Attending to stereotypes

According to this morning’s SMH, 125 former members of parliament (Australia’s) have accrued AUD1.2m over the last financial year in air travel – air travel for which they don’t pay. Up to 25 domestic return air-fares per year are given to former MPs as part of their golden election, or whatever it should be called.

Politically, electorally, this ought to be good. John Howard is not responsible for former MPs – although a look at former Liberals vs. former Labor MPs would be bloody entertaining. According to the article, the top 2 were Labor MPs, in fact. But this news comes hard upon the heels of the news that current MPs are giving themselves a pay-rise, so it all rolls into one: politicians are greedy. Public good, common treasury, etc. are not their watch-words: Jerry McGuire’s are. Parliament the operation gets the bad name, and John Howard has been in charge of it for the last 11 years, making it his fault.

It’s about the easiest maths in the world to do. It isn’t right, and we could well argue whether or not it is fair. In our simple two-party system, with our simple two-party stereotypes, Bad Characteristics must be apportioned, and I reckon the Libs will get this one.

Interestingly, though, Rudd won’t have much room to profit from the news, given the Top 2 exploiters are from his party (the Prime Minister thanks the breaks he can catch). With suitable naivete I’d say this means it is barely news, and will go away?

This links with another odd story – the RAAF making six flights, in all, to get the Prime Minister to the cricket. Couldn’t he just put on his weird sports-outfit and sit on the couch?

Why I find these interesting is that there is a cost-to-taxpayers element to all of this, but to me there’s an environmental element. We’re Australia: at the end of the day, AUD1.2m for rewarding former politicians for the job they did or didn’t do is eminently affordable. It isn’t as though we’d planned on spending it on Indigenous health interventions, or anything. There have been enough budget surpluses that I defy anyone to pretend this was money the country needed. Even the total bill for all MPs (AUD8m) hardly registers, for me – though I’d certainly rather have that money myself, if offered.

Making the RAAF fly a bloody Challenger business jet empty, twice, however is the obnoxious part. As are all the other flights made for one cricket match, etc. Could we not give our retired politicians free tickets on the Indian-Pacific, instead?

Therefore: I’d like to see the costs of this sort of thing in Terms Environmental – carbon emissions, barrels of oil, things that most certainly could be happily done without, or diverted to other purposes. Just a thought. Everyone else is supposed to be concerned, while the Prime Minister is comfortable causing unnecessary CO2 emissions (NSW, remember those storms you only just had?), noise pollution, etc. That’s selfishness.


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