legislative Assembly. This meeting discussed the


operations of the various Parliaments and included large Parliaments such as the United Kingdom, medium- sized Parliaments such as New Zealand and small Parliaments such as Bermuda. We drilled down into the


operations of the Parliaments and distilled a series of imperatives to be addressed by Whips or their equivalents in their Parliaments. We identified common themes and common deficiencies. This coming- together by experienced and newly


178 | The Parliamentarian | 2012: Issue Three


Mr John Hargreaves, MLA.


elected Parliamentarians was a most useful exercise and those present expressed a desire that more such gatherings occur in the future. The purpose of this paper


is to describe the duties and responsibilities of a Government Whip in a small Parliament. It covers such matters as the formal processes of Parliament, the need for dialogue between the elements of the Parliament and the responsibilities Whips should carry regarding pastoral


care of their colleagues, be they executive or non-executive Members. Whilst it is different in some Parliaments where Whips can be cabinet Members or Managers of Government Business, or where some Ministers can also be Whips, in most small Parliaments such as the A.C.T. Legislative Assembly the Government Whip is principally concerned with non-executive business. This is to say that the processes of interest to Whips centre on private Members’ business. The processes of Parliament


which come within the spectrum of a Government Whip’s duties concern parliamentary business, parliamentary precinct business and pastoral care for Members. In examining these three facets, a role definition emerges; but as with any organizational system, roles are evolving ones changing with time, technology, environment and political imperative. The following would describe the essentials applicable in a small


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