It's A Hard Life. Well, Sort Of.

04 June 2011
Reading this tweet caused me to feel something I never expected...pity for Barry O'Farrell. It's hard to imagine anything more tedious than the endless array of community and business events a politician has to attend. Just about every political staffer I've ever met expresses zero desire to stand for office themselves; a day that starts with breakfast radio, then a slog in parliament, followed by dinner in the car on the way to the Outer Suburban Succulent Gardener's Association Quarterly Dinner; then coming down from all that excitement to research for the next day's debate. The weekends involve a trip home to the electorate; further presentations, sports days, openings and shopping centre meet-and-greets, with maybe some time to see your family, providing you can remember who they are.

The NSW parliamentarians are having a particularly hard time of it right now. See, there are these awful new industrial relations laws on the table. Barry O'Farrell was elected on the grounds of being a jovial, every day sort of bloke; but now he and his crew are in power, he's revealed his right-wing Liberal colours by announcing new conditions for public servants which, among other things, would cap wage rises at 2.5% and remove the right of appeal to the Industrial Relations Commission. The Greens MPs have risen to the challenge, breaking records as the filibustered the bill. Ive seen David Shoebridge speak knowledgeably for twenty minutes about an obscure issue of local planning that wasn't even in his local area, but on Thursday night he outdid himself, speaking for five hours and fifty eight minutes on the bill. How many of us could speak that long about anything? Even on the subject of Sydney's trains, I'd be hard-pressed to make thirty minutes. Anyway the speech provided one of my all time favourite moments of political discourse - when Mr Shoebridge at one stage described the IR laws as "Draconian", Liberal MP Peter Phelps retorted "there are no dragons involved in the industrial relations situation of NSW" (it was very late. No such excuses for Sky News - that's not the NSW parliament).

Fellow Green John Kaye backed up on Friday, speaking for five hours, 53 minutes. Whilst my bladder winces at such verbosity, truthfully what they're doing is heroic. The Liberals enjoy a massive majority in the NSW lower house and have control of the upper house with the help of the Shooters and Fishers, not to mention the delightful Fred Nile, who's already trying push his anti-abortion agenda in return for support. The new government wants complete control of public sector industrial relations in NSW. No matter their majority, they cannot claim a "mandate" - they did not say a word about this in the lead up to the election. If this was a Labor government taking such a step, you couldn't turn on the TV news for the howls of "call another election!". These aren't complacent public servants we're speaking of, but nurses, teachers, police know, the people we can't get by without.

Anyway it looks like for all that, the legislation will pass. Over the next few years, the NSW people will come to learn that a kinder, gentler Liberal government is still a Liberal government. And hundreds of thousands of public servants will get screwed on their working conditions. True, it's a hard life for politicians. But they do have lots and lots of perks and lovely salaries as compensation. Some of them are genuinely good people. The rest...I dunno.


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