In the third of a trio of thought-provoking posts over the weekend, Andrew Norton draws our attention to Michelle Grattan’s analysis of the previous occupation of members of parliament. Like me, Andrew is a former staffer who worries about the number of people like us who end up in Parliament. But he reckons it’s more of a problem for the side I worked for than the side he worked for. Here’s the key quote from the Grattan article:
Twenty-six (12 per cent) were political consultants, advisers and lobbyists (including 13 Labor, 10 Coalition). Twenty-five (11 per cent) were party and union "administrators" (23 Labor, two Liberal) while another seven, all Labor, are described as party and union "officials". There are also 13 (6 per cent) who were researchers, research assistants, electoral and project officers (nine ALP, three Liberal, one Democrat). As the Government says, Labor draws more heavily than it does from the political class â€” 52 in a caucus of 88 to 15 of a Liberal-Nationals total of 126.
I can’t help thinking that these numbers may be somewhat skewed by the unwillingness of Coalition MPs to admit to having been former staffers. The data that Michelle Grattan refers to is for the 41st Parliament, and isn’t yet online (when it is, it will be here). But my main suspicion comes from the fact that the data only seems to allow people one occupation. Flipping through the A-K biographies in the Handbook for the 40th Parliament (PDF) (recommended reading for insomniacs everywhere), I couldn’t help noticing that fomer staffer Tony Abbott described himself primarily as a "journalist", despite the fact that his last two jobs before parliament were Hewson staffer and monarchist lobbyist.
An alternative approach is Greg Hunt MP, who spent 5 years as a staffer for Alexander Downer, but if asked his last job would say "management consultant", thanks to a stint with McKinsey and the WEF. Crikey had a list last year of other Coalition MPs who did time on the hill. Until I see a list of the MPs who have ever at any point worked as a staffer, I’ll be tempted to assume that Coalition members are just cleverer than Labor members in disguising their staffer backgrounds.