A recent piece published on The Conversation attacking the credibility of current and former public servants who work, or have worked, in the resources sector deserves a response.
The piece by University of Wollongong lecturer Adam Lucas and co-researcher Joel Rosenzveig, who has previously worked with GetUp! and Greenpeace, doesn’t present a balanced view – in fact, far from it.
The article takes aim at the supposedly “toxic” relationships between “senior politicians, former political staffers, and the big end of town” but fails to mention the parallel which could be drawn between other political parties and environmental activist groups.
The simple reason why parliamentarians and ministers have staff is to help provide them advice on electoral and portfolio ministers. For staffers to be effective, they need real world experience and, for ministerial staff, portfolio related experience.
It is entirely appropriate for ministerial and shadow ministerial advisers to have backgrounds in agriculture, healthcare, telecommunications and the resource sector. To assume their previous employment clouds or distorts their judgement is offensive.
In fact, if they don’t have industry specific background, it’s probably more appropriate to ask why not?
Taking on a role as a ministerial staffer isn’t easy. It involves long hours, lots of travel, no job security and is often stressful – and consequently, it is often a relatively short-term job.
Talented and qualified staffers come in from the private sector, do their time and leave. So, is Mr Lucas arguing that people with some actual hands on industry experience can’t take jobs in politics?
And when their time is over, they can’t return to their chosen careers?
But let’s not forget that there are also strong ministerial codes of conduct in place that apply to former ministers and staffers. Codes of conduct that are entirely appropriate and abided by.
And while Mr Lucas takes aim at the resources industry and cross-over staffers, let’s also not pretend that a significant number of Labor and Greens staffers have come from unions, NGOs and organisations like GetUp!
That’s fine too, but it is hypocrisy in the highest order for those same people to point the finger at other staffers who have come from the private sector and infer they are doing the wrong thing.
The article infers that: “one could be forgiven for concluding that the code is simply a cover for business as usual”.
Well, in that case, why doesn’t Mr Lucas’ investigation cover the strong ties between Greens and well-funded environmental lobby groups? Instead of wasting time attacking staffers who are just doing their job, it would be better if Mr Lucas concentrated on policy.