Let’s get bang for our buck

WHEN boiled down to its bare bones, the current furore over political entitlements is really about bang for our buck.

We want our politicians to show us they are worthy of the dollars they earn, and those spent on our behalf.

Sadly, in our current political environment most of us don’t think they measure up.

Polls and surveys show that average Australians have a pretty low opinion of politicians.

The answer is relatively simple, but it must be a twofold approach.

First, our MPs must get back to a more business-like system for covering the expenses of office.

One suspects they would be more particular about value for money if they had to shell out for expenses and claim them back from the Commonwealth, like so many in private industry do every day.

If it first comes out of the MP’s pocket, before being claimed back from the taxpayer, they are going to run the ruler over every expense.

There must also be more clarity around what is parliamentary business, and what is for personal or party activities, and maybe some more firm guidelines about how they may be mixed.

I don’t deny for one minute that they should have their costs covered, and that our MPs should be paid a good dollar for their service.

They should also have some flexibility around family accompanying them for trips that are a mix of business and pleasure. But this needs to have a bit more rigour applied to avoid the issues that are currently plaguing our parliament.

This might mean paying a little more to the MPs and doing away with family travel, and then it becomes the option at the discretion of the member or senator.

After more than 25 years of observing and at times working alongside our elected officials, I won’t accept that the majority of MPs don’t earn every dollar they are paid, and they also shouldn’t have to bear extra expense. With that comes strain on family and relationships, and that must be acknowledged and accommodated where possible.

But the second, and probably more important change needed is for our politicians, whether they be federal or state, to deliver more in terms of genuine policy and debate.

The constant bickering, caterwauling and name-calling, particularly on the floor of the House of Representatives, has left many Australians disenchanted.

It has led to calls from a few new to the house for a more bipartisan approach.

Younger members of the voting public would struggle to remember a day where an opposition of any colour could get behind a government policy and back it.

The politics of opposition for the sake of opposition has become so refined that some have forgotten how to recognise a good policy.

If our politicians were able to get behind each other from time to time for the good of the country or a particular group within the community, this would go a long way to repairing the battered reputation of MPs.

That would show they are giving the bang for the buck.

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