The rise of the apparatchik infects and perverts our political system
The bipartisan culture of the apparatchik has so infected Australian politics that most politicians are held in such contempt by the electorate that there are no longer any lower rungs left on the ladder of public acceptance – and that spells disaster for our system of government.
We once had conviction politicians, but now careerists fill the parliamentary benches. The last truly conviction politician I knew was Ted Mack, the Independent for North Sydney, who walked away from his parliamentary pension – unlike Joe Hockey the present member for North Sydney who recently made a case for increased expenses for MPs, saying that “Ultimately you have got to pay for democracy” – “you” meaning, of course, the taxpayer.
Most apparatchiks follow the well-beaten track from university to a job as political staffer and then start positioning themselves for preselection. The ruthlessly ambitious set their sights on the Holy Grail – the safe seat; but the most corrosive element in all this is the lack of political conviction, whereby some individuals could have easily joined either major party, and this supports the often-made charge that not much separates the Coalition from Labor.
Apparatchiks are an incestuous lot and spend huge chunks of time plugged in to the electronic communications system, mostly promoting their personal agendas. Genuine real world experience is sorely lacking and a study of the CVs of those apparatchiks who make it to parliament reveals job experience that has been puffed up by some and, in other cases, simply concocted. When I was a PNG MP 1964-68, I was not paid a salary for some time, but travelling and accommodation expenses were provided by the Australian Administration.
I have been involved in politics since 1957 when I was at Melbourne University and the ignorance and laziness of too many MPs these days is disappointing. Those who are uncertain of the role played by Bob Santamaria is telling – the Labor split of the 1950s kept Menzies and the Libs in power and saved Australia from the huge damage that would have been wreaked by the Communist unions but for Santamaria and his operatives. Our PM has been described as a reconstructed radical socialist and the Greens have displayed their red agenda, so the battle continues.
When will MPs stand up and acknowledge that they need to re-establish their bona fides with the voters? Don’t hold your breath waiting as we are in a stalemate with our politicians blithely going their own way, consumed by their egos and brazenly dipping their snouts in the public trough as often as they can. Study tours by MPs are the most obscene rorts funded by the taxpayer, but no leader dares question them. These people simply have no shame.
Labor and Liberal are in the same mess and many Australians are starting to realise that their lives are being run by bureaucrats not politicians and that bureaucracies are the new growth industry with the top people being paid far more than the PM.
To turn back the culture of the apparatchik would appear to be an impossible task and the Coalition, in particular, is facing a grim future, given the woeful performance of the NSW and Victorian party machines at the last federal election. The state and federal directorates have long lost the plot and the Libs, like their UK counterparts, spend more time trying to silence their genuinely conservative members and supporters, rather than attacking the Left and the Greens. The disconnect between the Libs and ordinary Australians is alarming and maybe we will soon see a local version of the US “Tea Party” movement filling the void stupidly created by the Libs.
If Tony Abbott’s office is pressuring him to do deals with Windsor and Oakeshott in order to win government then what hope do we have? A party that no longer knows what it stands for will be treated accordingly by a cynical electorate.
John Pasquarelli is an artist, author, columnist, and a former PNG MP. His website is available at http://www.johnpasquarelli.com/