ALP member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann advocated for her local electorate 164 times during the parliamentary term, more than any other politician.
Honouring the contribution of the Jennings Germans to the Canberra community, complaining about a telecommunications outage and expressing concerns about the use of the drug ice within her electorate were some of the instances in which Brodtmann plugged her local community or advocated for their needs.
Bond University students reporting for UniPollWatch analysed almost 20,000 speeches made in Parliament across the majority of the current term of government—from the first sitting day (November 12, 2013) until the beginning of 2016.
Local (electorate-specific) issues were usually raised in one of two ways in parliamentary speeches: as ‘Statements by Members’ or as ‘Constituency Statements’. Candidates’ local advocacy was assessed by tallying the number of speeches made in these categories.
Other MPs who ranked in the top 10 for local advocacy were: Lisa Chesters (Bendigo), Cathy McGowan (Indi), Joanne Ryan (Lalor), Jill Hall (Shortland), Sharon Claydon (Newcastle), Andrew Giles (Scullin), Melissa Parke (Fremantle) and Jane Prentice (Ryan).
Across the House of Representatives, MPs had a mean of 37 local advocacy speeches.
Although all but one of the top 10 local advocates were ALP party members (McGowan is an independent), when considering the entire cohort of politicians there was no significant difference in the way the two major parties performed in this category.
However, analysis of data did reveal a gender difference. Female MPs (with a mean of 58.33 local issues speeches) were more likely to speak about electorate issues than male MPs (with a mean of 32.42 local issues speeches).
Politicians from rural or provincial electorates were also more likely to advocate for their electorate than metropolitan MPs (a mean of 42 speeches, versus the metropolitan mean of 37).
Local advocates were also more likely to be politically inexperienced (they had served less terms in government), were more active on committees and were absent less often.
Across all categories of speeches (on legislative matters, local issues, social and moral issues, and their ministerial portfolios), MPs gave an average of 140.71 speeches throughout the term.
Bronwyn Bishop spoke on 95 ‘Matters of Public Importance’, more than any other politician, and gave the highest number of speeches overall—undoubtedly connected to her former role as Speaker.
Other vocal MPs in the Matters of Public Importance category were: the Liberal Party’s Tony Smith, Labor’s Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen, Terri Butler, Pat Conroy, Tanya Plibersek, Josh Frydenberg and Lisa Chesters, and Nationals MP Michael McCormack.
In terms of overall speeches, the most vocal members of parliament after Bronwyn Bishop were: Christopher Pyne, Jill Hall, Lisa Chester, Michael McCormack, Gai Brodtmann, Jane Prentice, Joanne Ryan, Tony Smith and Alannah MacTiernan.
With the exception of two MPs elected at by-election in late-2015, the least vocal MPs in terms of overall number of speeches were: Clive Palmer, Julie Bishop, Ross Vasta, Wayne Swan, Andrew Robb, Ian Macfarlane, Jason Wood, Jason Clare, Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie.
Analysis of the overall number of speeches revealed that the most frequent speakers were demographically diverse, and there were no significant gender, party, age or experience differences.
That is, even a relative new backbencher was likely to speak as frequently as an experienced minister or shadow minister—these MPs simply spoke on different topics.
Unsurprisingly, MPs who were absent more frequently also delivered fewer speeches.