Pay and dismay

Dr James Kierstead
Insights Newsletter
10 November, 2023

Last week it was reported that Queensland public servants have been offered up to five days of paid leave to tend to their ‘social and emotional wellbeing’ in the wake of the results of the Voice referendum. 

This is an obvious step in the right direction. After all, Australia’s public servants have been known to need at least a day off when the votes in The Voice (the TV talent show) didn’t go their way, so how much more difficult must the referendum result have been?  

Over 60% of Australians, and over two thirds of Queenslanders, rejected the proposals for a special race-based advisory body to the Australian parliament and executive. And if there’s one thing that neutral public servants need to be protected from, it’s the views of the public. 

The principle that democracy needs to be kept safe from the masses is now so well established that we’re surprised the Queensland approach hasn’t been implemented elsewhere.  

So, since the third Insights column is our go-to place for serious-minded public policy prescriptions, here is our programme for political dismay pay. 

First, there’s no reason why Wellington wonks shouldn’t have the same protection as Brisbane bureaucrats when it comes to unmannerly irruptions of public opinions during the policy process. We suggest a half-day of leave every time a poll pierces the big blurry bubble of bias that seems to keep forming and reforming around central Wellington.  

For something as traumatic as a referendum – when ordinary people are (scandalously) allowed to have a direct say about something – we suggest an entire month off somewhere away from the crowds. 

But we need to protect politicians too. All that discussing and voting on the public dime seems as stressful as it is unnecessary. Don’t all right-thinking people these days already know the correct views on every issue anyway? We suggest one day off for parliamentarians for every day on, that is, in, Parliament. 

And what about the rest of us? There’s no doubt that thinking and arguing about where our country is going can be stressful. We’re surely not the only ones to think we deserve a beer every time we sit through another leaders’ debate. 

In fact, now that we think about it, maybe this whole democracy malarkey is just too much of a headache. Why don’t we just forget about it? Then we could live our lives stress-free, just like the citizens of North Korea.  

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