Why do people run for office for a major party? Who is your elected representative? Where is your local representative on their career pathway?
To be blunt, in the majority of cases budding politicians join the major parties to access party patronage and advance political careers. A life in politics opens a range of lucrative perks and lurks not available to ordinary tax payers.
Generous parliamentary entitlements, oversees studies tours paid for by the tax payer or foreign interests, excellent salaries, and over generous superannuation, constitute some of the benefits of office. Better yet, after politics there is access to state appointments to well paid boards, tribunals, commissions or ambassadorships, and the ability to use contacts to access highly paid positions in the private sector that often include a lobbying and public relations role.
While some politicians may enter major party politics with an intention or belief in improving society this is quickly compromised by the corrupting logic of the party system and the need to follow the party line to remain in the Parliament and advance the career.
Controlling who enters the great game
Both the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Labor Party control admission to winnable seats very carefully. There is a vetting process that means only people who agree to follow the direction of senior officials of the party will gain pre-selection.
In both parties there is a process that nominally allows party members to select candidates at the local level. In practice interventions from head office or the parachuting of favoured candidates over and above the wishes of the local branch or the blatant stacking of local branches is a common occurrence.
In the Australian Labor Party, internal factions linked to factions within the trade unions battle it out to determine who gets access to the safe seats. There are few ideological or political differences between the factions and it makes little difference to the overall direction of the party who wins because the compromised "yes man" always wins.
Party “numbers men”, and less frequently "numbers women", control pre-selection and control the career prospects of the candidates after election to Parliament. Bill Shorten is the archetypal ALP factions man, never having had any job outside of politics and having been parachuted into the Australian Workers Union to shore up his pre-election numbers and then into a safe seat in Melbourne.
The faction system is as damaging for the membership of the Australian Labor Party as it is for the members of the infected trade unions.
In the Liberal Party of Australia pre-selection battles are similarly brutal with branch stacking and federal interventions just as common. The pettiness and essential irrelevancy of these battles to the issues facing voters is an insult to the electorate.
Controlling the votes within the Parliament
Once elected the major parties require their politicians to submit to party discipline and vote as directed. Party Whips ensure fealty to the directives of senior management and the interests of core donors with career ending threats of disendorsement. In addition to threats inducements are offered in the form of potential appointment to lucrative roles within the Parliament or the party.
Every inducement is also a threat to a career focussed politician in that a promised endorsement can be taken away should the politician exercise their conscience and cross the floor or consider an issue on its merits or represent the views of the electorate rather than voting along party lines as instructed.
In this way party hierarchies representing the interests of its major donors control the voting in the Parliament of our representatives. Party members are as irrelevant to this exercise of control as are the residents of the electorate.
The Liberal Party of Australia claims to gives its politicians more freedom to vote in accordance with their consciences and cross the floor but in reality it maintains an iron rod just as uncompromising as the Australian Labor Party over the voting outcomes of its politicians.
The victims of the control exercised by party hierarchies over choices made by our representatives are the honest members of the party and the broader electorate.
The Democratic Reform Alliance is a political party established to direct public dissatisfaction towards enhanced structures of accountability. The Democratic Reform Alliance has a Platform underpinned by a series of strategies that would allow it to restore representation to the Australian people.
Will you join us in restoring representation to the Australian people?