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How hard do politicians really work?

There is no doubt that many politicians put in long hours but how hard do they really work?

In 2016 there will be 51 sitting days in the House of Representatives. That leaves 315 days when they are not required to be in the chamber.

Parliament rose on December 3 2015 and did not resume until February 2 2016. The HoR sat for 12 days in February, 6 in March, 2 in April, and 4 in May and were then off until August 30. They have 5 sittings days in September, 8 in October, 11 in November and 1 in December before going off for another two month break.

Admittedly, this was an election year. In 2015 the HoR sat for 75 days with only 290 days where their presence was not required.

Even when sitting, they only work a maximum of four days a week for two weeks, having every Friday, Saturday and Sunday off and, as we have recently seen, they feel no compunction about leaving early. In fact, Christopher Pyne has ordered that all eight exits of the Parliament be manned by a staffer to stop any Coalition MP leaving the house before the adjournment of business for the day.

On November 6 last year, the Courier Mail reported that Clive Palmer had “come to 84 of the 130 sitting days since he was elected in 2013.” Andrew Robb had missed 71 sitting days and Julie Bishop 22. Whilst they may have some excuse due to their portfolios, Bob Katter, who had missed 30, had no such excuse.

All of which begs the question as to why MPs are “entitled” to three annual inter-state business class trips provided for spouses and dependent children for “family reunions” .

Now I do realise that MPs don’t necessarily just take the time off between parliamentary sittings but, to be honest, is having your photo taken having a cup of coffee with a local business owner, or the ubiquitous shovel photo where MPs feel obliged to be photographed turning the first sod for every piece of infrastructure, really achieving anything? Plaque unveilings and ribbon cutting ceremonies don’t really justify the salary we are paying these people. They are supposed to be listening to experts and making decisions on the best way to govern the country.

Some MPs have regular gigs on morning tv and talk back radio – that is their choice. They fly all over the country to make announcements. Personally, I think the same information could be better imparted through a press release and then spend time answering emailed questions rather than doing contrived doorstops and press conferences full of waffle.

Some feel it is important for politicians to be out and about doing the “meet and greet” but I am yet to hear a convincing argument as to why other than campaigning for their own re-election. As Carol Taylor recently said, it may be cathartic for a constituent to tell you how angry they are about the neighbour’s cow eating their azaleas but is it really useful in determining policy to run the country?

After Choppergate, Tony Abbott called for a review into politician’s entitlements. The report revealed that in just one year, politicians spent $31.13 million on domestic and overseas travel, over an average of 1058 tickets a week. In this day of high technology, how much of that travel was actually necessary?

As has been exposed way too many times, politicians plan meetings around where their football team is playing, or where they are attending a “private party” aka party fundraiser, so they can claim expenses.

Barnaby Joyce claims he is working when he goes to weddings and football matches. He defended Bronwyn Bishop’s use of chauffeured limos to go to private parties and cultural events like the opera.

“Obviously if you are at an event, there’s alcohol here, you do not want to be getting in a car to go home. That is part of life of a politician. There are expectations of a whole range of things people expect you to do, raise money, go to events.”

Poor shnookums. Many of the rest of us have similar expectations and we pay for our own tickets, donate money, and organise our own way home.

The government’s own website admits that there is no formal ‘job description’ that sets out what a backbench Member does and that Members are not present in the Chamber all the time, but they keep in touch with proceedings via television monitors in their offices and other locations throughout Parliament House.

Then today, we are faced with the debacle of a government with nothing to do.

Government senators were told on Monday morning that they would have to give 20 minute speeches to pad out the government business session until Question Time at 2pm which led to them giving rambling monologues about their colleagues and favourite television shows because the government had no bills ready for debate.

MPs may think they work hard. Nurses, brickies and cleaners may have a different opinion.


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  1. Glenn K

    Oh, but the LNP blamed the ALP for having nothing to review in the Senate. Of course., it’s Labors fault. It always is. and the MSM will report it that way. God give me strength…….

  2. Michael Taylor

    I too was gobsmacked to hear that, Glenn. How on dog’s earth could they blame Labor for their own incompetence?

  3. Phil

    Brilliant work again Kaye Lee – This is why independent media is such an asset for the Australian people – facts, facts and facts – and then more facts!!

    Then on top of the facts come the questions. And the questions are rarely if ever answered by those who being questioned – and so the people form their own opinions – love it!!

  4. Wun Farlung

    I knew it.
    I was just reading about -nothing to do for senators on Monthly Today and assumed it was the ALP up to mischief.
    $200 000 plus change starters salary.. bugger me

  5. Max Gross

    The age of entitlement is over…. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, suckers!

  6. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Well done Kaye,

    for nailing many politicians’ abuses of their offices for not working proportionately to what their constituents need and what the politicians are actually paid.

    Please add underpaid teachers to that list of work categories that are not paid according to the real work they do.

  7. paulwalter

    But do they work? Many of them not without the help of an iron lung and even then its pretty fraught. For real idiocy, get tonight’s Drum with a former politician on a fat pension, Jackie Kelly, on the wasteful plebiscite…my cat would have made more sense.

  8. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Labor is obviously working harder than the LNP losers who are so paranoid about losing so soon after the last election that all they can do is hunker down and defend themselves by blaming Labor.

    Keep up the innovative, progressive, free-thinking policy programs, Labor and bring on board, a working relationship with your natural allies in the Greens and young progressive micro parties.

    So many people want to annihilate the LNP pretenders, so work together meaningfully for the betterment of the Australian People and the defeat of neoliberalism.

  9. Matters Not

    Who ‘works’ harder – the galley slave or the sculler? Or is it the case that the sculler isn’t engaged in ‘work’ at all? If one chooses to proceed down a path, then how can that be categorised as ‘work’? It’s not forced. Simply a choice.

    Perhaps we need to define ‘work’? Is ‘leisure’ the opposite of ‘work’? Or is that binary opposite altogether too simple? Does money make the difference?

    When KL researches and posts, should it be called ‘work’ or ‘leisure’? Anyone care to speculate?

    Anyone have any links to a conspiracy theory or two that might clarify? (Just jokin …)

  10. Wayne Turner

    Clearly NOT much,the current excuse for a government,just like Abbott: A policy free zone.Slogans do not = policies.

    The LNP work so hard,they want us to vote with a non-biding vote (on SSM),when they can can do their job instead

    Over paid leaners this government.

  11. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    MN @ 7.24 pm

    I’m not just joking; I’m answering your question of how work is measured.

    I’m perfectly happy to have stay-at-home Mums paid for their immense service to our society. Same goes for Carers. Same goes for Volunteers doing all those unpaid and unloved jobs that many others wouldn’t deign to do.

    Once we’ve got them straight, I also would provide effective incentive programs including funding for Micro Businesses by unemployed and under-employed people, who lack the ready $$$ themselves to get their clever projects up and running.

    After that, it’s a cakewalk. Any apparent, more secure employee in any walk of life, must be assessed according to best case global comparisons. If they don’t shape up when interpreted according to their reasonably accessed resources, then they must be subject to scrutiny and professional development.

    If they are underpaid eg teachers (hint, hint!), then of course the answer is equitable pay according to their professional qualifications, responsibilities to students and their families, and impact on society.

    If they are politicians and are assessed as under-performers in comparison to many European multi-party governments, then yes the politicians need Seriously being pulled across the coals.

  12. Matters Not

    JMS, thanks for your response. You say:

    answering your question of how work is measured.

    Great. Please proceed. Explain ‘how work is measured’? Now. And then argue how ‘work’ ought to be measured in an ideal world.

    Re teachers and the ‘work’ they do. Should the teacher of Year 12 Maths be paid the same as the Pre-school teacher who only deals with adding and subtracting of a few place values? Or is that too simple? Both would claim they work just as hard.

    Does a Minister work as hard as a Judge who spends the vast majority of his/her time doing nothing but ‘listening’, ‘pondering’ and the like and decides when the Court will rise? Why, there aren’t any ‘fixed times’. How easy that job must be.

  13. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Well yes in the case of teachers because they are dealing with different levels of development,

    As for Ministers and Judges, I might treat them similarly if there’s a straight forward decision but more than likely a decision will be difficult and require the intellectual input of political advisors and bureaucrats for Ministers and solicitors and barristers for Judges.

    The difficulty of the decision and the input of whoever is involved, should be incrementally measured for the quality of the advice and the difficulty of the advice.

  14. Matters Not

    in the case of teachers because they are dealing with different levels of development

    Indeed they are. But surely the teachers who are ‘working’ with those who have ‘lower’ levels of development shouldn’t expect to be paid the same as those who are working with students having ‘higher’ levels of development? After all high school teachers aren’t paid the same as university lecturers.

    The difficulty of the decision and the input of whoever is involved

    Great. But who is to decide the ‘difficulty’ of the decision? The Judge? The Minister? The Public Servant who certainly has much more ‘expertise’ than the Minister?

    should be incrementally measured for the quality of the advice and the difficulty of the advice.

    By whom? Personally? And if not, then which ‘external source’ should be engaged? Should there be an appeal process? And if not, then why not?

    Over to you.

    Or maybe this ‘work’ concept (and how it might be assessed) might be more difficult than first thought?

    Perhaps we need an objective measure. (Just jokin

  15. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Goodonya MN,

    is this another passing of the buck exercise so brilliantly demonstrated by the parliamentary and judiciary arms?

    I did not differentiate between levels of education as being lower and higher in the sense that one is better than the other. Over time, I learnt how important they all are.

    So, question No 1 for you is why raise that irrational differentiation?

    Re Q2, I addressed your other question already by stating that Ministers have political advisors assigned to them via bureaurcracy and/or their weird party system, which means that they have ample opportunity to make things right for the Australian People. Anything short is NOT acceptable. That is the premise that any bureaurcrat should impose.

    Same goes for the Judiciary. Any such witchhunts like that imposed by Dyson Heydon would not be acceptable.

  16. Matters Not

    why raise that irrational differentiation

    Who said the ‘differentiation’ was irrational? University lecturers think they should be paid more that secondary school teachers (and they are) while secondary school teachers think they should be paid more than their kindergarten school counterparts (and they aren’t) who in turn think they should be paid more than their ‘child minding’ colleagues (and they are). Where’s the ‘rationality’ here? They all ‘work’, or at least claim to do just that? Why the difference in terms of pay, status and prestige? Could the concept of ‘power’ be involved?

    Ministers have political advisors assigned to them via bureaurcracy

    No. ‘Political’ advisors do not come from the bureaucracy. They come from political sources. The bureaucracy provides ‘expertise’, based on some form of evidence. Political advisors decide what ‘meaning(s)’ might be given to that advice. Some call it ‘spin’.

    All think they work hard. And they do, although some more than others. Not that I am in a position to determine same in any absolute sense. What about you?

  17. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    The rationality should come from a multi-representative teaching body that covers ALL the levels of education.

    I’m damned if I know how university educators became entitled to better conditions than teachers.

    Each level needs each else.

  18. Mark Needham

    Politicians, as at the last count, seem to spend all of their working life, ensuring, that they have a job.
    Work, that is for the betterment of the country, is the last thing that is in their mind.
    Politicians do not work, they are skimming and scamming their way across the country.
    The Job, of being a politician is the hardest work in the country.
    Ask, please ask, any politician. They will tell you how hard they work.
    Mark Needham

  19. Matters Not

    Mark Needham. How very insightful. What a great contribution you always make. ? ? ?

    Perhaps you need to talk to Schwarten R?

  20. Jack

    The current mob of Liberals behave like a reckless bunch of privileged adolescents; just doing time with their snouts in the trough .It is shameful.This is why leadership is so very important as no one in their party respects Malcolm Turnball.

  21. ace Jones

    put the bastards on contract, tis the only way you can have a tether on the dogs-bodies

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