Pat Farmer is looking to quit Federal Parliament just 11 months after being re-elected by just 11 votes after preferences. He would be the fourth ex-Howard (Lib-Nat) Minister to resign after losing government in November 2007. He was recruited by John Howard for the Federal seat of Macarthur, centred on Campbelltown, near Sydney. There was considerable voter disenchantment with his decision to stop living in the electorate and move to the affluent North Shore of Sydney.
He is quoted in NSW Sunday papers as believing that he can’t do anything for his constituents by sitting on Opposition. He says he needs new challenges: that just happens to include looking at standing for the Liberal Party at the next NSW election – an election the Libs are expecting to be able to win. Oh – that would put Farmer back as member of a government. (image from smh.com.au)
The concept that Parliamentarians can only serve their constituents as member of a government, and especially from the front bench, like Farmer, is an anathema to democracy: it implies that only government members can do things – possibly including “special” government funding or promises at or near election time (‘electoral bribes’ in most people’s minds)
His proposed resignation, and the other three, is a good argument for politicians and political parties having to repay public money from the Electoral Commission when they resign after losing government. Sadly, no government in Australia would introduce such ethical legislation: self-interest will prevent it, to their shame. If politicians are not prepared to serve as backbenchers, and in Opposition, they should not stand for election.