Two business people shaking hands
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This week’s Inq analysis of post-politics government jobs for members of Tony Abbott’s government lit up the Crikey inbox with your thoughts. You’ve also been having your say on government transparency on economic recovery, and the threat of social media to our democracy.

On the gravy train:

Michelle Robertson writes: From the time of federation, Australia has paid a salary to parliamentarians, so that ordinary people can participate. In 1948, Chifley also recognised that serving an average of 10 hectic years in parliament disrupts any preexisting career, and so put in place generous parliamentary pensions. These were paid from the time of leaving parliament, not based on age.

Now that pensions have been replaced with an ordinary super scheme we must expect politicians to use their skills to continue to earn a living. Their skills are about influence. I am not surprised that only a doctor and a member of a family business have returned to “normal” life.

By all means let us have rules about what politicians can do after parliament, and the AAT process especially must change; but beware of disincentives to participating in politics.

Lindee Conway writes: This is a fact of modern life that infuriates me so much I struggle to contain my contempt. Truly.

The habit of ex-politicians from the Liberal and National parties who stay on well-paid, even over-paid positions, post-politics, is galling beyond belief.

I’m not sure what angers me most: is it the breathtaking arrogance that assumes a job-for-the-boys-and-girls is somehow natural, even a right?

Or is it the blinding, bloody hypocrisy when these jobs and their salaries are compared to pension or unemployment payments which reflect that ugly fact that we have, as a nation, legislated to make poverty entrenched and unending?

Actually: it’s the hypocrisy. I loathe the assumption that the current Coalition cabinet is behaving generously and honorably.

Spare me the bullshit.

Warren Morris writes: Do you know what I dislike about this type of journalism? Your article deliberately sets out to imply the gravy train is only run by the conservatives especially the Abbott era.

I see no comparison with the Rudd-Gillard years? Surely you do not expect me to believe they were materially any better than the conservatives. The journalism displayed here is biased and probably misleading and typically what we see from the ABC. 

Bernard Keane responds: Because Labor managed only two terms in government, its capacity to reward MPs and senators who lost seats or retired was limited. Nonetheless, of the 13 Labor MPs who lost seats or retired in 2010, two, Duncan Kerr and Arch Bevis, were subsequently appointed to government positions by the Gillard/Rudd government. The analysis is somewhat confounded by Kevin Rudd’s annoying habit of making bipartisan appointments to diplomatic positions (Brendan Nelson, Tim Fischer), senior government positions (Peter Costello to the Future Fund) and government reviews (Arthur Sinodinos in the 2008 Defence White Paper).

On government transparency and economic recovery:

David Edmonds writes: One of the definitions of conservatism is that it is the distillation of accumulated wisdom. It is understandable why this is appealing to conservatives, but it is inherently backward looking. Further, those Australians who identify with the Coalition are not really conservatives, but reactionaries. Accumulated wisdom is not a thing to them.

There are so many things that our government could do, that are in line with the essential nature of conservatism. Andrew Leigh wrote in Crikey about enhanced accountability and transparency. It is clear that it is in the country’s interest for the government to bring the people with it. 

There has been a lot of discussion about how it is blindly obvious that we could stimulate the economy through investment in renewables. 

We have a problem with the structural decline of our manufacturing industry. There are numerous problems with our education system. We have a problem with social housing, and poverty more generally.

And yet, while all of these things could be addressed as part of a response to the pandemic, I would bet that none of them will be. In years to come most of these issues will be addressed, probably by a Labor government, and conservatives will claim that they were not a thing when they were in office, just as they claimed about the Whitlam government reforms and those of Hawke and Keating.

On the threat of social media:

Glen Davis writes: Facebook’s business model is to mine the content of members’ communication to inform the targeting of advertising. Initially, the revenue stream was direct advertising to influence consumer purchases. But the development of other revenue streams is designed to influence how Facebook members think and vote.

Is Facebook a news medium as David Latham’s piece would have you believe? I say “no” because its editorial style, choices and content are for sale. 

How is that different from Murdoch or other traditional media? Because the bias present in traditional media is known in advance, declared in its editorials, announced in the wording of its headlines, familiar and relatively constant. Traditional media has known leanings.

Facebook editorially is volatile and unpredictable, because its business model is to have its editorial position for sale.

So it carries threats to society more generally, and yes, obviously to democracy.

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