OPINION: The one Aussie pension still worth something
WHEN I was a kid the aged pension system was explained to me as the way our nation thanked its people for a lifetime of work.
The contract was fairly simple. You went out and worked hard to contribute to our society and make the world a better place. Once you reached 65 you stepped back from that and were given the aged pension, which provided you with a decent standard of living and the freedom to do as you wished.
Of course, it doesn't work that way anymore.
The spectre of a hoard of retiring baby boomers meant Australia realised more than 20 years ago it could no longer afford to provide a decent standard of living for its retirees and we'd all have to start setting ourselves up for retirement through compulsory superannuation.
These days the aged pension is a pittance - a top-up for the fortunate and a last resort for the unfortunate.
Oddly enough, this change in approach to the pension doesn't appear to have reached our politicians, who were the ones who decided the rest of us needed to tighten our belts in the first place.
There have been some changes. For example, it's now harder to qualify for 10 free domestic return flights a year and fewer MPs now qualify for up to six months' pay if they suffer the ignominy of being voted out by their electorate or turfed out by their party.
However, it remains the case that someone who has served eight years in Federal Parliament (that's only two elections if you're a senator) gets - for the rest of their life - at least half the salary they earned as a parliamentarian along with a percentage of the extra income they received in any offices they held.
Politicians are paid well, but, mostly, they also work hard. I suspect once you take into account the amount of time they have to spend on the job their hourly rate wouldn't look that far different to yours or mine.
But handing departing MPs a lifetime pay packet well above the average earnings of regular Aussies - at a time when the rest of us are being told to "live within our means" - is just obscene.
Usually at this point in discussions of MPs' salaries someone will chime in with how it's important to pay politicians well so people who would have otherwise been incredibly wealthy in the private sector can receive some shadow of the rich reward they would have received, but for their self-sacrificing desire to serve the greater good.
Frankly, if our politicians are being motivated by the desire for personal wealth I question whether they're the sort of people we want to have in charge of the place anyway.
At best, the existing parliamentary pension is an anachronism. At worst, it's a rort.