For once, social media is asking a good question: why are Australian taxpayers funding a three-month education mission to New York for two Federal MPs – who will then immediately quit public life?
NSW MP Ann Sudmalis and Labor’s Jenny Macklin are the latest federal politicians to enjoy 12-week parliamentary observer postings to the UN General Assembly. Both women will then retire at the next election.
So what’s in it for us, the people footing the bill?
As @TajBragg tweeted Thursday: “Tell me @ScottMorrisonMP what benefit does the taxpayer get sending #annsudmalis to the United Nations. Tell me @billshortenmp what benefit does the taxpayer get sending Jenny Macklin to the United Nations? Both are quitting politics at the next election. So it’s a junket?”
Ms Sudmalis’s Labor rival in the electorate of Gilmore has been quick to capitalise on the fact that the sitting MP won’t be attending to her electorate’s needs and concerns.
Contender Fiona Phillips cheerily tweeted: “So Ann Sudmalis is off [to] the UN. I’m off to South Durras and Kiama today and couldn’t be happier. Every day on the NSW South Coast is a good day standing up for people in Gilmore.”
The most recent post on Ann Sudmalis’s Facebook page is of the alleged bullying victim posing with the Nowra Players Annual Youth Drama Awards. She’d just watched their production Damn you, William. The next post could well be of Ms Sudmalis kicking her heels up with the stars of Broadway.
So Ann Sudmalis is off the the UN. I’m off to South Durras and Kiama today and couldn’t be happier. Every day on the NSW South Coast is a good day standing up for people in Gilmore #hospitals #schools #TAFE #penaltyrates #jobs #pensions #auspol
— Fiona Phillips (@fiboydphillips) September 20, 2018
Fair enough, maybe. Her days in New York will be presumably flat out observing the workings of the UN General Assembly, a 12-week gig that reportedly costs the Australian taxpayer $50,000 for each observer.
But perhaps it’s a good deal. It saves the taxpayers the costs of a by-election, given Ms Sudmalis has said she’s quitting politics. And she’s not going quietly – or she wasn’t until the UN role was announced.
Ann Sudmalis set to join Jenny Macklin in New York for three months – taxpayers pick up $100k+ bill. Some get a gold watch, others 12 weeks in the five-star Bristol Plaza near Central Park.
— rob harris (@rharris334) September 20, 2018
In recent days she has accused a NSW state MP of “bullying” and “back-stabbing” and further stirred the bitter cauldron of gender unhappiness in the Liberal Party. By parking Ms Sudmalis in New York until her term runs out, the PM has oiled a loudly squeaking wheel.
This led @roger3cav to take a parodic tone in a tweet: “Now listen Luv, got a lovely little trip to the US for 3 months to have lunch with Joe. It will take that long to get thru one of his lunches, you won’t resign early will ya?”
Where’s the public benefit?
Labor’s Jenny Macklin is paired with Ms Sudmalis to keep numbers even in the House of Representatives – but also as a pat on the back for Ms Macklin’s long service, including her current stint as Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services. She, too, is exiting the fray at the next election.
So the question remains: what value is it to the Australian taxpayer to gift these appointments to people who won’t be around to share their insights with their colleagues. But are these appointments good value anyway?
Some Australians don’t think so. @human4good captured the mood in a tweet: “The major parties treat taxpayer funds like a piggy bank. They wonder why voters are increasingly cynical about the big two [parties].’”
Cory Bernardi was appointed in 2016 and didn’t come home a well-tempered global citizen.
Nic Nolan, Mr Bernardi’s media adviser, emailed a link to scorchinghotnews.com and its coverage of Bernardi’s speech to the Senate: “Cory Bernardi blows the lid on United Nations globalist agenda.”
It was then that he quit the Liberals, started his own party and hopes to one day have the relevance of Pauline Hanson.
The New Daily has contacted Ann Sudmalis and Jenny Macklin by email asking what kind of tasks will they be obligated to perform.
A Labor spokeswoman replied on Ms Macklin’s behalf with a statement: “Jenny is among the hardest working members of parliament – the public policy experience and knowledge she will bring to the role is unparalleled.
“Labor is required to nominate a delegate to the role to represent the Parliament – with the delegate working on Australia’s behalf. Jenny’s experience and wealth of knowledge make her the best person to represent Australia in this role.”
We contacted the Prime Minister’s Office asking what kind of duties and obligations the observers are expected to meet – and to explain how the secondments are good value for money. Our query has been forwarded to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
We have also written to the UN with the same questions.
We’ll get back to you when they get back to us.