The age of entitlement

By | 2014/11/30

Malcolm Fraser, venerable statesman and former Prime Minister of Australia recently criticised Daniel Andrews, Victorian ALP leader with the following tweet:

Don’t laugh, Daniel Andrews wants to breathalyse MPs. Plain stupid, back to 6pm closing next.

His tweet also included a link to Fairfax article by Tony Wright whose subheading referred to the plan as a “wowser p..s-take”.

These days I agree with a lot of what Malcolm Fraser has to say, but not here.

I’d hazard a guess that the average employment contract these days in Australia stipulates that people will not work while intoxicated or under the effects of drugs. It’s become such a standard clause for both blue-collar and white-collar jobs.

What makes politicians exempt from this?

A blue-collar worker might be prohibited from being drunk at work because it represents a direct danger to the worker and a danger to his/her colleagues. A drunk on a forklift could cause serious damage, unintentionally or otherwise.

A white-collar worker can equally be prohibited from being drunk at work because it might impair their performance and make them liable to make mistakes. Depending on the speciality, that might lead to a financial cost or perhaps even the cost of someone’s life.

What about politicians?

Well, when they wander into the chamber to debate politics and policy, they too have a job to do, and it’s certainly a non-trivial job. On the basis of their vote, or even appearing in the chamber, critical legislation that means something to their constituents and Australians more broadly may pass or not pass. A bottle of wine here, a few shots of spirits there, and suddenly people suffer.

Politicians have a seemingly inexhaustible set of entitlements. (Unlike the average Australian, you can bet that Joe Hockey for instance won’t need to continue to work until he’s 70.) Gold passes, travel allowances, staff allowances, salary for life and higher superannuation that can be collected earlier … you name it. There’s something for everyone.

For crying out loud, we should have stopped them drinking on the job years ago.

iStock Drinking