Helen Polley

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Helen Polley
SeN Helen Polley.jpg
Senator for Tasmania
Assumed office
1 July 2005
Personal details
Born (1957-02-09) 9 February 1957 (age 60)
Ulverstone, Tasmania, Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Religion Catholic
Website www.senatorhelenpolley.com.au

Helen Beatrice Polley (born 9 February 1957) is an Australian politician and is an Australian Labor Party member of the Australian Senate, representing the state of Tasmania.

Polley spent time working for The Hon. Michael Field MHA, two Tasmanian Senators in the 1980s, then as adviser to the former Premier of Tasmania, the late The Hon. Jim Bacon MHA and his successor, The Hon. Paul Lennon MHA.[1]

Senator Polley has had various other occupations, including administrative roles and work in finance, transport and manufacturing.[2] Senator Polley is a member of the Australian Workers' Union (AWU).[3] Polley is linked with the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA).[4]

Political career[edit]

She was the first female President of the Tasmanian branch of the ALP from 1992-1995, before being elected as Senator for Tasmania at the 2004 Federal Election.[5]

Polley took up her position on 1 July 2005 and retained her Senate seat at the 2010 Federal Election.[6]

Senator Polley is Chair of the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, Deputy-Chair of the Finance and Public Administration References Committee and a Committee Member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Electoral Matters, Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network and Law Enforcement – Parliamentary Joint Committee.[7]

National Broadband Network[edit]

Polley has been a staunch advocate for the initial rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Tasmania.[8] Senator Polley is on the record as saying that the NBN is crucial to Tasmania's economic future, stating in 2013 that "the NBN is the most important investment in Tasmania's future."[9]

Baby Safe Havens[edit]

Senator Polley has actively campaigned for several years for the institution of "Baby Safe Havens" in all Australian States and Territories.[10] She is quoted as saying that: "There are women and babies who require safe havens. Consequently, there is no reason why we should not be able to provide them with this service. It is not about removing the responsibility of child birth, it is about assisting women who are desperate. Women who are not psychologically, emotionally or financially equipped to take care of their babies. Government must act to ensure mothers and their babies are provided this essential service."[11]

Same-Sex Marriage[edit]

Senator Polley believes in the sanctity of the family unit. She does not support same-sex marriage. Senator Polley supports the recognition of same-sex marriages through registration, though believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others.[12]


Polley has described the NDIS legislation as the most significant and eagerly anticipated pieces of legislation in Australia's history.[13] "For many people in Australia disabilities can mean isolation, poverty, pain, indignity and a sense of futility. The scheme that has emerged after numerous agreements were signed between the Commonwealth and states and territories shares the cost of disability services and supports across the country. NDIS will adopt a self-directed approach so that those with a disability can take control of their own lives and make informed decisions that they think will suit them".[14] The NDIS rollout in her home state of Tasmania will affect 20,000 Tasmanians living with a disability.[15]

Senator Polley is against voluntary euthanasia.[16] She has stated her objection to voluntary euthanasia from a public policy perspective, arguing that the risks are too great when it comes to legislating for such a reform. "…From a policy perspective, such proposed legislation will never be able to guarantee that a human life will not be prematurely ended due to abuse or flaws within such a legislative framework or the social and medical ramifications of such laws".[17]

Polley is recognised for her efforts to increase palliative care funding, arguing that: I will continue to fight for and support those lobbying for better palliative care services across Tasmania so that Tasmanians who receive palliative care receive the best possible care. I would expect that all members in their respective states would do the same. Dying is a natural part of life. It is not a taboo subject and should not be treated as such. Our culture must reflect this. Our attitude should support a natural and dignified death, which is possible with advance care planning and a first-rate palliative care system.[18]

Polley believes that body image and the way teenagers are viewing themselves is a matter of public health, which needs all Australia's attention.[19] "Let's place ourselves at the forefront of the international push to require disclosure of digitally altered images in advertising not only as a matter of public health but also as a matter of protecting consumer rights to the accurate presentation of images in advertising."[20]

Exchange with Andrew Bolt[edit]

In May 2013 Polley attracted the ire of conservative News Ltd columnist Andrew Bolt. Speaking in the Senate on the denigration of public debate in Australia, Polley noted that:

It is not just the coalition's stance on key issues or mean-spirited political tactics that we should be concerned about. It is something even more fundamental: the denigration of political debate in Australia that is being driven by the opposition leader and his team. In America, this sort of shrill, fear-driven campaigning led to the tragic shooting of United States congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. How much further will the opposition leader go until his tactics lead to a similar disaster occurring in Australia? Already the political narrative, relentlessly pursued by the opposition leader and shadow Treasurer, has unleashed responses in some sections of the public that are honestly quite frightening. This can be largely attributed to the fact that coalition politicians are free to associate themselves with Tea Party style protests which place a premium on ignorance, and disregard informed decision or discussion of policy or leadership.[21]

The speech, which drew an angry response from numerous Coalition Senators in the chamber at the time, was also the focus of a furious blog entry from Bolt. Writing on 20 May, Bolt commented:

Yes, hate-mongers of the Left - like Polley herself - did pretend Jared Loughner, the man who shot Giffords, was a Right-winger driven to violence by the political rhetoric of the Right, especially Sarah Palin. The truth is he was a nutter of the Left, if anything, who hated Giffords long before Palin made news:...

Bolt also took aim at Polley’s union membership, stating:

Oh, and does this surprise you? Helen is a passionate member of the Australian Workers Union. What’s her opinion of AWU officials who rip off their members, using, say, a slush fund set up by their lover?[22]

Earlier that month, Polley had taken aim at Bolt in an ‘open letter’ posted on her website and Facebook page. Writing in response to an opinion piece that Bolt had written about the decision of the Gillard Government to increase the Medicare levy to fund the National Disability Inusrance Scheme, Polley argued that:

There have been numerous occasions in which you have used your abrasive and far reaching column in News Limited publications to grossly misrepresent the truth and cynically exploit matters of public importance for your own purposes, but this time I think you have reached a new low.

Your opinion piece on Thursday 2 May entitled ‘Why Should We Bail Her Out?’ was, quite simply, one of the most irresponsible and insincere examples of journalism I have ever witnessed.

I think it is important that the Gillard Government’s decision to raise the Medicare levy (levy, Mr Bolt, not a tax as you indicated several times) by 0.5 per cent to help fund DisabilityCare Australia is subject to open and rigorous debate. But this matter, which directly affects the lives of more than 400,000 people around Australia who have been waiting for years for such a reform, needs to be approached with diligence and care and you exhibited neither.[23]

Polley’s response received a strong reaction on social media.[24]


  1. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/senators/polley.htm
  2. ^ http://www.senatorhelenpolley.com.au/helenpolley/index.php?c=3
  3. ^ http://www.senatorhelenpolley.com.au/helenpolley/index.php?c=3
  4. ^ Why is the union that represents supermarket workers stopping gay marriage?: SMH 2 May 2015
  5. ^ http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Parliamentarian?MPID=e5x
  6. ^ http://results.aec.gov.au/15508/Website/SenateStateFirstPrefs-15508-TAS.htm
  7. ^ http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=fapa_ctte/index.htm
  8. ^ The Polley Report, July/August Ed, 2013, http://www.senatorhelenpolley.com.au/helenpolley/index.php?c=389
  9. ^ The Polley Report, July/August Ed, 2013, http://www.senatorhelenpolley.com.au/helenpolley/index.php?c=389
  10. ^ http://www.senatorhelenpolley.com.au/helenpolley/index.php?c=128
  11. ^ Senator Polley Press Release, Safe Havens in Queensland, 29 July 2013
  12. ^ http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fhansards%2F499387ea-6048-4777-9bed-2b1b027f8e25%2F0179;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansards%2F499387ea-6048-4777-9bed-2b1b027f8e25%2F0000%22
  13. ^ Senate, National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2013, Second Reading Speech, http://www.senatorhelenpolley.com.au/helenpolley/index.php?c=353
  14. ^ Senate, National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2013, Second Reading Speech, http://www.senatorhelenpolley.com.au/helenpolley/index.php?c=353
  15. ^ http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2013/07/01/382577_tasmania-news.html
  16. ^ Voluntary Assisted Dying: A Tasmanian Proposal, 2013. http://www.senatorhelenpolley.com.au/helenpolley/index.php?c=356
  17. ^ Voluntary Assisted Dying: A Tasmanian Proposal, 2013. http://www.senatorhelenpolley.com.au/helenpolley/index.php?c=356
  18. ^ Senate, Matters of Public Interest Speech, Palliative Care 2013, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fhansards%2F76276f2a-f60c-4fe4-9657-01d4dad8287a%2F0035;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansards%2F76276f2a-f60c-4fe4-9657-01d4dad8287a%2F0000%22
  19. ^ Senate, Matters of Public Interest Speech, Healthy Body Image 2012 http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fhansards%2Fdcbf3820-67a9-494a-bf57-5efe0c27f413%2F0068;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansards%2Fdcbf3820-67a9-494a-bf57-5efe0c27f413%2F0000%22
  20. ^ Senate, Matters of Public Interest Speech, Healthy Body Image 2012 http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fhansards%2Fdcbf3820-67a9-494a-bf57-5efe0c27f413%2F0068;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansards%2Fdcbf3820-67a9-494a-bf57-5efe0c27f413%2F0000%22
  21. ^ http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fhansards%2Fa344915b-9c0f-488b-bba5-64b64aa396c0%2F0292;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansards%2Fa344915b-9c0f-488b-bba5-64b64aa396c0%2F0000%22
  22. ^ http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/the_vicious_ignorance_of_helen_polley/
  23. ^ http://www.senatorhelenpolley.com.au/helenpolley/index.php?c=372
  24. ^ https://www.facebook.com/pages/Senator-Helen-Polley/131323986885201

External links[edit]