Professional politicians

I plan a response to Nick Dryenfurth’s Blue Labor argument before too long. But for now, I’ll record one point of agreement. Far too many MPs, particularly on the Labor side are professional politicians, who have gone from university to a staff or professional union job (that is, not for a union of which they have previously been a member or activist) and then gained preselection through the faction system.

Worse still, for most of these MPs, political office isn’t the final goal, but a stepping stone to more lucrative opportunities in lobbying or the finance sector. Of course, those opportunities are mainly open to those who pursue right wing policies. That’s entirely consistent with belonging to the “Socialist Left” faction (exhibit A: Anna Bligh).

Following the success of affirmative action for women, Labor should set a target of having half its seats filled by people who have spent at least ten years working in a non-political job or in socially productive activity such as raising children.

22 thoughts on “Professional politicians

  1. I hope that there is a change coming in the way unions are run.

    Hopefully things will move from unions being run by a few paid/Career union officials to actual workers getting organised and running their union in a ‘democratic’ way (I am seeing a bit of an attempt at this at the moment).

    The unions obviously have ‘failed’ (with their ‘corporate’ model, and the idea of advocacy) and complete reliance on that model needs to be abandoned.

  2. JQ said ” or in socially productive activity such as raising children.”.

    I cannot express how fantastic it is the see the above phrase JQ.

    I became a ‘socially productive’ person after becoming a sole carer / parent over 10 yrs ago.

    I left a lucrative job on the day the other parent had an ‘episode’ due to approx 20 health care ‘ professionals’ forcing – for tests – 3x fasts in a ten day period.

    Tragedy ensued.

    Particpative democracy for me.

    And independent forensic review of ALL medical actions, particularly around mental health and suicide.

    And as you say, 10 years in the real world. I’d be wetting the tent from within if that was the criteria.

    Fortunately this arvo I am online with my child to meet new classmates online at Aurora.

    As for politicians / health – for above tragedy – a firm… smiles but no reply.

    I may in time end up in the high court.

  3. How can you say neoliberalism is a descendent of classical liberalism without saying what the highly arguable term classical liberalism is? My particular take on that term is that it has recently come to mean pre-marginalist liberal economics, and not the immensely varied notions of liberalism from the mid-19th century and earlier. The founding fathers of the USA were definitely liberals, but they were not liberal economists.

    As I see it, neoliberalism is simply economic policy for the first class citizens: the 0.01% and their mega corporations. That is the fundamental basis, and every other excrescence is simply an attempt to persuade others to support that policy by logrolling, misleading, creating enemies, or other propaganda techniques. Neoliberals are not opposed to government, not even large government, as long as government is a tool for privatizing benefits and socializing costs. Most of the big money issues are entirely predictable. Social security is the biggest pot of money in the world: 40 years ago I predicted that they would attempt to plunder it by privatizing it. Public schools are another enormous pot of money, as are prisons, as are roads, as are national parks, etc. Busting unions is another way to loot salaries of working people.

  4. I tend to agree with you but with additional caveats. Additionally would be that the maximum number of lawyers allowed in winnable seats (including the top two spots in the Senate ticket) should not exceed 40%. This is to be achieved over four electoral cycles. I am not sure as to whether a minimum of 10 years is feasible but I would start with 2 years over two electoral cycles and expand to 5 years over four electoral cycles. Again this would apply in winnable seats.

  5. 40%? Really?? Why not 2%? These people as a group are much more likely to be deluded than say a taxi cab drivers.

    That brings me around to the point that AleD made on the post about the wrong way to think about elections. She raised the possibilty of the people who frequently write on the blog as being the ones who are deluded. My interpretation of what she was saying is not that we are deluded but that those who do not share our alarm or disgust at the way that the world is being run, whose numbers far exceed ours, consider us the deluded ones.

    Evaluating reality is NOT (definately not, extremely not, never was) a science. Evaluating reality is an ART. Science has a role to play. It is the supporting actress. ART is the STAR of the show.
    A persons ability at determining what is real, and what is important, therefore can not be sceintifically judged, only artisically judged.
    For many people the art of judging what is true and what is important is simply a matter of taste. For those with no training what so ever their tastes are simply taken for granted because there has never been any evaluation of the programing that went in to determining their tastes. For those with just a bit of training the students lack the flexibilty to chanllenge the presumed knowledge and tastes of the teacher. Such people become mere advocates of the system that trained them.
    On the other hand people who have recieved training from diverse atagonistic sytems aquire new capabilities in awarness that are not shared by huge numbers of the human population. It is called critcal thinking. (Do I need to provide documentation for this claim?)
    I am such a person. I have recieved training from nemerous diverse sources that would be seen as enemies of each other. That is the reason that I believe that I have a talent that is not shared by 99.99% of the population. Of course getting the 99.99% to recognize that talent is very challenging. Part of the problem is that it takes an extra ordinary amount of time to show the delusional that they are in fact delusional. Another part of the problem is that the efforts of people such as myself have not recieved the assistance of the organs of mass education.
    For example way back after the invasion of Iraq I wrote sent articles to the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes pointing out that obeying orders in Iraq was automatically a war crime and that killing American soldiers in Iraq was beyond any shadow of a doubt morally and legaly justifiable. In fact killing them anywhere became at that point morally and legally justifiable. Of course my letters were not printed. I recognize of course that my enemies are not going to see it as their job to make my job easier.
    The important reason that I mention this is that people like me can not take power by convincing people that we deserve their trust and deserve to be the ones in power. People who think like I do can only convince people that they deserve to be in power by taking Power FIRST. Seeing is believing. Second of all taking power first is the only way that organs of indoctrination can be removed from the wizards that currently control them. The impication of that is a non democratic siezure of power first and then maybe some type of elections at some point in the future. When those with vision seem to agree that the minds of the populations that they are responsible for are no longer showing signs of dementia.

    I do not write comments here to convince those that read this blog that they are delusional. I write comments here to fine tune the receptivity of the brains behind the screen. I am a slayer of sacred cows.

    This is a blog that has based upon the comments a primarily Austrailan audiancee. It appears that there are some, other than myself who, are from other places. If some Iraqis or some Syrians or some Palestinians were to read what I have written they may say that I am a hypocrite for not actually have engaged in any acts of violence myself. Such people are strategically and tactically clueless.
    Back in 2005 I did briefly consider an act of violence that I thought that I could get away with. I considered spilling water on the steps that lead up to the library at the NATO headquarters in Brunssum Netherlands so that someone would slip and fall and get injured. But I realized that the water can not differentiate between a soldier and the family member of a soldier. So I canceled that idea out.

    To those fighting against US imperialism world wide, especially in Latin America and the Middle East, who might question where my loyalties truely lie, I can tell you that wars are not won by dying for your cause or becoming a prisoner for your cause. Wars are won by getting the enemy to surrender. The situation dictates the strategies and tactics.

    Does my plan stand a chance in hell of success? Admitedly the chances are very very small. But should you be trying to help a plan that has a small chance of success or plan that has no chance of success?

    It is true that in the 15 years since Stan Goff and Wayne Madsen and Raymond Duncan and I started this conspiracy we have not liberated a single territory. But then has anyone else done an any better job than we have?

  6. Yes but on the other hand you have the examples of Andrew Leigh and Mark Dreyfus, both of whom had distinguished, successful careers before going into politics and both of whom are utterly hopeless at politics.

    The problem is that these days to be a successful politician you have to be a See You Next Tuesday, and what’s more in a particular way. To some people this comes naturally but to others it requires years of tutelage as a political or union or (on the conservative side) industry or employer organisation staffer.

  7. Labor (and many Liberal) politicians typically have worked for the party for years, have learnt about the factions and done a lot of menial work for the party – fund-raising, electioneering. They then expect a reward that is based on their factional loyalty and their years of service. As an apprenticeship this procedure has its benefits but the “be-in-it-mate” element also raises its ugly head. Most of the Party up-and-comings have no idealism whatsoever but get to the point where winning, “whatever it takes”, is the main consideration. This gives a good income with lots oof perks for really mediocre people. The next step as John points out is to exploit their knowledge of “connections” and politics to get a good job in finance or the gambling industry. The same lack of any idealism or intellectual honesty continues. It is consistent opportunism,

    Selecting people with non-political backgrounds who have worked in industry is a great idea but won’t work because it does not endorse the factional loyalty system that Labor is based on.

  8. “The next step as John points out is to exploit their knowledge of “connections” and politics to get a good job in finance or the gambling industry.”

    Not many achieve this. To get one of these gigs you usually have to risen to cabinet minster level, which relatively few politicians do. Because it’s so unlikely, it’s open to debate whether this is the ultimate objective when they start out. I doubt that Anna Bligh aspired to be the CEO of the Australian Bankers Association when she entered the Queensland parliament. (Come to think of it, this must be strangest appointment ever. What were those bankers thinking?)

  9. I fear you’d just swap to the Yes, Minister problem – the organisation must be run by professionals, and deliberately putting those people in the background while you elect figureheads isn’t necessarily better. There is definitely a grooming process required, as well as a filtering one – remember Mal Meninga?

    It would possibly be even worse to demand that “ordinary” union members run their union because the legal strictures unions operate under are much more savage than they were in the good old days. Pick a few random taxi drivers and builder’s laborers, put them in charge of a union, and watch them bacnkrupt themselves on the way to jail.

  10. Waaaaaay too many lawyers in federal politics and in the rest of society for that matter. They’re a glowing favourite of a rotten preselection process for both major parties these days – yes even the ALP.
    Reality is that to make it to cabinet or ministerial level, you need to a very competent liar 1st and foremost. This isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for a lowly backencher who isn’t compelled to front the microphones of cameras to low party lines irrespective of everything. You also need to be clever, quick on your feet, able to comprehend lots of detail and able to explain it clearly and persuasively.
    I take my hat off to those who can do it well, but the reality is that the constituency can see through the towing party lies and are fed up with predictable word-salad responses to questioning which cheapens the entire parliament and process – often unfairly so.

  11. “Labor should set a target of having half its seats filled by people who have”… unshackled consience votes and;

    – anybody even professional politicians and lawyers who do not display tribal loyalties 

    – who display an awareness of their own infallibility “General infallibility creates the illusion that people are essentially mindless.”. Bob Hawke wrote his book to out all his faults so he could not be attacked and to be able to say he is not infallible and therefore able to reason and persuade in good faith. And beat the media before they could smear him further.

    – spent at least ten years working in a non-political job or – in socially productive activity such as raising children.- but then they couldn’t be ‘Labor’ as Harry Clark says; “Selecting people with non-political backgrounds who have worked in industry is a great idea but won’t work because it does not endorse the factional loyalty system that Labor is based on.” And worse if a major party, their consciece is removed from decision making. Tragic as far as I am concerned. 
    – independent / ce / s

    Goals, persuation – or not, tribal identities and utility today in Aeon;
    “A person whose choices can never be mistaken cannot really have any meaningful plans or objectives, only a series of impulses.

    “What’s more, the fact that some of our preferences are contingent on others – and so can be mistaken – is what allows people to persuade one another. If you and I realise that we share some goal, say, of reducing traffic accidents, you can seek to reason with me that my immediate preference in the matter – to vote for a particular policy with that objective in mind – is mistaken because it will not achieve that goal. If, instead, you believe that my inclination to vote for that policy is an inscrutable facet of my identity – it is my preference, and that is the end of the matter – persuasion is not open to you. Your only hope is to join forces with enough other like-minded people and then silently and grimly out-vote the likes of me.

    “General infallibility creates the illusion that people are essentially mindless. It holds that we believe what we believe, and value what we value, for no reason at all, or at least for reasons that are unintelligible to anyone else. Under those conditions, no one can engage with anyone else’s views or take them seriously. If, today, identities are becoming increasingly tribally defined, with each group living in its own ‘bubble’, this is an illusion that we urgently need to learn to see through.”

  12. I think it is another aspect of the wide problem of what has been happening over the last generation throughout the West.

    I suppose you could call it the Sheep’s Corpse Quandary.

    The mystery in that the sheep lies on its back, sightless and unmoving yet paradoxically action is triumphantly in movement throughout the location.

    What is the answer to this tease?

    Can it be that western shopfront politics is like the sheep, yet a monumental home to every wriggly parasite or grub you can think of, feeding off it regardless of damage to the host.

    Creative destruction?

  13. Having nonprofessional union officials has the very real drawback that unions are one of the very short list of businesses that are continuously under unsympathetic scrutiny by bodies that can really hurt them. Minor errors that are routine elsewhere attract serious organizational and personal penalties. Avoiding them, or surviving them, requires a particular skill set.

  14. If the typical background of ALP politicians, statistically speaking, has changed from what it used to be (and I think it has, but I haven’t checked the statistics to be sure), then why has it changed?

    Has it changed because of a change in the selection process for ALP parliamentary candidates, or for some other reason?

    If it has changed because the way unions are run has changed, why has the way unions are run changed?

  15. This is similar to the concept of a citizen legislature, which is arguably more responsive to people’s needs, innovative in its approaches to problem solving and better still, able to foresee and avoid problems or prevent rorts that might arise down the track.

    The US State of Oregon is, at least historically, an example of the concept applied successfully, with biennial budgets and limited six month sittings every two years ensuring that most state legislators held vocations other than ‘politician.’

  16. “Has it changed because of a change in the selection process for ALP parliamentary candidates, or for some other reason?”

    The process used to be that members of the Labor Party of varying backgrounds nominated for pre-selection and there was a contest with a ballot to select the candidate.

    The process now is that winnable seats are divided among the factions, and each faction then chooses the candidate for its seats. Occasionally, there is an intra-factional contest of sorts in a seat to choose the candidate. The candidate is usually someone who has served an apprenticeship by working in the office of a minister or shadow minister who is a chief of the faction. Or they might be a senior union official who belongs to the faction.

    The only real deviation from this model is when celebrity candidates are persuaded to run. (Usually they have to also join the Labor Party, but this is a minor detail.) Celebrity here doesn’t necessarily mean in the Kardashian sense, but someone who can be sold as being a leader in a non-political field. For instance Anthony Lynham, the Queensland Minister for Resources was a maxillofacial surgeon before going into politics at age 54. He is another example of someone who obviously has a lot of smarts in the IQ sense and had a stellar career in his elite profession, but is a rank amateur when it comes to politics, and it shows, in spades.

  17. Smith9, if you’re saying that they’ve abolished the ballot, how did that happen?

    If you’re saying that the ballot hasn’t been abolished, but it’s no longer genuinely contested, how did that come about?

  18. J-D

    pre-selection ballots between candidates from different factions were not just bitterly contested, sometimes they became violent. This was not a good look. So the factions created a system where they carved up the seats and installed one of their own in the seats they got in the deal. Occasionally there is disagreement within a faction on who should get the prize, but it’s all resolved behind the scenes. What this means is the candidate who becomes a member of parliament owes their livelihood to the factional war lord who got them the pre-selection. This is no small deal. Even the most junior backbencher gets paid around $200k per year, which is far more than most of them could earn otherwise. Then there’s the pension (still very generous in state parliaments), the perks (overseas trips and the like) and the possibility of advancement to even better paying positions (not just ministers, but also the whips, deputy whips and so on).

  19. pre-selection ballots between candidates from different factions were not just bitterly contested, sometimes they became violent. This was not a good look.

    If that’s so, then clearly the system did need to be changed. Obviously that doesn’t necessarily mean that the change that actually happened was an improvement, but in that case the question of what would be an improvement is still left open. It seems to me that John Quiggin’s suggestion of setting a quota for people with a significant background outside politics isn’t going to do much to break up the control of factional warlords; if the story you’re telling is accurate, the quota for female candidates hasn’t done much to break it up.

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