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No wonder the public thinks pollies are crooks

By John Hargreaves - 10 August 2015 17

josh-parliament-house

Last week I wrote about the Brongate saga from the Apple Isle. Well, I’m still here enjoying the fantastic scenery, pleasant people, fabulous eating establishments and the weather!

The snow hit in the middle of the week and to get to our destination, we had to drive through a blizzard with snow coming horizontally at us. What an adventure.

What struck us though, was talking to the locals and the saga of pollies rorting the system was well and truly alive even though Bronnie is roadkill.

I don’t like the term “the sniff test” but I do like the term “the man in the street test” or the “pub test”. We surveyed both the last two.

It seem as though “you got one of ours so we’ll get one of yours” or “your sin is worse than mine” is the game at the moment.

Both sides are blaming the system. What rubbish!

Both sides have far too many members who have failed the man in the street test.

It makes me mad that too many pollies seem to think that they are in a privileged position so they can wander the country and overseas as though they are in a class of their own.

I can understand having a partner travel with a minister because sometimes an overseas protocol will require it for effective diplomacy. But certainly not inside Australia, nor in every case.

I don’t see any justification for me paying for some pollies kids’ travel. I remember a Labor pollie taking the kids to Monkey Mia in the 80s and then needing a staffer to babysit so that one got the gig too! Shameful.

I don’t want to pay for any pollies to go to fundraisers, to travel across the country to check out real estate, or to go to mates’ weddings.

A guy on TV the other day echoed a guy I spoke to in Launceston when he said that his boss would just laugh if he asked him to pay for this stuff.

Fixing and streamlining the system is needed.

The days of privilege started in England with the upper classes ruling the land.  We are better than that, I hope.

No wonder the general public think that pollies are self-centred crooks. They give ample proof that they are disconnected from the ordinary man. And the longer a person is in the parliament and the younger they start in the job, the more likely they will end up that way.

Bronwyn had to go because she was extraordinarily extravagant. She had form for over 30 years and it all started to leak out.  She got out well before the whole story came out, I’d say.

I think there are a lot of MPs shaking in their boots because the findings of Finance will be FOIable. The media is going to have a field day and skeletons will be rattled and so they should!

At the end of they day though, it is not about a system. It is about honesty. It is about integrity and it is about common sense. It is about paying respect to the people who gave you your job.

It is pollies like we are seeing now that do the profession a bad name. We should hold our representatives in high esteem. They make it hard.

(Photo credit: Josh Mulrine)

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17 Responses to
No wonder the public thinks pollies are crooks
fernandof 2:00 pm 17 Aug 15

switch said :

TFarquahar said :

I like your quote “It is pollies like we are seeing now that do the profession a bad name. We should hold our representatives in high esteem. They make it hard.”

Remember politicians, and especially ex-politicians, in glass houses should not throw stones.

More please!

No wonder both sides were so keen for BB to fall on her sword.

Yep. Fake outrage served with a side-dish of hypocrisy is all well and good in front of the media, but that BS will never fly well in the context of an open forum.

switch 10:35 am 17 Aug 15

TFarquahar said :

I like your quote “It is pollies like we are seeing now that do the profession a bad name. We should hold our representatives in high esteem. They make it hard.”

Remember politicians, and especially ex-politicians, in glass houses should not throw stones.

More please!

No wonder both sides were so keen for BB to fall on her sword.

dungfungus 9:45 am 17 Aug 15

TFarquahar said :

A very interesting perspective John from someone who, in a previous life, as a politician had a very well developed snout. So well developed that the now thriving Canberra Region truffle industry would pay very well for it. A quick check of the Seventh Assembly Travel Report shows that between 2004 and 2012 you undertook a total of $44696 worth of tax payer funded travel. One trip was apparently a jolly little jaunt with Mrs J Hargreaves to Kenya for the 56th CPA conference. For those not in the know the CPA conference is the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. Not withstanding that the pathetic little ACT Legislative Assembly does not qualify as a Parliament, and nor is it called one, you felt that it was vital you attend with Mrs J Hargreaves at a reported cost of $10897 for yourself and $15160 for Mrs J Hargreaves. How lovely that 3 or 4 Canberra families paid their rates for a whole year so that your spouse could go on wildlife safaris and whatnot.

You stated “I don’t see any justification for me paying for some pollies kids’ travel. I remember a Labor pollie taking the kids to Monkey Mia in the 80s and then needing a staffer to babysit so that one got the gig too! Shameful.”

Explain to Riot Act readers the justification for taking your wife to Kenya?

Another interesting little trip I noticed, and not the most expensive, was your trip to the Commonwealth Government Whips Network Annual Meeting. I note by clicking the hyperlink on the word study, that on your application you stated this was a trip to Sydney. But the sum product of your attendance was a report that just dot pointed what other people had to say. At $1139, an absolute steal, well not for the family living in some poorer region of Canberra paying their rates.

I like your quote “It is pollies like we are seeing now that do the profession a bad name. We should hold our representatives in high esteem. They make it hard.”

Remember politicians, and especially ex-politicians, in glass houses should not throw stones.

Ouch!

TFarquahar 8:43 pm 16 Aug 15

A very interesting perspective John from someone who, in a previous life, as a politician had a very well developed snout. So well developed that the now thriving Canberra Region truffle industry would pay very well for it. A quick check of the Seventh Assembly Travel Report shows that between 2004 and 2012 you undertook a total of $44696 worth of tax payer funded travel. One trip was apparently a jolly little jaunt with Mrs J Hargreaves to Kenya for the 56th CPA conference. For those not in the know the CPA conference is the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. Not withstanding that the pathetic little ACT Legislative Assembly does not qualify as a Parliament, and nor is it called one, you felt that it was vital you attend with Mrs J Hargreaves at a reported cost of $10897 for yourself and $15160 for Mrs J Hargreaves. How lovely that 3 or 4 Canberra families paid their rates for a whole year so that your spouse could go on wildlife safaris and whatnot.

You stated “I don’t see any justification for me paying for some pollies kids’ travel. I remember a Labor pollie taking the kids to Monkey Mia in the 80s and then needing a staffer to babysit so that one got the gig too! Shameful.”

Explain to Riot Act readers the justification for taking your wife to Kenya?

Another interesting little trip I noticed, and not the most expensive, was your trip to the Commonwealth Government Whips Network Annual Meeting. I note by clicking the hyperlink on the word study, that on your application you stated this was a trip to Sydney. But the sum product of your attendance was a report that just dot pointed what other people had to say. At $1139, an absolute steal, well not for the family living in some poorer region of Canberra paying their rates.

I like your quote “It is pollies like we are seeing now that do the profession a bad name. We should hold our representatives in high esteem. They make it hard.”

Remember politicians, and especially ex-politicians, in glass houses should not throw stones.

dungfungus 8:08 am 14 Aug 15

Willoring said :

Accountability and transparency are the keys. I used to work at Finance. We worked out many years ago that the solution would be to give every politician a platinum credit card with no spending limit. But publish the credit card statement every month! Needless to say, we were never stupid enough to propose this eminently sensible and cost effective system to the Special Minister for State!

A plastic credit card would be cheaper.

Willoring 6:25 pm 13 Aug 15

Accountability and transparency are the keys. I used to work at Finance. We worked out many years ago that the solution would be to give every politician a platinum credit card with no spending limit. But publish the credit card statement every month! Needless to say, we were never stupid enough to propose this eminently sensible and cost effective system to the Special Minister for State!

watto23 4:23 pm 13 Aug 15

Bronwyn, was a scape goat of sorts, because she took it so far it was clearly bad use of the entitlements. Its highlighted them in the media and now they are going to need to do some belt tightening. You can bet its not too much though.

Personally I think if they were accountable there would be little issue. All expenses are put up on a website monthly, with reasons etc. Same for political donations. None of this, “I forgot to declare it”. If you forget to declare it then I’m sorry its like an athlete avoiding a drug test and are guilty of the actual offence.

Antagonist 4:17 pm 13 Aug 15

dungfungus said :

I recall having to deal with an ACT MLA who was a Minister at the time on an advocacy matter.
I knew him personally and always addressed him by his first name but on arrival at his office I was told rather bluntly by his adviser that he should only be addressed as “Minister”.
Amazing how the trappings of office change a person’s impressions of themselves.

I used to serve Ted Quinlan at a club I worked at in Weston Creek. If he came to the bar I called him Ted. If I approached his table I would call him Mr Quinlan. He was always polite and personable. A few characters at his table insisted on being addressed as Mr, and these same characters were always rude to my bar staff. And yet I always address the principal at my children’s school as Mr and don’t bat an eyelid …

Evilomlap 3:47 pm 13 Aug 15

dungfungus said :

John Hargreaves said :

bd84 said :

To be honest Bronwyn Bishop is really a scapegoat for all politicians from both parties. I could guarantee that you could interrogate the expenses of every politician and about every single one of them would have claimed expenses that the general public would find questionable or extravagant.

Until they established robust explicit rules and regulations, that are enforced, about what it acceptable and what is not, politicians will continue on their merry way claiming whatever they can bend to be within the rules. We’ve seen recent court cases involving fraudulent altered claims which have been turfed out by the courts because there was no specific rules prohibiting the politician from making such claims.

Neither party in government has the will to put such controls in place as they have their own interests at stake and they’re the only people who can put them in place. It is a systemic problem that won’t be fixed until such time someone fixes the whole entitlements scheme.

Without wishing to diminish the the argument that many in federal, and I dare say, state politics are taking what they can as often as they can, I can suggest that the feeble justification given to me a decade ago was that pollies have only a three or four year contract and often when they get kicked out they are unemployable so they get as much as they can.

Whilst this may be true in many cases, the major issue for Mrs Bishop was the scale if the extravagance, the length of time she was ripping us off and her indifference to criticism when sprung!

She is alone in that class.

For me though, the first point to the political class putting itself above the people and having different rules. I was always uncomfortable with that.

John has a point there.
I recall having to deal with an ACT MLA who was a Minister at the time on an advocacy matter.
I knew him personally and always addressed him by his first name but on arrival at his office I was told rather bluntly by his adviser that he should only be addressed as “Minister”.
Amazing how the trappings of office change a person’s impressions of themselves.

His advisor may not have known any better. Having worked as an advisor it’s pretty much a no-brainer that as a mark of respect you always refer to people in office by their titles. It becomes a habit. When referring to the guy I advised I always used “the Senator” but obviously behind closed doors it became more informal. Now, if he himself insisted you start calling him “Minister”…now that would be a little off!

dungfungus 9:05 am 13 Aug 15

John Hargreaves said :

bd84 said :

To be honest Bronwyn Bishop is really a scapegoat for all politicians from both parties. I could guarantee that you could interrogate the expenses of every politician and about every single one of them would have claimed expenses that the general public would find questionable or extravagant.

Until they established robust explicit rules and regulations, that are enforced, about what it acceptable and what is not, politicians will continue on their merry way claiming whatever they can bend to be within the rules. We’ve seen recent court cases involving fraudulent altered claims which have been turfed out by the courts because there was no specific rules prohibiting the politician from making such claims.

Neither party in government has the will to put such controls in place as they have their own interests at stake and they’re the only people who can put them in place. It is a systemic problem that won’t be fixed until such time someone fixes the whole entitlements scheme.

Without wishing to diminish the the argument that many in federal, and I dare say, state politics are taking what they can as often as they can, I can suggest that the feeble justification given to me a decade ago was that pollies have only a three or four year contract and often when they get kicked out they are unemployable so they get as much as they can.

Whilst this may be true in many cases, the major issue for Mrs Bishop was the scale if the extravagance, the length of time she was ripping us off and her indifference to criticism when sprung!

She is alone in that class.

For me though, the first point to the political class putting itself above the people and having different rules. I was always uncomfortable with that.

John has a point there.
I recall having to deal with an ACT MLA who was a Minister at the time on an advocacy matter.
I knew him personally and always addressed him by his first name but on arrival at his office I was told rather bluntly by his adviser that he should only be addressed as “Minister”.
Amazing how the trappings of office change a person’s impressions of themselves.

John Hargreaves 5:59 pm 12 Aug 15

bd84 said :

To be honest Bronwyn Bishop is really a scapegoat for all politicians from both parties. I could guarantee that you could interrogate the expenses of every politician and about every single one of them would have claimed expenses that the general public would find questionable or extravagant.

Until they established robust explicit rules and regulations, that are enforced, about what it acceptable and what is not, politicians will continue on their merry way claiming whatever they can bend to be within the rules. We’ve seen recent court cases involving fraudulent altered claims which have been turfed out by the courts because there was no specific rules prohibiting the politician from making such claims.

Neither party in government has the will to put such controls in place as they have their own interests at stake and they’re the only people who can put them in place. It is a systemic problem that won’t be fixed until such time someone fixes the whole entitlements scheme.

Without wishing to diminish the the argument that many in federal, and I dare say, state politics are taking what they can as often as they can, I can suggest that the feeble justification given to me a decade ago was that pollies have only a three or four year contract and often when they get kicked out they are unemployable so they get as much as they can.

Whilst this may be true in many cases, the major issue for Mrs Bishop was the scale if the extravagance, the length of time she was ripping us off and her indifference to criticism when sprung!

She is alone in that class.

For me though, the first point to the political class putting itself above the people and having different rules. I was always uncomfortable with that.

bd84 8:36 am 12 Aug 15

To be honest Bronwyn Bishop is really a scapegoat for all politicians from both parties. I could guarantee that you could interrogate the expenses of every politician and about every single one of them would have claimed expenses that the general public would find questionable or extravagant.

Until they established robust explicit rules and regulations, that are enforced, about what it acceptable and what is not, politicians will continue on their merry way claiming whatever they can bend to be within the rules. We’ve seen recent court cases involving fraudulent altered claims which have been turfed out by the courts because there was no specific rules prohibiting the politician from making such claims.

Neither party in government has the will to put such controls in place as they have their own interests at stake and they’re the only people who can put them in place. It is a systemic problem that won’t be fixed until such time someone fixes the whole entitlements scheme.

rubaiyat 4:19 pm 10 Aug 15

The real problem is the Pollies who think the public are all crooks.

Except of course all those who contributed to their natural ascendancy over us.

Antagonist 1:22 pm 10 Aug 15

The problem is that many of these perks or entitlements are antiques. They have their origins in a time when it took a long time to travel from an electorate in WA to Canberra for example – mainly because there were no commercial air services available at the time! It could take a few weeks for some MP’s to get from their electorate to Canberra. And in that context, many of these entitlements make sense and, dare I say, even appear appropriate.

But times have changed over the past century since many of the allowances were first introduced. Technology has changed so that meetings can be held via phone/phone conference/video link. Travel has changed – and don’t our pollies love their expensive air travel. No longer is it a few weeks by horse or rail with dozens of overnight stops along the way. The only thing that has NOT changed are the ‘entitlements’ – which seem to extend to senior bureaucrats too. I am rather tired of the BS ‘… it has always been that way, it is within the rules” excuse being trotted out. MPs are supposed to be frugal with their spending. The whole system is broken and needs to be overhauled from top to bottom.

People think pollies are crooks because, frankly, I think they actually *are* all crooked. Crooked like a question mark. Driven only by power, greed and narcissism thinly veiled under the guise of ‘serving their constituents’. It has been this way since the Romans. And since the pollies are going to run the ‘review of entitlements’, you can bet I am very pessimistic about how this will all end.

fernandof 9:51 am 10 Aug 15

John, I must admit I’m not quite sure what exactly you are saying here…

At one point you say “Both sides are blaming the system. What rubbish!”, indicating that it isn’t the system that is at fault, but rather something else, yet later in the article you’re suggesting that “Fixing and streamlining the system is needed.”

Could you clarify this a bit? What’s the element at fault here, and if it isn’t “the system” how would fixing and streamlining “the system” resolve the problem?

Here’s what I personally think; the reason why “the general public think that pollies are self-centred crooks” – it’s rather simple. It’s because pollies truly are self-centred crooks. But here’s the thing: it’s not the crooks fault, it really is the system’s fault. It’s the system fault in creating an environment so ripe for corruption, an environment that simply put, encourages it.

I’m about to give you a $$$$$$$$$ worth of consultancy thinking to the root cause of the problem. For free. Are you ready? OK, Here goes: Accountability. Boom! (yeah, I know, there’s nothing new here, same old, same old, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid or true.)

The political system managed to successfully remove all accountability controls and governance mechanisms for top rated pollies. In an accountability-free environment, a landscape that has no real governance to speak of (or that the governance practices have no real enforceable replications) it would be perfectly safe to assume corruption, i.e., acting in the interest of the self (rather than the public) where a conflict of interests arises.

You truly honestly want to reduce corruption? No problems, all’s that needed is the establishment of real controls with direct accountability and actual implications for inappropriate practices/behaviours. The good news is that we have matured the practice of establishing a governance body to bring control and accountability to the level of fine art. There are heaps of theories methodologies out there we could adapt to fit the Public Sector, all of which are well known and widely used in other sectors to a great success (see governance aspects of P3M3, PMBOK, PRINCE2, TOGAF, MSP and heaps more).

When a pollies would have to answer to an independent, transparent, and fair governing body around e.g., how their last term aligns with their promises and expectations they’ve setup with the public (this includes both election promises and “the spirit” of their interaction with the public for any polly, not just high profile candidates) – I guarantee an immediate cut in corruptive behaviour including huge reductions in misusing public funds (the topic of your article).

And just in case it wasn’t clear: yes, I absolutely know this is all BS. In the real world politics have been exempt from accountability and governance – that’s true in every single country in the world, no reason to think we’ll be any different. Instead, we have ambiguous, powerless statements like “Fixing and streamlining the system is needed” which would make a great soundbite and maybe even a nice headline, but contributes absolutely nothing to changing and improving the political culture and mindsets of our beloved leaders.

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