Phil Coorey has a cracker of a yarn in The SMH today:

Federal MPs who entered Parliament at the last election are set to have their superannuation boosted after it was cut in 2004 under pressure from the former Labor leader Mark Latham.

A bipartisan push by federal backbenchers to increase the superannuation has been under way for some months and now has support at the most senior levels of the Government…

His colleague Peter Hartcher comments that “taxpayers should make federal lawmakers’ superannuation a little more generous”. He has three main arguments, but the last is the strongest:

[I]f you are angry at how much politicians are paid, you would probably be outraged if one were found to have taken bribes. A reasonable super deal seems a small price to pay for a reasonable quality Parliament.

Funnily enough it was one of the shiftiest, shonkiest pols I’ve ever encountered who first put that case to me. That person now survives off their super – topped up by some union patronage.

I don’t think politicians’ salaries are outrageous. Back in my days as corporate relations manager for one of the countries beigest construction and infrastructure firms, an old boss on the backbench used to make me buy the coffees when we caught up. I earned more than they did, after all. Pollies may well deserve higher pay.

What is outrageous, however, are all the allowances and lurks and perks. Mark Reilly from Channel Seven has been doing some sterling work revealing them of late.

But back to corruption. Very few pols are on the take – when they are politicians. When they leave politics, however, it’s a different matter.

The scrutiny is much less intense, to begin with – as are the levels of accountability that are demanded. Politicians can move straight into very lucrative roles indeed where they cash in on their contacts. That is corruption.

Politicians do not deserve any more super than ordinary Australians. Will that cause corruption? That potential exists already. And to cure it we need to do what’s done in most other Western democracies and impose suitably long cooling off periods before politicians – and senior staff and bureaucrats – can take roles related to their old jobs. We need to have similar rules for appointments to boards. And – most important of all – we need to enforce these rules.

Peter Fray

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