What an extraordinary turn of events. After years of Liberal party waste and profligacy in government spending, we might just have stumbled on the ALP as a government that will genuinely cut waste and extravagance – if it carries through on its surprisingly good start. Anthony Albanese is absolutely right to cut the number of so-called advisers for independent and crossbench MPs and senators from four to one. Their present entitlement is four electorate officers to help them with the crushing burden of handing out flags and writing to ministers on immigration and pension cases for constituents. On top of that, they have these four policy advisers – each! The whole package, provided of course by the big spenders and big failures, Turnbull, Morrison and Frydenberg, is grossly extravagant, obscenely expensive, produces no return on investment and is little more than a powerhouse for empire building. If there were ever an area of government spending that cried out to be decimated, this is it.
The whole notion that these bottom-feeders are qualified by knowledge or experience to ‘advise’ MPs is ludicrous. Your average adviser is wet behind the ears with not the slightest experience of the real world. If they land a job as an adviser, it will probably be the first job they have had since leaving school. They will have a diploma in smoking ceremonies, transgender activism or the evils of logging in old-growth forests from some third-rate college that takes anyone they can find to keep their student numbers up. As an alternative qualification, they will have had a stellar twelve months’ career as a community organiser in stakeholder relations at the local refugee centre. So, they have little if any qualification for advising anyone on anything and certainly not if they are doing it at our expense. Yet, here they are, with an all-expenses-paid job and the lofty title of ‘adviser’ as if they were up there with the Delphic Oracle. It is ludicrous.
And what exactly is it that advisers do, once ensconced in the hallowed office of a member or senator and acquainted with how to order a government car and fudge the overtime chit and the expense allowance? It is easier to note what they do not do. First, they do not advise at all, as MP soon learn that the last thing they should do is follow the advice of an adviser, unless they want to ruin their careers and make themselves the laughing stock of the press gallery. Roman senators asked ‘Who will guard us from our guardians?’ Australian politicians ask, ‘Who will advise us how to ignore advice from our advisers?’
But if they are not advising, what do they actually do? Well, they spend most of their time scheming, schmoozing up to the tee-shirt-and-sneakers brigade in the business world, leaking, doing hatchet jobs on their rivals and enemies, more leaking, promoting their lacklustre masters to the media and still more leaking. If they have any time left from these weighty tasks, they spend it on advancing themselves, with one eye on future pre-selections or cushy jobs with a government relations consultant or investment banker and the other on showing they are at the centre of power and decision-making. Even dropping the word ‘adviser’ at the pub or a party implies they are privy to inside knowledge on every imminent government decision from invading China to stopping the sea from rising. Then, of course, they trade on the myth that is being promoted in independent, teal, reform and progressive quarters, namely that new MPs need advisers to explain legislation to them. As to this, you might well ask: can’t they read? Can’t they use a computer like everyone else?
There is, of course, a lot of labyrinthine gobbledegook in legislation, and the seasoned adviser is likely to pick up the jargon quickly. But the result of an adviser advising what a law means, does no more than replace one set of mumbo-jumbo incantations with another. (I became an expert myself on the meaning of the word ‘leer’ in sexual harassment complaints and that was a great contribution to human wisdom, I assure you). But if advisers spend any time on legislation, it is on drawing amendments to expand dubious government schemes like the carpark and sports club rorts. And this shows, I think, the real genius of what Albanese has done. He knows that advisers, like royal commissions and government inquiries, need new causes to promote if they are to survive and justify their otherwise useless existence. Like nature, they abhor a vacuum and cannot leave well alone.
They will discover previously unknown pits of human misery, urgent needs for handouts and grants for everyone from failed companies to unpublished poets and will always go for the tear-jerking expansion of anything on the government teat. Their bosses pick up the cry and make the same demands for more government spending. But Albo knows: cut the advisers and you cut the pressure on government to spend more money. Cut the empire builders and you will cut the empire.
But he should not stop there. Next target should be the electorate staff of all MPs and senators which, if possible, are deeper pig-troughs than the advisers’ ones. Some of them are relatives of the MP or simply party hacks. Now, I do not want to harp on the good old days, but when I was there, and electorates were bigger, we had one electorate secretary and that was enough. Today, our lawmakers have computers and every invention of technology known to mankind. That is enough of a burden for the long-suffering taxpayer to bear. Giving four extra electorate staff to MPs and senators, as well, is unprincipled extravagance.
So, surprisingly, Albanese is off to a good start and he should not give in. Winning this one, with the entire woke establishment against him, will make future cuts so much easier to achieve.
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