One of the most under-recognised roles in any parliament is that of Hansard Transcriber, the individual sits in the chamber logging each parliamentary debates or Committee meeting. It’s a modestly paid position, and in the shadow of a hung parliament there’s a demand for a substantial pay increase.
A senior Hansard Transcriber on staff at the Parliament of Australia has made a plaintive call for consideration of the future welfare of the critical job. Gwen Larkin, a transcriber of 41 years standing has taken the unusual step of speaking out publicly.
“Over the past decade, we’ve received the usual sort of pay rises that the rest of the staff get around the building,” Gwen said during a short interview at Tuggeranong McDonalds.
“But with what we’re looking at in the coming three years, we’re asking for a serious review of our role and the strain we’re under.”
When asked to identify the key stresses of the role, Gwen provided an impassioned list between sobs and a quick run to the toilet.
“In the last term we needed to transcribe the words of Ricky Muir, Glenn Lazarus and Jacquie Lambie. That pushed us close to the edge and we had to bring in some casual staff for the longer debates that these three were involved with. The level of concentration required was huge – there was more mangled English than a mixmaster instruction booklet,” Gwen said.
“Now we are faced with Lambie again, with the addition of a newly elected colleague on her team. We could have coped with that given Lazarus and Muir are gone, but instead we’ve gone from bogans to behemoths of language torture.”
Unable to continue in sentences for a period of time, we were able to glean from Gwen that the arrival of Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch in parliament has been the catalyst for the campaign for a 125% pay rise effective from the Senate’s next sitting day.
“We had modelled worst case scenarios of Molly Meldrum and Kyle Sandilands entering parliament, but we’d never considered a Hinch / Hanson / Lambie triumvirate. There’s not a lot that can make this worse, unless Barnaby Joyce increases his time speaking on the floor of the House. Or Shane Warne wins a seat in a by-election.”
When asked why the demands were purely financial, Gwen had a direct answer.
“It’s not about avoiding or reducing the work itself. We can’t expect the uninitiated to bear this burden. We’ve developed a level of adaptation to the more usual stresses such as Kim Carr’s shouting and Eric Abetz’s voice. We just want our roles remunerated appropriately so we don’t have to skimp on counselling or audiometry support.”
We contacted the Department of Parliamentary Services for comment, with a short statement provided in response:
The Department values greatly the role transcribers play in the Parliament of Australia. We also recognise the increased demands of the role but need to balance that with other staff who are experiencing similar issues.
Our Parliamentary Library staff will be facing significant increases in requests to compile proposed legislation into BuzzFeed photo galleries for simpler digestion. Our website team will be tackling the challenge of turning Pauline Hanson’s biography into something that doesn’t look like a ransom note scribbled in Nutella. Our cleaning staff are also preparing for a significant increase in leadership speculation-related carpet wear, food fights and abusive emails.
These issues all need to be taken into account within budgetary constraints and we look forward to working with all affected parties in coming weeks to come to a satisfactory resolution.