Parties to pay

News that former Premier Jay Weatherill and his deputy John Rau will quit Parliament and force by-elections in both their metropolitan seats brings to an end an era of SA Labor politics.
Both men were elected in 2002 and had significant leadership roles in the State Government’s domination of the political landscape until Mr Weatherill’s team lost office earlier this year.
The recent retirement announcements also continue a disturbingly familiar tale of politicians simply walking away from their election promises.
At the March State election both men made it clear that, if elected, they would serve their full four-year term.
But it seems being a humble Opposition backbencher just doesn’t cut it when you’ve experienced the giddy heights of power.
The cost for these expensive by-elections will, of course, be picked up by the SA taxpayer.
In this instance it is the Labor Party that should be paying.
If a politician chooses to quit mid-term for no other reason than “it’s time to move on” or to “spend more time with my family” or to “explore other opportunities”, then the responsibility should fall with their party to pay for the required by-election.
It was no different when long-serving Liberal MP Alexander Downer decided he didn’t want to represent Mayo a few months after being elected in 2007.
The estimated $250,000 to elect his replacement was picked up by the taxpayer for no other reason than Mr Downer, like Mr Weatherill and Mr Rau, didn’t have the enthusiasm for a prolonged period in the political wilderness.
That is not good enough.
Entering politics is not just about being in Government. The unpalatable flip side is Opposition, but it seems those who have enjoyed a taste of power find the alternative a bitter pill to swallow.
If a MP has a legitimate reason for resigning just after being elected – such as a health issue either with themselves or their immediate family – then it is only reasonable the cost fall to the taxpayer.
But to cut and run and brush off the considerable expense as though it doesn’t exist is a trend that must be discouraged in the strongest terms.
Making the party behind perpetrators pay for their actions would focus the mind perfectly.
It is simply