Paying politicians:

Tim Vines writes: The pollie pay rise is now a three-day-old story but if I can be excused in reheating the leftovers once more, an observation.

It wasn’t so long ago that politics (that is, being an MP) was beyond the reach of many. Not because of the difficulties of winning a seat but because a backbencher’s salary was not enough to live off. This was especially true in the distant past (circa 1960) when most families were single income. A plumber, teacher or train driver would struggle to make a living on the backbench (and so kept a second job while serving). Only the rich, the Malcolm Turnbulls and Kevin Rudds, could afford to give up their livelihoods and go into politics.

Nowadays, pay is justified on the basis of “productivity” or supposed “worth” (however that is measured). But there is a social justice basis for ensuring adequate pay for politicians. It remains an important consideration.

Obviously being paid $200,000 as a backbencher goes beyond ensuring a living but, with many tradies earning six-figure salaries, perhaps it’s the appropriate level to entice a wide range of members.

Labor and its future:

John Hunwick writes: Re. “ALP Left hang tight to reforms as they step up numbers drive” (yesterday, item 1). Although glad to see Gillard’s elevation to PM, I have now reached the stage where I can only hope for such a trashing of Labor at the next election that a complete revision/reform of the party will have to be made.

I cannot believe the stance the PM took on same s-x marriages; I utterly despise the change in the uranium policy to sell it to India without that country signing the non-proliferation treaty (by all means sell uranium to India but under the safeguard of an international treaty — otherwise why have such a document?); and as for the sensible suggestions for the reform of Labor — it can only come after many pollies and Labor office bearers are removed from office.

Vote Labor? Not in 2013, thank you.

People’s jury as Greiner/BOF stoush builds:

John Richardson writes: Re. “Power Shots: behind Labor’s gay marriage shift … Greiner’s people’s jury …” (yesterday, item 15).  It’s said that Nick Greiner has always been proud of his humble origins although, like most politicians, he has never been short of self-confidence.

While Nick was busy placing a bur under Barry O’Farrell’s saddle, courtesy of The Daily Telegraph (as a result of O’Farrell’s decision not to privatise the poles and wires of the NSW electricity distribution network), he also took the opportunity of spruiking the interests of The New Democracy Foundation; yet another self-appointed private sector advocacy organisation, anxious to save democracy for the likes of you and me.

The New Democracy Foundation was apparently founded by the well-known public benefactor, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, the joint managing director of Transfield Holdings and a director of Sydney Harbour Tunnel Ltd, and several other companies.

The New Democracy Foundation claims to be engaged in the noble task of “identifying improvements to our democratic process and replacing the adversarial with the deliberative”. Assisting Luca and Nick with their mission are a raft of yesterday’s heroes, including Cheryl Kernot, John Brogden, Fred Chaney, John Button and John Della-Bosca, among others.

While Julia Gillard’s idea of a “citizen’s assembly” to address the challenges of climate change may not have cemented her reputation as being the sharpest knife in the drawer, unlike the arrogant, self-serving and undemocratic machinations being pursued by Nick and his coterie of unelected helpers via their misnamed “people’s jury”, at least the suggestion was made by someone who was democratically elected by the people to address such challenges.

Packer’s handy profit plays:

Robert Johnson writes: Re. “Power Shots: behind Labor’s gay marriage shift … Greiner’s people’s jury …” (yesterday, item 15). The first time I heard the story in yesterday’s Power Shots, the key players were a rural ALP backbencher wanting to impress a couple of visiting farmer-constituents in the Parliament House restaurant and Bob Hawke.

As I remember it, the source of the story in that form, in the early 1980s, was Barry Jones and I don’t recall an inference of it being true. It was also rather more colourful language in Jones’s telling.