Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald wore out the patience of all his parliamentary colleagues late on Thursday night as he did his best to draw out debate on the axing of the Life Gold Pass for former parliamentarians. If you can even call it a debate, that is. 

At some points during the evening, his colleagues stopped responding to Macdonald’s statements in an attempt to move the matter on and get the legislation passed. Macdonald said the move to axe the entitlements were “populist” and then went all Godwin, suggesting getting rid of parliamentarians was the kind of thing Hitler favoured. 

“If we are to follow the populist approach, why bother with those hated, money-grabbing, self-serving politicians at all? Perhaps Hitler and Stalin or Idi Amin had the right idea: do not bother about a Parliament and you do not have to bother about those pesky parliamentarians at all.”

After being defeated on the Gold Pass, Macdonald was determined to be a pain in the arse before passing the legislation establishing the independent body overseeing parliamentarian expenses, too. Macdonald complained that while parliamentarians’ wages and other benefits were exposed by FOI (Crikey‘s frustrated attempts to obtain ministerial diaries under FOI suggests otherwise), government bodies like the Human Rights Commission and the ABC were not as transparent. The Human Rights Commission in the past has published the pay and travel expenses of its commissioners, but Macdonald was accurate to say that the pay of ABC presenters was not made public (except that one time by accident).

According to Macdonald, it is a big issue for the people he talks to: “I am not sure what part of the world the minister moves in, but, everywhere I go, people raise with me the money that is paid to presenters on the ABC,” Macondald said. “Where do you go?” Labor Senator Sam Dastyari responded. All amendments to both pieces of legislation failed to get up and, at close to 9pm, the Senate finished for the week.

Peter Fray

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