Real work experience for pollies

Politicians + cameras = unspeakable lameness, in general. Just check David Oldfield and Jackie Kelly’s recent reality TV efforts, if you doubt this principle. Now a remarkable 90 of them are fronting up to various small businesses around the country to get some “real” experience of what it’s like to run a small business. The SMH had a clip of Peter Garrett flipping burgers today, and Small Business Minister Fran Bailey will be working in a garden centre, among other things.

Here’s what the organisers reckon it’s all about:

“The program is a great way for Pollies to learn first-hand of the everyday challenges faced by a small business operator.” [ABL State Chamber CEO, Kevin MacDonald said.]

“It has been through programs such as ABL State Chamber and Australia Post Pollies for Small Business that business operators have been able to get in the ear of government and to highlight their concerns.

“In recent times we have achieved success in getting the State and Federal government to cut red tape, which we attribute to a better understanding of the regulatory burdens faced by business.”

Really? A pollie turns up for a photo shoot and spends a few hours glad-handing punters so they can cynically appeal to the small business vote, and that’s supposed to give them insight into the painful slog of running a small business? And I speak with the bitter experience of someone previously involved in one of Australia’s least successful small businesses.

The whole thing’s just a publicity stunt. C’mon – Clover Moore’s going to a bookshop? That’s just fun. Sure, nerdy fun. But still fun.

If our politicians really want to get some meaningful work experience, something to put them in touch with “everyday challenges”, why don’t they try a few of these ideas?

John Howard: work at a servo, like the one his dad had when he was a kid, so he can cop a serve from every single punter when they have to pay for their petrol.

Peter Costello: swap jobs for a day with brother Tim, the head of World Vision. He might benefit from realising that some people in the world have bigger worries than when they’ll become Prime Minister.

Morris Iemma:
swap jobs for a day with Bob Carr. Not so he could go to Macquarie Bank – he’ll do that when he retires as well, presumably – but so Carr has to fix up the Cross City Tunnel mess.

Amanda Vanstone: I know it’s not entirely her fault because she’s one of the softer Liberals – but I’d still love to make her spend a day in Villawood Detention Centre.

Kim Beazley: spend a day running the union movement, to give them a taste of their own medicine.

Natasha Stott Despoja:
It’d probably be fascinating for her to do a day of work experience with a political party that actually has power

Simon Crean: spend a day as ALP leader, so that the rest of us appreciate Kim Beazley more.

Alexander Downer: spend a day retailing fishnet products on Oxford St. Both because I’m sure he’d enjoy it, and because at least for one day, he wouldn’t be Foreign Minister.

Kevin Rudd: spend a day working in a Chinese noodle restaurant, just so he can talk in Mandarin for 24 hours and get it out of his system.

Peter Garrett: return to his old gig with the Australian Conservation Foundation. Can you imagine the awkward silences?

Peter Debnam: spend a day as Premier of NSW. It’s the closest he’ll ever get.*

Tony Abbott: OK, so it’s pretty unlikely – but can you imagine what spending a day as a woman might do for his interventionist family planning views?

* As a recent survey found most people don’t realise, he’s the NSW Liberal leader.