Time for a little political transparency

Time for a little political transparency

THE superannuation debate that flared up and lit a spot fire, until Prime Minister John Howard doused it with an opportunistic sprinkling of cynical politics, is worth a brief discussion.

Opposition leader Mark Latham was right to raise the issue; it has actually been smouldering away for years and only needed a fresh breath of oxygen to fully ignite it.

But what did we end up with? I’d suggest it’s a political response that does nothing for Australia at all.

How can anyone seriously put forward the proposition that new parliamentarians will get the standard rate of superannuation when existing members will receive rates around seven or eight times as much?

It is hardly egalitarian – let alone good human resources practice.

If parliamentarians’ superannuation is to be changed to bring it into line with every day voters, then it should change across the board.

It is time that our representatives started experiencing life, including financial reward, like other citizens.

No wonder tax is such a difficult subject to raise with our leaders. They are sheltered from it because such a high proportion of their income is placed in protective custody from the taxman, under the guise of superannuation.

Let our leaders start realising that significant amounts of the money earned by Australians is taken by government, diminishing the incentive to work hard to get ahead.

If current members are to lose out, then let’s increase their salaries.

This would spark debate about their real worth, rather than hiding big amounts of the cost of our representatives as superannuation.

The debate will, of course, centre on the fact that we don’t value politicians enough.

I tend to agree with this.

It’s a tough job, which puts one’s private life under a significant amount of strain due to the time involved and the public scrutiny.

But that is the nature of the role. If representing the people is a public service, then do the public service, warts and all. If it’s too hard, then get out when the job is done.

I no longer buy-in to the belief that parliamentarians are sacrificing opportunity to serve the people. I reckon they love the politicians’ life, and have found a way of making it everlasting by voting themselves more and more rewards for choosing this path.

For those who love power, the money is largely irrelevant – local government is littered with disturbing examples of that.

Many of our leaders are career politicians, starting in their 20s and working their way up the ranks.

For those who leave there are many opportunities in private industry that outweigh the perks of office.

Take former WA Premier Brian Burke. Despite being disgraced for his activities during his time in office he remains a powerful and influential figure in WA, earning significant sums for changing the course of government decision making.

So, finally, we are seeing recognition that times have changed and that politicians got a little carried away with things when someone let them loose in the paymaster’s room.

Some will argue that paying peanuts only gets you monkeys. There is some merit in that argument – as we too often see in our local councils.

Of course politicians should be rewarded, I just don’t think it should be hidden, I don’t think it should be different from the rest of us and I don’t think that some parliamentarians should be better paid than others for the same job.

For years to come, the majority of parliament will be out of step with the people it supposedly serves.

Cut the superannuation for all parliamentarians to 9 per cent, add a bonus salary for length of service (if we must) and let’s get some transparency into the system.

Some might argue you can’t remove benefits from people once they have them.

I’d argue that the market constantly re-rates the value of things – both upwards and downwards.

If politicians have provided themselves with remuneration increases, there’s no reason why they can’t agree to a cut too.

If they don’t like it, they can move on and let someone really interested in public service take their place.



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