The usual political debate inside our country revolves around conspicuous things concerning the top leaders, like whether someone has been overtly corrupt, promised something too loudly that they could not really deliver, is handing out money to worthy or unworthy causes, or is going up against some vested interest. Whilst there is nothing innately wrong with this mix of politics-as-entertainment and holding top politicians to account, it has always seemed to me to miss the bigger picture, which is that political parties have become temp agencies.
What do I mean by this? Simple, the main role of political parties is to organise temporary political jobs for its members: political parties ‘deliver’ thousands of mayors, councillers, ministers, lobbyists, MPs, select committee members, etc. Political parties are an intermediary between a whole layer of temporary political jobs and the people who want those jobs. In short, they are temp agencies for managerial political jobs. There is nothing wrong with this reality, but there is something wrong with judging temp agencies just by its corporate image.
What is wrong with the political debate as played out in newspapers and television? Again, simple: you dont just ask a temp agency about its corporate mission statement.
Think about it: when you are looking for a new CEO or just a local boss, is the only question you ask whether they have been corrupt elsewhere or promised something they could not deliver? Of course not. You want to know about how well trained they are, what kind of contacts they have, whether they can work with people, who is internally holding them to account, etc.
So what are the questions that we should be asking of our political parties that we are not? Instead of droning on and on about fairly meaningless shades of ‘ideology’ like liberals versus progressives, which in Australia is really of zero actual consequence once a party is in power, we should be asking about the internal training programs inside political parties. We should be looking at measures of competency in terms of whether a particular politician is a good organiser and can motivate people working with them. We should be asking for internal monitoring mechanisms such that a party keeps tabs on how corrupt and self-serving ‘their’ members are once they become mayors, ministers, etc. Have you ever seen a newspaper article digging through the internal training systems of political parties in Australia, or the mechanisms to follow-up on the behaviour of the temps ‘in the field’? I have not and that is weird if you think about it.
In short, we should treat political parties like any other temp agency and demand they are good temp agencies. At the moment, we mainly ask of them that they are good at propagating and defending a corporate story, but we dont really ask whether the people they ‘recruit’ are good managers and what programs they have to ‘improve’ the managerial abilities of their staff.