When the Keating Government was defeated in 1996, the politically appointed ministerial advisers had very few immediate career options. There was barely a Labor state government in the country, the services economy was really just starting to take off, and the incoming Howard Government ensured these political staff were tracked and vilified for their efforts at public service in government.
It’s a harsh lesson for those political groupies, the ones who have acted like they’re bullet proof in the job. There are no Liberal state governments to park political operators today. I suspect Labor will already be monitoring the comings and goings in Campbell Newman’s office in Brisbane.
They are well compensated with a respectable termination payment if they have served for a few years or more. And most are generally happy for a decent break after the rigorous pace of government. But it soon dawns on most that their skills are tough to transfer when they wear a Labor or conservative badge.
Put a fork in them, the election is almost done.
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Many of the Liberal and National staffers have come out of the bureaucracy to do a stint in the Min Wing. Many have come from the media. Many have come through the party machinery. It’s always hard to go back.
The tribal nature of government means it is very hard to maintain a professional demeanor when you are fighting constant running battles on behalf of an ego fuelled Minister bent on ruling the universe.
So where will the 500 Liberal/National staffers end up? Some will make it back to the media. Normally after a cleansing period writing sport or lifestyle.
Some will make a dash for the bureaucracy, or may have done that already in the dying days of the government.
Some may have come from commercial careers and can return to the sectors they’ve come from – particularly if they have an economic or finance background.
The rest are stuck with a long hard road to reinvent their careers, either in the NGO sector or in other state jurisdictions. Many in my experience can’t stand the retro move and will disappear overseas, never to return again.
It’s not a happy feeling, walking the plank from a sinking political ship. But it is a valuable life experience for most people.
At very least they can probably earn their equivalent salary if they move to a mine site in WA or Queensland. That wasn’t an option in 1996.