Monday, November 01, 2010

Federal Politicians Work Too Hard

Do they? Last weekend, Federal Liberal MP, Dr Mal Washer, said that the longer working hours for current MP's and Senators are "unsustainable". The argument is that the tight numbers in the House of Representatives mean that MP's have to be available to rush to the House if required by their Party.

Previously a number of MP's from either side of politics could mostly absent themselves from the House or Senate without any great consequence. there was also a "pairing" arrangement, which meant that if a member were absent on Parliamentary or government business, a member of the other side would either absent themselves, or abstain from voting. (Liberal) Opposition Leader tony Abbott refused this practice as a routine matter, and has only decided on a "case-by-case basis". this increases the uncertainty, and the requirement for members to at least attend Parliament House.

The second thing that has increased over the last 10 years is the amount of time politicians spend on "party-political" duties. That is, using work time, and taxpayer-funded advisers, to perform work for their political party.

Thirdly, the time spent on seeking advice about, preparing, rehearsing, and finally presenting the 3/5/10 second media grab has increased exponentially. These mostly consist of untested political assertions, short slogans (remember, I discussed 'sloganeering' during the recent election) designed to get attention, but contribute nothing to any debate on issues. While there is undoubted pressure from sections of the media for a media grab, politicians are not bound by duty to be media tarts. And rather too many of them are. 'The media' is seen as something to be managed, to be used for party political advantage, and for self-promotion. Too often whether a story will look good in local news, News Ltd papers, Sky News, or other media is more important than working towards good policy and contributing to sensible, rational debate.

I don't doubt that politicians work long hours. I just question how many of all the hours, and taxpayer dollars, are spent on the job we employ them to do, and how many are spent on party work, and self-promotional work. I do think that, if the thoughts of Dr Mal Washer are valid, politicians need to restructure their work, to focus on their work as representatives (of either voters, or states), and to have better defined times when they are available to the media.