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Twilight world of staffers makes for toxic, taxpayer-funded workplaces

Bernard Keane (The Mandarin)


The extraordinarily privileged position that the major political parties occupy in industrial relations in Australia is rarely commented upon, mostly because the parties prefer it that way. No other employer in Australia is less accountable, more subsidised and more secretive than political parties in relation to the electoral, advisory and media staff they employ.

Taxpayer-Funded Workplaces
Taxpayer-Funded Workplaces

More correctly, taxpayers employ them. Certainly, taxpayers pay for them, but political parties control them, and are allowed — by mutual agreement — to prevent any public scrutiny of their behaviour in the way that other taxpayer-funded employees like public servants are scrutinised.


This limbo of non-accountability extends to all aspects of the behaviour of staffers and their de facto employers, politicians. And it is reinforced by the peculiar characteristics of being a political staffer: you are expected to be loyal not to the people funding your salary — the taxpayers — but the person to whom you directly answer, a politician.


And you are expected to be loyal to the party, which includes not subjecting it to unnecessary attention or embarrassment. For those truly committed, this loyalty may be rewarded in time with the chance of securing preselection. Only those who have been loyal need apply.


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