Most of this article is about how no normal person would enter politics. Especially if you’re on the non-left, and especially if you’re a woman — because the abuse from the left is vicious and barely restrained. Then she makes this observation in the Australian context:
The mediocre quality of the political class also can be traced back to late 1974 and early 1975 when the number of staff an MP employed doubled. Inevitably that meant skilled office workers in an MP’s office were outnumbered by unskilled political operatives, and this new febrile environment created a career path for a so-called professional class of politicians (an oxymoron if ever there were one). It led to an explosion of young ex-political staff members entering politics supported by MPs trying to build their own Lilliputian power bases.
The net result? It is hard to think of a less qualified group of people who are handed as much power as politicians are given over the lives of millions of others. Builders, plumbers, electricians all require years of training. A lawyer, a nurse, an engineer needs years of study. Increasing numbers of politicians come to Canberra with no real-life training in anything at all except the ugly art of getting ahead in politics. That disconnect from real life makes them supremely untrained to decide policies that govern our lives.
It doesn’t help that promotions are increasingly untethered from talent, too. What faction are you in? Are you a woman? Are you a member of a minority? What religion are you? Where in Australia do you come from? Identity politics is rife across politics and it is dumbing down the governing class.
To make matters worse, the system is so skewed against ability that ministers, especially certain protected species, are rarely performance-managed out of their jobs when they underperform, lest it upset the women’s collective, or factions, or some other criteria that got them a ministry.
Why would any talented, successful person waste time with a system that entrenches mediocrity over merit? …
Her advice for those interested in politics:
Over the years, when a young man or woman expressed an interest in politics and asked me for career advice, I used to tell them to go get a career first, a real one to build up some terrific skills. Canberra needs successful, hardworking and smart people.
Now when I am asked the same question, I suggest that they steer clear of Canberra. Or be very aware that they will join an insular group of politicians and factional bosses who will likely be suspicious of a talented person from outside politics who might show up their mediocrity. Hopefully, some of those people will take my earlier advice because someone has to start lifting the standard of politics.
Since the mid 1970s, the main path for aspiring Australian politicians has been to study law, then work for a few years at a union or in a minister’s office, then run for Parliament. Wow, talk about a lack of experience. And no filter on the untalented.