Pollies and their perks

January 13, 2017
Bronwyn Bishop fails both the pub and the arrogance tests.

I wonder what the recently dumped federal Liberal health minister Sussan Ley’s private reaction was to former MP Bronwyn Bishop rushing to her defence over the scandal involving her use of parliamentary expenses to supposedly do a bit of impulse buying of a Gold Coast apartment?

Here’s my guess: “F*** Bronwyn, please shut up!”

Bishop, who was forced to step down as Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2015 over the “Choppergate” scandal regarding her using parliamentary expense for a $5000 plus helicopter flight from Melbourne to a golf course in Geelong, blamed “socialists” for the public scandal over Ley’s parliamentary expenses.

“I do know that there are socialists out there who want to attack free enterprise and anyone who sticks up for it,” Bishop said on Sky News.

“I know that socialists, like alcoholics, will blame anyone but themselves.

“Whereas alcoholics can damage their own family, socialists can destroy the whole country.”

She went on to dismiss the suggestion that Ley's use of parliamentary expenses to go apartment shopping on the Gold Coast “failed the pub test” with the quip, “it depends which pub you are in”.

We could not ask for a clearer demonstration of the arrogance of these politicians who act like pigs at the trough while telling pensioners, the unemployed and the sick that “the age of entitlement is over” and we have to accept more cuts.

However, the problem is not just the outrageous behaviour of Ley and Bishop. There are a lot more parliamentary expense scandals out there that are yet to be exposed. And this is not something new. Pollies have always had their perks but it outrages the public more in these times when politicians – Liberal, National and Labor – have been forcing austerity on the rest of society.

Numerous social media “memes” cried out: Why don't they have a taste of the austerity that they are so keen to dole out? Put a politician on the dole for a week and see how they survive.

The gap between parliamentary salaries and entitlements and the dole or the age pension is huge, but it pales against the real inequality that is as the heart of the capitalist system.

Last year, Oxfam estimated that the world's richest 62 people owned more wealth than half the world's population. Since then Bloomberg has confirmed that the richest have gotten much richer.

Never before in human history has there been such a concentration of wealth, and with that comes an extraordinary concentration of power in the hands of the wealthy. Real power does not lie in the hands of the politicians we elect every few years. It is concentrated in corporate boardrooms.

While maintaining the illusion that power rests with our elected political representatives, the corporate rich have always given politicians some trappings of privilege to help keep them faithfully serving their real masters.

We live in a world dangerously divided between the super rich and the rest, and we need people's media that recognises this truth and acts accordingly. That is what we do at Green Left Weekly. But we are not going to get anything from the rich to help us survive. They would prefer us gone! We need your help to keep on going.

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