Crossin out MPs for the Nova

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The brawl over Nova Peris replacing Trish Crossin as Labor senate pick for the NT ignores the elephant in the room, says Denise Allen — MP's length of tenure.

Trish Crossin and Nova Peris

The Prime Minister’s decision to personally select Nova Peris over the 15-year incumbent, Trish Crossin, for the number one Senate position for the Northern Territory at the next Federal election has caused controversy and rancour. It has also opened up questions about how long MP's should be allowed to stay in Parliament.

Nova Maree Peris will be no doubt be a valuable asset to the Labor Party. She is an extraordinary Indigenous woman with many achievements, including being the first Indigenous woman to win gold at an Olympics; 1997 Young Australian of the Year; and has put an enormous amount of time and energy into advancing Indigenous childrens’ education and health. Moreover, as an Darwin-born Indigenous woman, she knows first-hand the struggles of her people in the Territory.

Nevertheless, it was the process of how this was done that has caused enormous angst amongst ALP members — and rightly so. It has ignored every recommendation made in the Bracks/Carr/Faulkner Review and has denied local ALP branch members the right to vote for and pre-select the candidate they want.

However, Tony Abbott’s assertions over the airwaves yesterday – criticising the Prime Minister’s nomination of Nova Peris as “bad judgement” and saying that “there are lots of others indigenous people out there capable of doing the job” – strike me as resoundingly hypocritical.

Because as late as November last year, Tony Abbott was pulling every string he could find to get Alison Anderson − an Indigenous woman and former NT Labor Party MP now NT CLP MP and a Minister in the NT Government − to be the Liberal candidate for the marginal NT Federal seat of Lingiari (currently held by the ALP's Warren Snowdon). This was even after a CLP candidate had been pre-selected. His attempts failed – and maybe that’s why Abbott is so loudly condemning the Prime Minister. Gillard’s success in securing Nova Peris shows up his failure to secure Alison Anderson.

Beyond remarking on the predictable partisan and factional brawling this sort of decision will always cause, commentary about this issue has, it seems to me, ignored the elephant in the room — that of the correct length of tenure of a Member of Parliament.

It should be understood that to secure a Parliamentary pension an MP has to complete three terms. This is, indeed, regarded as one of the major lures for aspiring politicians to enter Parliament, especially those chasing safe seats — and this applies to MP’s from all parties.

MP’s who serve three terms and over not only walk away with a parliamentary pension, but also with millions of dollars in superannuation — no matter how old they are.

So its probably time to think about a maximum stay of tenure for MP’s.

In my view, politicians should only be allowed to serve three terms, and they should leave only with their superannuation — no parliamentary pension. Once they finish their three terms, they should have to either return to the workforce or live off their superannuation until such times as they secure new jobs — just like everyone else in Australian society.

For those over 65, surely the sum of their superannuation would be enough for them to retire as self-funded retirees.

The three terms only rule would alleviate the angst in replacing any politician and would re-invigorate the Parliament with new blood — and hopefully new and progressive ideas.

As far as I'm concerned, Prime Ministers should be the only ones to leave with special benefits, including a Parliamentary pension.

Of course, this would also save the country millions.

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