THE role of Primary Industries Minister is arguably the most important job in SA agriculture, and, as of Wednesday, is now being filled by former SA Dairyfarmers' Association president David Basham following the resignation of Tim Whetstone.
Mr Basham has had a rapid rise through the ranks to join the frontbench in his first term as the Member for Finniss, but his years spent advocating for dairyfarmers should stand him in good stead.
While he is joining cabinet at a fascinating but challenging time, as a result of the Country Members Accommodation Allowance scandal, and in the middle of a pandemic, we look forward to working with him to promote agriculture and ensure farmers get the support they deserve from their government.
It's pleasing to see the primary industries portfolio again going to an MP who has spent years working in the agricultural sector.
Related reading:Basham receives warm welcome as ag minister
But, it is concerning that the allowances scandal has resulted in a drop off in regional representation in cabinet. Three regional members have departed, and been replaced by Mr Basham and two metropolitan members - Vincent Tarzia and Stephen Patterson - meaning there are fewer regional voices to be heard in the cabinet room.
I must admit I was surprised to read that the rules surrounding the Country Members Accommodation Allowance were reportedly changed in 2018 to ensure an expense had to be incurred before an allowance could be claimed. I'd assumed such conditions would have always been in place to ensure taxpayer money was being spent responsibly, and I'm left wondering how many other allowances have no such requirements in place.
Politicians deserve to have taxpayers cover any expenses incurred while doing their job. But some common sense also has to apply. Just because you can claim something doesn't always mean you should.
Clearly I'm not across the finer details of the claims in question, but it's hard to see how charging taxpayers $234 a night to stay with your parents passes the pub test - especially when politicians get paid a wage most of us can only dream of, and seem to get pay increases even when private sector wages are stagnating.
Parliament House can seem like its own little world sometimes, but our politicians must ensure they don't lose touch with the real world.
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