Annual government expenditure is over $450 billion per year making it, by far, the biggest business in the country.
They decide what percentage of our income they will take and how they will spend it. They have total control over our common wealth and the ability to sell our assets as they please.
They make our laws. They can send us to war. They can choose to ignore existential threats like climate change.
They can make arbitrary decisions which can ruin people’s lives – or directly lead to their death as in the case of Hamid Khazaei who died from a cut on his leg because Dutton’s bastards didn’t get around to reading their emails and then decided to overrule clinical advice to have him transferred to the mainland, something they routinely do.
This huge responsibility is carried by total amateurs who have a vested interest in spinning a story to make themselves look good and the other side look bad, re-election being a goal which is pursued by whatever means it takes.
The pay and “entitlements”, now known as expenses (kinda like when they changed from Holy Ghost to Holy Spirit – it sounds better), are way beyond what many MPs could hope for in the private sector and are routinely abused.
Mitch Fifield said, on Q&A, that no government department should be exempt from efficiency dividends and that they must be transparent in showing they give value for money.
Should that not also apply to the Home Affairs department and the Defence department? And even his own NBN? Who could forget the AFP raiding Stephen Conroy’s office and the home of a staffer for daring to tell us the truth about the rollout? And what value are we getting for the $30 million we gifted to Rupert?
Where is the rationale behind giving a few businessmen almost half a billion dollars to save the reef? Surely we can see the business plan they tendered to get this grant? Or the connection to scientific experts who are advising them? Or was it just a sling to mates who won’t upset the status quo to make it sound like you are doing something about the environment?
Governments love to talk about productivity increases (aka higher profits for business). Workers must increase labour productivity to plead for wage rises though they are often still ignored.
What does a productivity increase look like to justify the pay rises that politicians keep being awarded?
In times gone by, the public service was a stable organisation with great experience who could advise governments regardless of their political persuasion. That is no longer the case. Those who give advice a political party doesn’t want to hear are replaced by a partisan appointment who will pursue the party line.
This huge business of government, which has so much impact on all our lives, is replete with pomp, ceremony and tradition. That is no way to run a business. Imagine if you began a board meeting with a prayer?
The Prime Minister summed it up well when he was wooing the electorate with a bit of truth telling in between leadership gigs.
How often do we hear Australian politicians discuss these challenges in a genuinely open, honest, spin-free and non-adversarial way? Where the intention is to clearly explain the problem, accept responsibility for past misteps if appropriate (rather than apportion as much blame as possible to the other side), allow a non-ideological discussion of possible remedies, and see if there is any common ground for bipartisan work?
Seldom, and even more rarely if a camera is rolling.
Most Australians believe we need an honest, informed policy debate. Yet I don‟t see many people who believe we have that. Instead, we all hear again and again that Australians are ashamed of the parliament, that they see it as nothing more than a forum for abuse, catcalling and spin.
There are reasons for this view. Question Time, Parliament’s most visible ritual, is one. If you love your country, have an interest in politics or policy, and care deeply about our nation’s future, there is nothing more certain to arouse your fury and invite your contempt than listening to an entire House of Representatives Question Time.
Normally this is doubly the case if the party you favour is in opposition; Governments tend to wield the advantages they have in Question Time with the subtlety that Trotsky’s assassin wielded his ice pick. There is a reason it is called Question Time and not Answer Time.
How hollow those words seem now.
Australians need to be putting their collective wisdom together to think about what our next system of government will look like.
In the meantime, politicians should be forced to adopt 21st century workplace practices. Stop the bullying and bad behaviour. Show respect to your colleagues. Preselect candidates on merit rather than rewarding party aparatchiks. Aim for a diversity that represents our population. Stop adding on photo shoots or meet-and-greets so you can claim for attending social functions and family holidays – you really have to pay for some things yourselves.
But most of all, government must be transparent and accountable. This is required of all other organisations. We have all had to up the ante on our record-keeping and our policies and procedures and are accountable for such. How much more important is that for a government who, after all, are employed by us to invest our money to run the business for all our benefit?
They, and we, are the custodians of our children’s future. We have a right to know and a duty to ensure that they are protecting that and investing in providing the best possible society we can for all Australians.