Thursday, November 18, 2010

We Should Whinge About the Performance, Not The Pay Packet

There’s nothing better than to have a good whinge. We love it, we can’t get enough of it, and we can be pretty good at it. We whinge about bank profits, about the cost of living, and of course there is the old favourite, we whinge about politicians pay packets and perks. Even though these and many other topics might really be easy targets, we feel some justification for our indignation because there is a sense of righteousness about these perceived injustices. But, are we really whinging about the right things, or are we guilty of being so lazy that we just go for the cheap shots, rather than actually doing anything about these bugbears?

In the case of bank profits, is it really the size of the profit that upsets us? When you think about it, isn’t it really the feeling that those profits have come at our expense that bothers us? Surely, with such healthy profits those banks can afford to give us a better deal! Similarly, with the cost of living, isn’t our complaint really about our feeling that we have somehow been inadequately rewarded for our labours? What we really want is not so much cheaper goods, but a bigger pay packet. And that brings us to the politicians, who already have pay packets much bigger than most of the rest of us, but still seem to keep whinging themselves that they deserve more.

The Federal Government is currently in the process of reviewing politicians’ pay and perks. The idea is that many of the existing benefits such as the electoral allowance will be eliminated, and others such as travel more heavily restricted, in order to make the arrangements more transparent and the politicians more accountable. In return, it is proposed that the base pay for politicians will be increased from about $135 000 to around $170 000. Now that’s a big increase, more than the annual income of a substantial number of Australians, but is it actually something that we should be whinging about?

Every time we hear the politicians are getting a pay rise, or are looking for one, the immediate reaction is to howl them down with snarls of derision for already being paid more than they are worth. But what are we really complaining about? Surely, what really bothers us is not how much they are paid, but whether or not we believe they are giving us good value for money in the service they deliver. Surely, we should whinge about the performance, not the pay packet. Isn’t the idea that our politicians are not up to scratch the thing that really bothers us? And on that score it is fairly easy to judge that at least some of them are only there to make up the numbers. But that doesn’t mean all politicians should be considered to be in that category.

It can be a tough demanding job, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and if we want good people to do the job, they must be paid at least enough that they will not be spending all their time wondering how they will pay the bills at the end of the week. They need to spend their time worrying about running the country, not worrying about whether or not they can pay for the groceries. If we want good capable people to take on the great responsibility of running the country, we must be prepared to pay proper salaries which reflect both the demands and the responsibilities of the position.

After that, it’s up to us to make sure that we actually vote for the right people to live up to our expectations.

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