Mock outrage mars travel debate | Michael Gorey

Mock outrage mars travel debate

The controversy over Sussan Ley, Andrew Barr and other politicians taking taxpayer-funded trips underscores why it is so hard to attract high-quality people into politics.

A senior manager or chief executive in the private sector has fewer restrictions when it comes to networking or combining business with personal travel.

Social media erupts with mock outrage when revelations emerge of politicians appearing to misuse their entitlements.

The left-wing supporters who attacked Ley this month were mostly silent when Tony Burke faced scrutiny over family travel to Uluru in 2015.

There used to be a rule in politics about not throwing stones in glass houses, but social media is a voracious beast, demanding to be fed.

The fact that members from both sides do it doesn’t make it right, of course, but it’s important to maintain a sense of perspective.

Barr’s explanation about negotiating deals while meeting decision makers during his travels is perfectly plausible.

If a politician has a legitimate reason to visit a particular place, they should reasonably be able to extend their time there (at personal expense) for private matters.

That’s where it gets a bit murky and the Prime Minister’s promised overhaul of travel entitlements is long overdue.

Most ministers are paid less than senior managers in the corporate world, despite their responsibilities arguably being greater.

They also live in the fishbowl of public opinion, unable to sneeze without observation.

We should be realistic about our expectations of them and allow a little leeway when it comes to travel.

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