There’s never been a better time to consider a career in politics. The change of Federal government following the 2007 election has resulted in over 600 new jobs, now available for newly elected MPs, ministers and staff. So what’s stopping you?
Other than a silver tongue and a moral beyond most people, there’s no formal qualification for entry into the wide world of Australian politics. The perks of office certainly make the job worthwhile – free car with unlimited free petrol, first class air travel (yes, you get to keep the frequent-flyer points), premium accommodation and a free international ‘study tour’ every three years (wife/husband and kids included). Lesser perks include a $150,000 annual printing budget to let the voters know about the various aspects of your own wonderfulness.
But before you even begin to enjoy a plush, leather Parliamentary seat of your very own, you must first achieve the difficult and very expensive task of winning your election campaign. Nay, before you are elected, you must first be pre-selected to a major party – a miraculous feat in its own right. The process of pre-selection all depends on which party you decide to run for.
If the ALP suits your style, the surest way to get your name on the ballot paper is to take control of a trade union. If possible, a very rich and powerful union. Union delegates control 50 percent of votes in the pre-selection of all ALP candidates, and the bigger your union, the bigger your chunk of that 50 percent will be. Running a union can also become your opportunity to show off your political aptitude (and media savvy). Former Australian Workers’ Union national secretary Bill Shorten’s campaign for miner’s rights following the Beaconsfield mine collapse almost certainly increased his public standing, culminating in his pre-selection for the safe Federal seat of Maribyrnong. If taking over a union doesn’t work out for you, taking over an iconic Australian rock group has proven an effective Plan B.
If you consider yourself more of a Chardonnay-quaffing type, you could always try your hand at Liberal Party pre-selection. Joining the Liberal Party (currently) offers none of the trappings of Government, but it will almost certainly get you in the door of your local Country Club. When running with the traditional proponents of commerce, it is always helpful to own or manage your own business before putting your hand up. Liberal Party pre-selections involve representatives from every branch in your electorate.
So if you’re running in a safe Liberal seat with lots of branches, you’ll be needing that company credit card to finance your upcoming lunch dates with potentially hundreds of delegates. If your schmoozathon lucks out, just offer to fund your own campaign.
Pre-selection to the Australian Democrats is far less taxing. Your nomination for pre-selection is considered by a “candidate assessment committee.” It was once rumoured that rejection by the Democrat candidate assessment committee automatically qualified you to run for the Australian Greens, but since the Democrats can no longer afford to reject candidates, the Greens’ pre-selection process has become a lot more rigorous.
To play for the Greens, your credentials must first be assessed and scored by a panel across a range of criteria, including presentation and communication skills, policy knowledge, demonstrated history of activism and so on. Your score is then sent to voting Greens members, along with their ballot papers. So, pull out those pleather brogues, dust off your Malvern Star and hit the streets, because membership is growing faster than Al Gore call sell DVDs.
If you usually find yourself on a Sunday morning nestled in a front-row pew, you might enjoy running with Family First. Their pre-selection process is predominately via a tick-the-box style ‘values’ questionnaire – you’ll need to be married, hopefully to someone of the opposite gender, with a few kids or a small, family-owned business to raise your credentials. To help your chances, remember to write “evangelical” in the denomination box.
But if the whole process of ballots, committees and assessment leaves you feeling as dizzy as a back-flipping pollie, try running as an Independent. Independents are fondly regarded as the determined arbiters of moral values; lone warriors willing to take on the mighty machinery of the major parties to stay true to their beliefs. Even if you lose, you’ll look the hero for trying.
And everyone loves a hero, right?
Jayde Lovell is Political Strategist with the Victorian Parents’ Council, and a former Electorate Officer for a Member of Parliament. She is a regular contributor for Anthill (see page 42) and a member of the Liberal Party of Australia.