I don’t think I properly understood before that the hiring of political staffers is arbitrary and without scrutiny. One of Australia’s leading researchers in this area, Maria Maley, also at the ANU, has comprehensively reviewed federal political advisers in Australia. The news isn’t good. She describes advisers as “a cadre separate from the public service … partisan”. Under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act, they are employed personally by ministers but their salaries are paid by the taxpayer.
Maley says one of the negative features of Australia’s arrangements is the secrecy surrounding the identity of ministerial staff. We don’t really know who they are, how they got there and why they were chosen. It’s awful.
Maley says the Coalition, under former prime minister John Howard, ditched the practice of naming advisers; and their identities are not readily publicly available. Everyone in Parliament House knows but not us. We pay the bills but we don’t know who they are.