Cessnock Electorate Office Staff

Clayton Barr - Private Member's Statement

I take this opportunity to talk about my electorate staff in general. It is perhaps an early Christmas felicitation but more importantly it is a congratulations to Perri Hodge, who was awarded her 10‑year service award during proceedings today and yesterday. Perri did not want to come down for the ceremony. We sometimes joke in the Cessnock electorate office—and I am probably the worst offender—that the chances of catching COVID in the office are far less than the chances of catching COVID in Sydney. Perri did not want to come down for this particular occasion, but she is well worthy of the honour bestowed upon her today. I think the member for South Coast, and former Speaker, who is in the Chamber, might have introduced the awards some five or six years ago.

Mrs Shelley Hancock: Yes, indeed. Well, I didn’t introduce them but I made them grander.

Mr CLAYTON BARR: I thank the member. Last year another member of my staff, Anne Lomas, received her 30‑year award. I point out this small but really vital piece of information to anyone who aspires to be a member of Parliament. When I was elected in 2011, I had the opportunity to take on brand‑new staff who would not really have known what their role was or to keep the staff who were already there. I made the smartest decision of my life—well, other than getting married. I made the second smartest decision of my life: I kept the two staff members who were there, Anne and Perri. Perri had been there for about 12 months, after a long and esteemed career in the banking industry. She has wisdom and positivity and a lovely nature. As members of Parliament, we cannot place a value on the importance of that quality for a person working in an electorate office. Having had a different career, she had many life experiences and skills that prepared her well for the role of being an electorate officer.

Members all know how difficult that role is, and we all know how important the role is for filtering through the various things that come through our front doors, over the telephone and via email these days. While the important issues absolutely get to the local MP, the smaller and simpler issues that can be dealt with quickly, efficiently and decisively are managed by our electorate staff. Let us face it: Quite often we simply are not in the office to deal with the issues that come to our front door. I sit in an office that is set back a little from the front door and I occasionally hear people come in incredibly angry and frustrated. There is a certain tone as they come through the door. Here is the thing about Perri: She greets them with respect, fairness and courtesy. Three or four minutes later, I hear these people who were once angry walking out, saying in the most cheerful of tones, “Thanks very much, Perri! Really appreciate your help. I’m glad I came in.” I do not know how one could place a price on that level of service to our local community and to me as a local MP. I am sure we all have these wonderful staff in our offices. I give a massive shout-out to Perri.

I also want to recognise Anne, who received her award for 30 years of service. Anne has worked for four different members of Parliament during her 30 years—three of them Labor and one Liberal. My predecessors were smart enough and wise enough to keep Anne on when they became new members of Parliament, and I certainly was not silly enough to fail to recognise the wisdom of their decision. I also have Rebecca, who joined our team last year. She was originally a temporary replacement, but she has brought an entirely new energy to the electorate office team. She is significantly younger and, as a result, she has skills with these things called computers and this program called Facebook and I do not know what else.

There is something called an internet that she refers to at times. She does some wonderful work to keep the community that I have the honour to represent up to date with what is going on in the life of the local MP and important information they need to know about COVID or fire issues, where they can source information and things like that. Bec does a wonderful job. I might be a week early for Christmas felicitations, but the 10‑year service award going to Perri this week prompted my short private member’s statement this evening. My massive thanks goes to all electorate office staff right across the State who do a wonderful job, especially the Cessnock team.