Excessively generous – and kind of unfair

HUMOUR me here: weren’t politicians once paid only a small, token sum for leading the community forward?

This could be a fact I fashioned out of thin air, but I’m sure someone told me this was how politics used to run.

I was under the impression that politicians were, in days gone past, people who got tapped for civic roles in addition to their already robust vocations. They were the ones who were running local businesses, who were passionate about local commerce and who already had a vested interest in their growth and vibrancy of their local community.


That’s why they got so many perks, I was told: so they would be encouraged to take on the roles of community leadership and strategic planning.

It meant that our community leaders were, you know, comprised of actual community leaders.

But it seems that over time, the perks that were designed as a little ‘sweetener’ to encourage people to lead us forward have become a little, shall we say, outrageous?

Business class travel (for pollies and their partners!), chauffeured drivers, staffed offices and even $100-a-day meal allowances. These are just some of the work freebies our politicians enjoy, sometimes well after retirement.

It’s understandable that former Prime Minsters should receive a few retirement perks for their service to the country.

It’s an all-consuming job and they’re under high levels of stress and constant scrutiny; having taxpayers cover millions of dollars worth of travel and office expenses years after they’ve left office seems almost justified. (Check out some of their recent spending habits here.)

But even run-of-the-mill MP’s get a generous ‘going away gift’. According to NSW parliamentary guidelines, retiring members of parliament who have served a minimum of seven years (and who were elected before 2007, when the rules changed) are entitled to 48.8 per cent of the base parliamentary salary of $149,541.

For each month of employment past seven years, that figure rises by 0.2 per cent. Almost a dozen MPs are set to retire and pocket this handy financial windfall.

But in the words of Greens upper house member John Kaye, many of them “clearly don’t need it.”

“The old scheme was excessively generous and most people would look at it and question where the fairness is,” he says.

I know I am. What do you think: is this fair recompense for a stressful career in politics? Or an unfair pension that taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund?

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