Hi Crikey,

I was just reading your stuff on MPs behaving badly and don’t doubt its truth but as a former MP (this e-mail does not reflect my real name) I can tell you it’s no picnic “managing” your electorate staff either and they often behave very badly.

Some examples in my own experience include a staffer running their own business from her desk in my office and going home “sick” when I wasn’t there and diverting the phone to her house so callers (including me) got her personal answering machine message. Her partner came in whenever I wasn’t there and used my desk (with feet up on it) and made heaps of international and STD calls.

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One staffer lived in the office without my knowledge for some weeks — had a sleeping bag which they rolled out at night and showered in the nearby facilities. Saves rent!

Another fell madly in love with a much younger person and made her life a misery by s-xually harassing her. I am still the worst person in the world for sorting that out.

One used to go out every day to collect her children from school in work time but absolutely refused to do 1min extra work after 5pm or any other time to compensate. The same one used to come in then order a huge cooked breakfast from the shop next door, sit down and eat it and still have all the usual meal breaks. Then she’d shop in her lunch hour and come back and eat her lunch in work time — but out the back, not at her desk — and not making any pretence of doing any work in that time either.

Same one had always, “just stepped out” whenever I called from away to ask for anything. I later found out it was long lunches with the girls, shopping for children’s uniforms etc or putting her gold lotto on.

I used to give them a half day rostered time off on Fridays but after abuse after abuse of the system cancelled it — so they took it in turns to be “sick” every Friday.

If you pull them up you are “bullying” them and they threaten “union” and if it were to go public the MP would cop it from the media and suffer in the big poll on election day so it’s hard to know what to do.

I know of a minister in the current government who is having almost the same problems right now. It’s not uncommon. You just wish they would come to work, do their work and go home and cut all the drama.

MPs may behave badly but by golly they are not unprovoked sometimes either!

Regards, Harry

Meanwhile, in the interest of balance, Crikey received the following anonymous tips regarding misbehaving MPs:

The great irony about the dismissal of Tony Stewart is that it was done by a Premier who has a reputation for being pretty hard on staff himself. It’s common knowledge within the ALP, and probably the reason that Stewart’s dismissal has antagonised so many MPs.

I worked closely with a Federal MP based in Sydney who was an absolute disgrace in the methods he used to “manage” staff. Not only did he set an obscene example by abusing taxpayer funds (ie. using staff to drop his children to school every morning then collect them and claim as a “travel expense”) but he also used Comcars to travel to and from events that weren’t related to his portfolio of the time.

Why don’t you have a look at Wayne Swan’s track record. He built an appalling reputation while working for Mick Young and later as Qld ALP Secretary. He was known to have reduced a number of female staff to tears because of his behaviour. You might also look at the trashing of his electorate office when he lost his seat.

At a party in Adelaide last week I met a woman who had been an electorate officer for a SA State Minister. As I am myself a former electorate officer we struck up a conversation and compared notes. Now while my years in this role were enjoyable, her story was quite different. She says she was employed on merit, and that she was not and has never been a member of the ALP. Initially she said the job was good, and relations with the Minister were cordial. However, she says that after about two years, the Minister’s attitude changed completely, and for the next two years she was subjected to verbal abuse of quite a vicious and personal nature. She said that the continual victimisation caused her such personal distress that she resigned from the position.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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