(Image: Tom Red/Private Media)

Is there a better gig than being a major party member of the adornment to bicameralism, the NSW Legislative Council?

You get to be paid more than $169,000 a year — $190,000 if you score a committee chairmanship. You get to hire and fire your staff on a whim, without any of the usual workplace protections. You get an eight-year term, and because the whole state is your electorate, you don’t have to answer to any pesky constituents. Best of all, you only have to work about 75 days a year in Parliament, including estimates hearings.

It’s much tougher for crossbench councillors — they have to work out how to vote on legislation and what work they’re going to do on committees. And ministers have their day jobs running their portfolios. But if you’re a major party backbencher, it’s a great job.

And councillors have just had a break, from 26 March to last Tuesday, during which the fate of the best job in the chamber has been up for grabs: the $309,000 role of President of the Council. The incumbent, John Ajaka, retired during the break, having flagged his departure in February.

Gladys Berejiklian decided she wanted Natasha Maclaren-Jones to replace Ajaka. Labor and the minor parties disagreed, with duelling legal advices being deployed about whether Maclaren-Jones was duly elected. There was much shouting in the sparsely-filled chamber and, 90 minutes after taking the position, Maclaren-Jones was dumped and replaced with another Liberal, Matthew Mason-Cox.

Mason-Cox is a hardline anti-abortionist who tried to lead a revolt against Berejiklian’s leadership during the 2019 debate over decriminalisation of abortion. He’s now got the $309,000 prize with the support of Labor and the crossbench, and was duly expelled from the Liberal Party yesterday afternoon. Mason-Cox is a near-15-year member of the council, who had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ministerial career under Mike Baird.

His presidency will only last until 2023, however, because his staggered eight-year term will end then, albeit with a considerably enhanced parliamentary superannuation payout.

The Losers’ Lounge, as Crikey termed the NSW upper house in our early years, primarily serves the public interest via its committees subjecting the government to an uncomfortable degree of scrutiny, often demanding documents the government has a profound desire to keep hidden. Given the sleaze of the Berejiklian government, this has been a useful tool of accountability, though not as great as NSW ICAC.

But the shouty stupidity of Tuesday might only serve to prompt voters to wonder what exactly the point is of an upper house, especially one that has no electors to answer to more often than every eight years.