Australian Politics & Current Affairs
By Nick Kenny
Canberra’s pack of nobodies, known officially as “backbenchers”, are taking home a healthy $190,500 per year. Those at the very top, Gillard and Abbott, are raking in some serious cheddar cheese: half a million and $350,000 each, respectively. Meanwhile our own national bean counter, Mr Swan, casually helps himself to around $8,000 of his own treasury’s stash every week. Between this lot sit our other comfy ministers, roughly earning around the quarter million mark each year, on top of the fantastic perks that come with their jobs. This simply cannot stand. They need more money. A lot more.
You might think they don’t have a leg to stand on. These are people who sit in parliament, either bickering like five-year olds, or half drunk, sleeping through the monotony of ministerial and frontbench drivel that masquerades as “debate”. Every now and then, they manage a barely audible “hear, hear” on cue from their colleagues, or “rabble, rabble” on cue from those opposite. Imagine for a moment trying to do this at your own workplace. You’d be laughed out of a job. So why should these miscreants be thrown a bone?
Essentially, they are presenting their work in the most arse-backwards fashion. What we see in parliament is the menial crap that is mandated by constitutional law. Much like those dreary lectures you had to attend in university or TAFE, where the teacher drones on about elementary basics you’ve already read thoroughly in your own time, they know that is a tedious waste of their time. But the ancient workplace mantra “the boss is coming, look busy!” is actually turned on its head in Canberra – when we’re watching, they’re squandering precious ABC coverage in Question Time, but behind closed doors, our 222 federal leaders are working their absolute guts out. From dawn till dusk, they tend to mountains of reports, media releases, cabinet and party meetings, briefings, debriefings, business and lobby conferences and teleconferences, contingency plans, PR campaigns, and a whole host of other essential tasks that dominate their every waking hour.
These waking hours, by the way, are much longer than yours or mine. The Dudd, for example, was famous for kicking on with 3-4 hours per night, a habit that drove his advisers and cabinet to the brink as he demanded they keep pace. 20 hours work per day, 7 days per week. Do the maths – despite what you think of the bloke’s performance, he worked more than triple the standard working week and deprived himself of proper sleep, most certainly to the detriment of his health. Most people who miss a few hours in a night are usually grumpy and lacklustre the next day – he did it for years, which might explain a few things.
On top of juggling the impossible, there’s also the small matter of running a country of 23 million demanding people. People who are, at best, unsupportive and ungrateful, and at worst, pissed off, vocally critical, or downright hateful towards politicians. Barring a handful of each party’s faithful believers, the citizenry’s feedback consists almost exclusively of vitriol and slander. Overall, a pollie’s tenure is the most thankless and disparaged job on the planet. To top it off, their lives, along with the lives of their entire families, are the subject of constant scrutiny and speculation. The media’s love of sensationalism restricts their mannerisms and undertakings to those deemed suitable for a person of high profile, their lives calibrated by PR “experts”.
True, they did choose this career path knowing full well the sacrifices involved. But even if you forget the bleeding heart argument entirely, there is no justification for their relatively low pay. Yes, it is low. Ridiculously low. Most of these pollies have qualifications and experience that would earn them several times as much in the private sector – especially within the law, economics, business, and finance areas where most of them studied and/or worked in prior to political life. They’d be looking at seven figure remunerations with their dedication, long hours, and persistence if they decided to hang up their boots and cash in elsewhere. Which many of them do. While we pay peanuts, everyone but monkeys are turning their noses up at the seedy, treacherous, and painstaking world of parliament house.
Politicians earn more in a day than you probably earn in a week. So they bloody well should, and more.