Australians have a wonderfully cynical love-hate relationship with our elected representatives. It’s a very split-personality relationship, too. For instance, we usually wouldn’t trust them as far as we could throw them – but we elected them in the first place! Go figure.
Our jaundiced view of politicians traces right back to our convict settler days when the distrust of authority figures was well-placed. Our national psyche still has lots of scar tissue from the treatment meted out to innocent and guilty alike. Yet, even though a couple of hundred years has gone by our scepticism has barely lessened. And, given the way they still behave today, you can hardly blame us for thinking the worst of them. The latest scandalous outrage concerns that fine bunch of community leaders who guide Queensland’s destiny. There’s nearly 90 of these Members of Parliament and the snuffling of their snouts in the trough is enough to turn your stomach. They have a fine little rort going and it’s one that is no doubt replicated across our other states and territories so the issue concerns us all. The cause of this consternation is electoral allowances – sums of taxpayer money doled-out every year by pollies to themselves to help look after us. Well, that’s their cover story anyway. Truth be told, some are actually using this money as a second pay packet. Which is not a bad racket given these allowances can add up to $100,000 a year.
When you consider that MPs pay themselves way over $100,000 a year anyway, you can perhaps feel a tinge of concern creeping in. That concern might turn to annoyance when you learn that some MPs are using this double-dipping jackpot to pay credit card bills, council rates, and even – get this – hand-outs to family members. But annoyance will surely turn to anger when confronted by their brae-faced brazenness in refusing to tell any of us how they are spending their second pay packet.
From the Premier down they have – with one exception – told us to mind our own business. Can you believe that? They would have us believe that spending our money is wholly and solely a matter for them and the Tax Man. This is based on a shifty rort they pulled a couple of years back with – one could very easily argue – this veil of secrecy in mind. The stonewall defence goes like this: Anything that happens between me and the Tax Man is confidential. So bugger off! Goodness gracious – anyone would think they were dealing with a Freedom of Information application! How dare we upstart voters suggest we have a right to ask for justification of how our elected representatives are spending our money? Gee, we’re a dreadfully arrogant lot, aren’t we? Quite bolshie, really.
What’s that? You think it’s not us but them that are arrogant. Yes, well, I can see how you could think that. But they’re our political masters aren’t they? Due and entitled to our respect and loving adoration? Yeah, right! You know, the most annoying thing about this (and heaven knows how many other similar rorts our pollies are scamming around the nation) is the lack of respect and arrogance. I mean, we actually accept that they engineer great rorts. That stopped shocking or even surprising us decades ago. Equally, we have come to terms with the frustration of them being so hellishly overpaid. Just don’t treat us as fools, okay? You could choke on your Weeties when the Minister nominated to defend this rort says it would cost too much to check on all the pollies to make sure they aren’t being unscrupulous. Excuse me? This from a leader of a government which pays veritable armies of public servants and spends something like $36 billion a year!
So, dear politicians, please remember those virtues you espoused when seeking our votes: be honest, transparent and accountable. You demand it of us in response to all the laws you make to keep us in line, so just give us back in kind, all right?