I sympathise with the lot of Politicians, or at least I try to.
I believe Politicians are under paid. In particular, I believe Ministers are severely under paid compared to senior executive roles in the commercial world, and a Minister is very much a Senior Executive.
In addition, every aspect of what they do publically and privately is under extreme public scrutiny and then every 3 years they have to re-apply for their job. And the working hours are excessive, by any measure.
Politicians do enjoy generous Superannuation benefits compared to the commercial world, or do they? The entitlements of Federal Politicians on leaving Parliament are nothing like the termination benefits paid to Senior Executives.
John Howard was a Federal Parliamentary Member for about the same number of years that Alan Moss was at Macquarie Bank. Only one of these gentlemen received a payout of between $50 and $80 million and it wasn’t the one with the most demanding job.
However, it is not compulsory to put yourself forward for Elected Office. You do it with full knowledge of what you will face.
Maybe an aspiring Politician is driven by an ideological desire to serve their community, to better the lives of others or to deliver outcomes they truly believe in.
A cynic may say that because the pay is so bad, they aspire for a Political career because they are not very good at what ever it is they thought they would be doing so Politics in relative terms is a lucrative option; the pay peanuts and get monkeys philosophy.
What ever the motive, I try to believe our Politicians do have the best interests of the Country at hand and within the confines of Political reality, are honest and credible.
But it is ever so hard when you the likes of Joel Fitzgibbon emerge.
Our Federal Minister for Defence could recall a free trip across the pond to New Zealand for a Politicians Rugby Team and a trip to the Gold Coast funded by the Australian Hotel Association for a Tourism Award Function.
He could not however recall two trips to China flying Business Class and staying at 5 star hotels. And for one of these trips, he apparently departed on Christmas day. (Not at all memorable when you have a young family)
If it was simply a failure to make the necessary entries on the Parliament’s Register of Interests it could perhaps be forgiven as being sloppy or lazy – at least it could be if their was only one trip. Being sloppy, lazy or even making and administrative error is almost excusable (even for the Minister responsible for the defence of the Nation, almost excusable).
However Minister Joel Fitzgibbon was asked a direct question at a news conference on Thursday:
"Have any of your trips to Beijing been paid for by Ms Liu or any of her companies?"
Mr. Fitzgibbon responded by saying he had only received small gifts from Ms Liu, birthdays etc etc etc.
There are two simple explanations. Joel Fitzgibbon is either being untruthful or is totally incompetent.
And this person oversees the Department with one of the biggest budgets and with the responsibility for this county’s defence and the execution of Government decisions involving overseas military activities such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Timor.
I for one would like to have more confidence in my Defence Minister. However, it seems the Prime Minister and Acting Prime Minister while expressing disappointment, are not taking any action against the Minister and by doing so, are effectively endorsing his behavior (or is it incompetence)
The lack of action defines the morals of the Government and does nothing to improve the perception of the profession of representative politics.