Ominous warning from two former PMs
When two former prime ministers deliver the same warning within hours of each other, it is probably worth listening to them.
This week both John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull highlighted a problem that has plagued Australian politics for years, and is only getting worse.
"We must guard against either or both of our political parties becoming composed predominantly of people who are not sufficiently representative of the people in the community that we want to vote for us," Mr Howard told the Page Research Centre at its annual dinner on Thursday night.
The next morning, Mr Turnbull broached the same subject at the StartCon business conference in Sydney, where he was the keynote speaker.
"As political parties get more estranged from the people they actually are seeking the support of, then you end up with policies that are out of step," he said.
The problem is that fewer and fewer politicians are entering parliament with the sort of life experience their predecessors had.
Run through the current list of MPs and senators. You'll find plenty of former lawyers, consultants and political staffers, a handful of teachers, and to be honest, not a heck of lot of anything else.
Ideally, our parliament would be a reasonable reflection of broader society. It has always fallen short of that ideal.
In the past, it was sorely lacking in diversity. Now it's increasingly lacking in experience - at least, any experience from outside the "Canberra bubble" Scott Morrison so loves to deride.
"It is a problem. When I joined the Liberal Party in 1973, it was a much more diverse party membership than it is today," Mr Turnbull conceded, though he did argue the situation in the Labor Party was worse.
"In those days (the seventies), the Labor Party's members were mostly trade unionists, but they were unionists who had started off on the shop floor. So there were boiler makers and brick layers and train drivers, and people that actually worked," he said.
"The Labor Party today, it is essentially an apparatchik class. Many of them have come through the union movement, but they went to university, got a job in the union and got into parliament. Or went to university, got a job with a politician and then went into parliament.
"There's plenty of those in the Liberal Party too. But we are nonetheless still more diverse."
The transformation of both parties has already produced very real consequences. Mr Turnbull framed it as the difference between two different types of politicians.
"This is simplistic, but it's not too far from the mark," he said.
"There are people in politics - and they tend to be people like myself - who come into politics later in life, after a career, and so they're not lifetime politicians, who will look at policy issues and say, 'Right, what is the best policy?' And then, having identified that, work out how to politically sell it.
"The other approach is the highly political one. Lifetime politicians tend to be like that, and they often tend to be politically successful. And they will say, 'What is the most politically sellable thing I can come up with that will get people to vote for me?' And they go with that.
"You've got to get a mixture of both, but if you only do the political approach, and you literally go from day to day, week to week trying to win the political headlines, then you may end up being politically successful in the sense of winning elections, but what have you actually done?"
Clearly, Mr Howard and Mr Turnbull feel the scales have tipped too far towards career politicians.
None of this is all that surprising. Mr Howard in particular has been talking about it for years now. The problem is easy to diagnose, and difficult to solve.
But the man interviewing Mr Turnbull at StartCon - Matt Barrie, the CEO of freelancer.com - did offer one potential solution. It was an intriguing one.
He asked whether the prime minister should be allowed to choose ministers from anywhere in Australia, instead of being restricted to members of parliament.
"Unlike in a company, where I can come along and appoint a vice president of engineering or a chief financial officer, I can hire anyone, in Australia, under section 64C of the constitution, it requires a minister to be an elected member of parliament," Mr Barrie said.
"So you have to figure out who you're going to put in various positions from a pool of people that are generally lawyers or career politicians.
"Do you think the prime minister should be able to select their executive from anywhere?"
Other countries, such as Germany and the United States, have that system. So when one of Donald Trump's Cabinet members sensationally quits - not an uncommon occurrence - he can choose anyone in America to replace them.
Presidents usually use that power to select people who are experts in their respective fields. Think, for example, of Mr Trump's first defence secretary, General James Mattis.
Australian prime ministers rarely have that option.
"That is an issue," Mr Turnbull admitted.
"This sort of principle of the Westminster system, I think, works better when the parliament is larger. So if you think it's an issue in the federal parliament, where there are 227 members of the parliament, imagine what it's like in state parliament, where you might only have a few dozen people to choose from, if that."
At the other end of the spectrum, Britain's parliament has 650 MPs. That's a much larger pool of talent to choose from.
"The British prime minister has got more options," said Mr Turnbull.
He did stick up for Australia's system, to some extent.
"I'd say though that often the qualities that a minister needs are not necessarily technical ones. It's important to have someone that is enthusiastic, that is open-minded, and that focuses on the right policies," said Mr Turnbull.
But it's a question worth considering. With so many Australians underwhelmed by the level of talent in Canberra, should we start looking elsewhere?