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Our politicians have become an unaccountable ruling class

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Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop's new jobs came with questions over breaches of standards (Screenshots via YouTube)

Australia's Government seems to be continually working against the public and avoids penalties for questionable practices, writes Noely Neate.

WE HAVE RELIED on an Opposition to raise issues of overreach in Government and the media to dutifully report their activity and accusations. If the Opposition doesn’t speak up, the media can’t or won’t report, so the Opposition can enjoy the same unaccountability as the Government.

Our Government has enacted so much legislation and specific committees to ensure they are never blamed for any wrongdoing. It’s not wrong if previous corruption is now legal. If an “Opposition” doesn’t provide headlines, how will media give punters a heads up as to how our nation’s taxpayers are being taken for a ride?

Think about it, below are just three examples that do not pass the pub test.

Cushy jobs with big business dealing with Government

Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop scored jobs straight out of politics with businesses they had just been dealing with in their ministerial positions. It has been confirmed by the nightly news and papers that these jobs are legit, even though questions were raised about ministerial standards not being met.

And I will remind you what that says:

‘The ministerial code of conduct says ministers must not lobby or have business meetings with politicians or public servants within 18 months of leaving parliament, on matters they dealt with in their final 18 months in office.’ 

Even at a cursory glance, doesn't that say they have breached the standards?

No. To keep a few pesky Senators quiet, the Government initiated a review by Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Martin Parkinson – in other words, someone employed by the Prime Minister – to see if these rules had been breached. Of course, he said he had a look at it and all is above board. Not that it matters — you can’t enforce those standards once it's too late.

Sadly, all that is reported is “Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne cleared over post-politics jobs”, so the majority of the population are led to believe this is legit.

The media can’t and won’t make value calls on these issues and the Opposition won’t push too hard as they have done exactly the same; the conga line of ex-Ministers in sweet private sector or so-called Independent Government Boards – often not even qualified to be on – is beyond a joke.

Mutual obligation only goes one way

We have people in this nation that are starving, living on the streets homeless, often pushed there by punitive Centrelink and erroneously named “job provider” programs that will cut off someone’s social security at the drop of a hat for some utterly ridiculous so-called breaches, having real-life consequences all under the mantra of “mutual obligation”.

Funny how there is no “mutual obligation” by Government to ensure Australians are not starving or living in cars.

So, the poor Centrelink person who turned up late for a dodgy job provider appointment because the bus was late (can’t afford a car) will be demonised as a “dole-bludger” while our MPs and ministers are being chauffeured around to visit people without having to justify if there is any merit. Job seekers have to apply for more jobs in a two-month period than current Government has sat in Parliament over the last 12 months, with no travel assistance or presentable allowance to get to said jobs.

While the ParentsNext mum is worrying how to feed her kids for the next week due to a provider cutting her off because she didn’t advise them quickly enough that she couldn't attend a dodgy reading at the library because her child was seriously sick suffers even further, our MPs and ministers are spending up to $181 per day on a meals allowance. Per day.

Let us not forget “robodebt”, the Government initiated phishing exercise that sends out debt letters to current and former Centrelink recipients with no evidence of said debt. I dare you to try that in business; send out invoices with threats from debt collectors saying people owe you money – which you can’t prove they do – some going back over a decade and see where that gets you. (It lands you in court, by the way.)

Compare this to our politicians, they have the lovely Minchin Protocol. So, on top of their seriously sweet packages where we pay for just about everything they do, they still try to get the taxpayer to pay for even more stuff. Sometimes, one of them will be caught out — rare, normally it's just a political game and, of course, unlike the robodebt victim these guys can just say, “sorry about that” and pay it back. Nothing else.

Another not-so-fun fact: the likes of robodebt has literally killed people.

Just a reminder that the base salary for an MP is $207,100 and we pay for a heap of their other costs. Stuff that the average wage earner can’t claim from the ATO. And that “base” salary is 15 times as much as people earn on Newstart.

Sorry, I'll 'fess up and fix that paperwork

This one that has just hit the news is so brazen it is disgusting.

You know how we have that document called The Constitution? It was pretty much one of the few things MPs had to abide by. Well, no more.

Back in April, just before we hit election time, the Liberals and Labor Party decided that all those pesky s44(i) issues were just getting in the way. Note, we still probably have heaps of them in breach of that in Parliament as it was never audited. Anyhow, our top lawmakers decided anyone with questionable access to foreign citizenship, making a quid off the crown, charged with a crime or gone bankrupt is acceptable now. No need to refer them to the High Court as long as they “disclose” that they might be in a sticky situation.

I kid you not, they have teamed up to skirt The Constitution.

There are many more examples of rules for us and none for them. Worse, we are not even being informed as to how unaccountable and above the law these people in Government are. Kenneth Hayne is spot on saying trust in politics has “been destroyed”, worse, most of us are not even aware of just how secretive and unaccountable our Federal Government is.

Looking at Witness K and the Banerji case, that is illegal, too.

Maybe a conscientious public servant will blow the whistle on them and the media will report on that.

Unless one of the few Independents gives a journalist a good line, such as ‘Grubby Deal’ protects criminal, bankrupt MPs being kicked out of Parliament, get used to the mushroom life.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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