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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