Chapter 20:       REFORM OF POLITICIAN’S REMUNERATION IN LINE WITH                   COMMUNITY EXPECTATIONS.


 

MOTION: That the Rudd Government immediately reform the existing system of politicians’ remuneration for all politicians in accordance with community expectations and standards and in accordance with the tenets of economic rationalism.

Rationale:

Consider that the Superannuation Guarantee Charge (SGC) of 9% of wages or salaries for the general population was established by the Keating Government in 1992. Such regimes of captive savings have their economic virtues vis-à-vis burgeoning pension costs to the public purse, of an aging population. As usual the usual cries to the effect that the economy couldn’t afford such largesse galloped against the legislation. Subsequently, Howard and Costello resisted increasing the SGC to 15% for the general populace and insisted that the economy could not afford such largesse.

Consider that today, we have a two tiered system of Old Super Pollies and New Super Pollies as a direct result of the then Opposition Leader (OL) Mark Latham campaigning for the 2004 Federal Election against Howard. Latham promised that he would reduce Federal politicians’ outrageous tax payer funded 69% of annual salary superannuation contribution to 9%. Howard acted quickly to legislate before the 2004 Election to deprive Latham of the opportunity to turn the election into a quasi-referendum on the issue – as it should have been if the practise of actual democracy had been the motivation of Howard & Co. Clearly, that was never the case with Howard & Co. Winning power and exercising power to maintain their power bases has always had greater importance than actual democracy. Howard said it all with his statements to the effect that he “Would do nothing to trash the Liberal Party’s future”. That reflective politicians, usually at the nadir of their careers, sometimes rue the existence of the obvious cynicism of the thinking voting population and the apathy of the balance, testifies to the arrogantly insular and devious nature of party politics in Australia.

Howard of course, applied the new superannuation rules to politicians elected as of 2004 and beyond on the grounds that the system of existing politicians’ superannuation largesse could not be taken away from them. In effect, to change the terms and conditions of employment for pre-2004 elected Pollies would be to apply retrospective change to Pollies’ contracts with their respective parties and their taxpayer employers. But that was exactly what Howard and Costello were doing to the general populace with individual contracts known as Australian Work Agreements (AWA) and “Work Choices”. Howard and Costello were like birds of paradise, crapping on the people from an unassailable height. Not even a Scud missile could have reached them. The unbelievable hypocrisy vis-à-vis Polliedom, received bipartisan support! Thus, Howard and Costello managed to perform Economic Irrationalism in the name of self-preservation of the major parties in their current ossified, corrupt forms.  Clearly, “Robust Democracy” did not prevail then and does not prevail today. In effect the two major parties have conspired to avoid democratic change to protect their gravy boat. Clearly, the two major parties continue to show utter contempt for “The will of the People”.

Howard’s scurrilous action thus denied the people a vote on whether or not all politicians’ remuneration packages should be rationalised economically rather than politically. Thus the inanity of an anomalous two tiered system of remuneration for politicians was instituted at a time when Howard and Costello (H&C) were busily applying economic rationalism, employment diversity and de-regulation of awards to the general populace on the pretext that Australia needed to become more internationally competitive. It was to be derived from a flexible labour market – exactly the opposite of what H&C dished up for themselves. The public perception is that the lies of politicians are more attuned to what their party machinations demand, rather than concern or respect for “The will of the People” as claimed ad nauseum. And the reason that such a paradigm exists largely unchallenged by OZ Media or the Opposition of the day is that a coterie of “Yes Pollies is an essential pre-requisite for maintaining our two-party-preferred system of undemocratic government. That state of affairs exists primarily because of the unfair, undemocratic, highly regulated, irrational, uneconomic, dastardly remuneration system being maintained for pre-2004-elected Pollies.

Subsequently, a bipartisan agreement between Kim Beazley OL (who replaced Mark Latham) and John Howard, partially resurrected the outrageous Old Super Pollie system by raising the 9% figure to 15% for New Super Pollies on the grounds that 9% was inadequate for politicians! What undemocratic gall?! No doubt a devious off-the-record bipartisan agreement at the time ultimately would see New Super Pollies15%, progressively resurrected to that of Old Super Pollies69%, no doubt with retrospective compensation as well. Why would that be so? To ensure that the existing ossified, undemocratic, faction ridden, pork barrelling modus operandus, corrupt system of government remains intact because that suits our self-serving Pollies? Of course, but the paradox is that OZ Media is loath to do anything about it. It is obvious that our Pollies and major parties do not want democratic change. Australian politics will continue to be stuck in early 20C unless the people get more actual “One Vote – One Value” specific choices (a) with respect to all mooted wars and (b) with respect to controversial legislation. 

Howard always reckoned that “our existing system of government has served Australia well in times of war and peace since Federation and therefore needs no democratic change”! How farcical? How inept? How lacking judgement? How cruel? How undemocratic? How idiotically out of touch could he have been? Clearly, Howard & Co and Labor & Foe did not care and do not care. Our major parties refuse to be modernised. The major parties want their back-benchers to remain as a gene pool of hacks, easily manipulated to party calls for unity on ideologically driven issues - often contrary to what their respective electorates might have wanted. Why is it that H&C’s economic rationale for workers was to increase wages by means of reducing perks - ostensibly to increase the efficiency of the work-force – exactly the opposite of what they persist with dishing up for Pollies? Hypocrisy? Nah! Just cavalierly inept and arrogantly incompetent!

Compare the rationale of H&C’s “Work Choices for Workers” and “No Work Choices for Pollies”. Despite Rudd Labor’s determination to dismantle Work Choices per se, both the LNP Opposition and the new Labor Government seem intent upon maintaining bipartisan support for the ongoing, unjustifiable remuneration arrangements for Pollies! Why would that be so? Would that represent a bipartisan “Robustly Democratic” sense of superiority of purpose perhaps? Superior beings deserving the ultimate feather bedding to ensure that the undemocratic political status quo be maintained? What about a common purpose, a common sense of the need for economic rationalism, to be avoided at all costs perhaps to ensure that our go-slow recidivist, reactionary and retrospectively accountable at best, major parties remain rooted in 20C?

If there were actual bipartisan “Respect for the Will of the People”, as claimed endlessly by Pollies and seriously unchallenged by OZ Media, then their current laughable differential superannuation arrangements would be fixed in accordance with community expectations. But not so – the attitude of our Pollies is not very different to that of big time CEOs of public companies who reckon that they are worth squillions per annum because their egos tell them so, regardless of their performance. A bipartisan political sense of fairness, or rightness and justness, is not a feature of the political status quo. That’s correct!

Today, Pre-2004-Election politicians’ remuneration has bipartisan support for being maintained unchanged, to ensure that our existing grotesquely inefficient government, tantamount to a “one-party-no-democratic-change-state” would never be trashed? Yes. “No democratic change needed thanks!” To ensure that nothing much changes by way of democratic input from the people? Yes. To ensure that our two-party preferred system of power mongering and war mongering would remain in situ for another century? To ensure that major parties would continue to rule the roost by means of maintaining low annual salaries for politicians in conjunction with extremely large perks and superannuation largesse?

Consider that politicians’ salaries begin at around $150K per annum. The 15% contribution figure elicits a minimum taxpayer funded super contribution of $22,500 per annum which is vastly more than the average OZ in civvy street manages to accumulate. To add the preservative formaldehyde to the taxpayers’ wounds, compare that with 69% of say, $150K which would be a $103,500 per annum taxpayer funded contribution. And that’s just for backbenchers and the also-rans.

Consider that the likes of Senator Barnaby Joyce and other New Super Pollies have studiously refrained from complaining about the disparity in remuneration. When the Remuneration Tribunal (which is/was supposed to be fair, well considered and adjudicated by God and thus just), awarded politicians across the board, a common 6.8% p.a. salary increase under Howard’s stewardship.

Since the salary adjustment process was supposed to be fair, then how come New Super Pollies were not awarded a differential pay increase to compensate for their measly 15% super contribution versus the Old Super Pollies 69% contribution? Why? Why would that be so? Clearly, Senator Joyce and other New Super Pollies have been told to keep their traps shut, not to rock the Old Pollies’ retirement Gravy Boat and that their fair share of the Future Fund for maintaining the political status quo would be returned to them in due course.

The reasons of course are simple. In office, John Howard said that he (a) would do nothing to trash the Liberal Party’s future and (b) that he believed that the existing gene pool of politicians should be maintained by the existing remuneration system. Another disingenuous argument in favour of maintaining the Old Pollies outrageous superannuation scheme is that it provides stable government! Really? That would have to be an Orwellian styled stability, consisting of control and tyranny, of course.

Stable government of the Howard variety was just another name for unimaginative, go-slow, hidebound undemocratic government. There can be no doubt that maintenance of the 20C system of super largesse continues to be used as a big stick to subjugate members of their respective caucuses, into being no more than “Yes Unity ticket holders”. In effect the existing system maintains the power of endorsement of the major parties over their members creates a yes-mentality and maintains go-slow unimaginative government, rorted by the oligarchy of vested interests that controls the political agenda, with minimal retro-accountability at best, at an election. Clearly, the Old Super Pollies superannuation scheme is the singularly greatest incentive for Pollies to not rock the party boat too much by being imaginative or radical or controversial. The clear incentive is to stay in parliament for as long as possible because they cream it in the long run.

Despite the need for imaginative government and the need for far greater national economic and foreign policy independence, what we have is a political system determined to maintain its own longevity with minimal change being the harbinger of responsible government. That’s about it. Contrarily, Howard and Costello’s penchant for applying the tenets of Competition Policy and Economic Rationalism to everyone except politicians smacks of big-time hypocrisy and Luddite politics.

If economic rationalism has been essential to making Australia more internationally competitive, then why shouldn’t the same rationale apply to politicians? Our Pollies love to declare that they deserve their superannuation largesse as a minimum package of rewards for their service to the community when they could easily earn heaps more in the private sector! Why? Because the total remuneration package of annual salary plus perks plus a 69% superannuation contribution is really piddling when compared with what corporate CEOs get? What a sick joke!

Remember? The rationale of Howard and Costello’s Work Choices and Australian Work Agreements was to reduce bludging in the work force, by axing perks, axing overtime, axing holiday pay, minimising sick pay, axing unfair dismissals and axing awards in favour of merit based pay. Thus, according to H&C’s rationale, increased flexibility in the work place would lead to increased productivity that would lead to increased wages. There would be nothing wrong with that if the same rationale applied to Pollies. But it was not applied to Pollies and does not look like being applied under the Rudd Government either. No Siree! It sure as hell doesn’t.

If Pollies want to compare their skills, their value and abilities with those of big-time corporate CEOs then they ought to be willing to contemplate a performance based salary package that would attract “The best and brightest” to the parliaments of the land! How? By offering the kind of annual salary that might tempt and attract better performing civilians into parliament? Clearly so - too much dead wood currently sits on the back benches for as long as possible, for no really good reason other than to accumulate a massive super payout as a reward for dead-headed party loyalty when the time comes to vote internally.

Advocates of economic rationalism could scarcely argue successfully against the notion that encouraging new wood and better grained wood into the parliament would require bigger annual salaries. And so the means to that end is staring at Mr Rudd right now. Today - at this point in time, going forward rather than remaining stationary, locked into the “No democratic change be needed thanks political status quo”? Yep. Offering annual salaries to New Super Pollies that actually compensate them for the difference between 69% and 15% of annual salary that they are currently losing would enhance such prospects and would offer the populace a sense of “an actual democratic Fair Go”.

 

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