Journal article

Politicians, professionalization and anti-politics: why we want leaders who act like professionals but are paid like amateurs

Paul Fawcett, Jack Corbett



Why are politicians so unpopular? One common explanation blames a professionalized political class that is increasingly detached from ‘ordinary citizens’. But, there is very little empirical investigation of what it is about the professionalization of politics that engenders distrust. This article uses 12 focus groups and 15 interviews with civil servants from the Australian Public Service—‘insiders’ with first-hand knowledge and experience of the political system—to reflect on political professionalization and its impacts. As a group, civil servants’ views on this question remain largely unexplored yet their proximity to the political process gives them a distinct vantage point from which t..

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University of Melbourne Researchers


Awarded by Australian Research Council

Funding Acknowledgements

We acknowledge financial support from the IGPA Research Incentives Fund and the Australian Research Council (DP120104155). We would like to thank Thaneshwar Bhusal, Marion Carter, Lain Dare and Lyndall Hasselman for their help in facilitating the focus groups, and Jacob Deem, Magali McDuffie and Caroline Sinclair for additional research assistance. We would also like to express our particular thanks to the government agencies who gave us their permission to run the focus groups and the public servants who gave their time to participate in this study. John Boswell provided typically incisive comments on draft text. Finally, we would like to thank the journal's reviewers for their suggestions on how to improve the article as well as those who provided feedback on an earlier version of this paper at the IGPA Research Symposium on "Populism: what's next for democracy?' (University of Canberra).