Monday, April 30, 2012

The Federal Clivening

The events of the past two weeks or so, since the accusations against Peter Slipper frustrated the nation, are the best arguments yet  against fixed parliamentary terms. There is already so little faith in the government, so little trust that it’s going to get better…
Sometimes, you can’t predict failure, and you can’t control it. Despite a successful legislative programme, and despite Tony Abbott’s censure attempts, the ALP Government’s has run out of time. The choice now is a daily crawl through fire towards the next election, trying to govern as if they had a mandate, or to call the election and start the rebuilding now.
Yesterday’s presser from the Prime Minister was an appalling start to the week, a desperate attempt to look as though she is in control. It didn’t work – it was too late, and her words lacked conviction. Under public and media pressure, she has consigned to the cross benches two members who as yet have not been convicted. There were no winners on the ALP side yesterday.
It was, in comparison, a better day for the Coalition, if only because they were able to point and mock. That doesn’t make them a better prospect for government; it just makes them “not Labor”. Tragically, that’s all it takes to get elected in this country right now.
In the next act of what is an increasing bizarre week, mining magnate Clive Palmer has raised his hand via talk radio, and announced that he will be seeking Liberal Party pre-selection to run against Treasurer Wayne Swan in the Brisbane seat of Lilley. Known for supporting the LNP’s Campbell Newman in his successful bid to become Queensland Premier, Mr Palmer has always harboured some parliamentary ambition. In 1984, he lost a pre-selection battle in Fisher to Peter Slipper. Assuming Mr Palmer wins pre-selection for Lilley – and given the amount of money he’s pumped into the LNP, he will – he’ll probably steal the seat for the Liberals.
It’s really not a bad idea though. Clive Palmer is a very smart man. Wouldn’t we all be better off if our government was made up of people who know how to be successful, who know how to achieve results, who know how to think? I’ve long thought that part of the problem in our parliament was the number of representatives who had never proven themselves outside of the government. Most of the current crop have spent more years working as political advisors, union officials, press secretaries and chiefs of staff before entering politics themselves than they’ve spent in private enterprise. Malcolm Turnbull is the obvious exception to the rule, but being richer than god tends to remove one from the day to day struggles to pay for the groceries.
Of course there’s a range of issues contributing to the gulf between where our politicians are, and where voters want them to be. Even the lowest paid of our federal politicians is earning $185,000 plus per year. That’s more than twice the average wage.
There is an argument that I first heard at the ripe old age of 12, that we get the politicians we can afford, and if we were willing to pay them more, we’d attract better credentialed candidates to public office. All the really good business and management minds are living it up in the private sector, earning ten times a backbencher’s salary.
I’m not sure that increasing the salary of our representatives would have the desired effect– there needs to be a passion to serve the nation. No amount of money would make up for the lifestyle, travel, time away from your home and family, the constant intrusion and the inability just to have a bad day. That’s a different kind of driver –it’s the desire to serve.
Does Clive Palmer have that ambition? Does he really want to be elected to public office and serve his country – where his salary would most certainly be less than it is now – or does he just want to kick Wayne Swan out of his way. Perhaps this politics lark is another item for Clive to cross off his personal bucket list. Perhaps he really does think he’s god and is behaving accordingly.
Or maybe Clive’s the Real Deal.

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