Monday, 28 March 2011

The public face of politics?

The last few weeks have certainly proved to be an interesting time up here in Wauchope. We have weathered an unrelenting and negative advertising election campaign, and have seen NSW Labor get a severe punishing at the polls. Deservedly so, I might add.

Our local Member, Andrew Stoner, has been returned with a thumping majority. He has been nicknamed “Mr 72%” as a reflection of his voter popularity. Probably “Mr 69%” is a more accurate figure, but there is no arguing his majority vote.

The sitting Independent member of Port Macquarie electorate has been ousted, and another National party person has comfortably won that seat.

What has drawn my attention during this time has been the unrelenting public and personal attacks on the sitting Federal member, Rob Oakeshott, the now ex Independent State member Peter Besseling and Tony Windsor, who is not really very close to this electorate at all, but who has also come in for a caning for his association with our Federal member. I don’t know if this was peculiar to this area, or whether this is normal National Party behaviour.

What is going on in Australian politics that have allowed defamatory personal attacks against someone’s character to become accepted? Why is this more important than policy statements or performance?

I find it deeply disturbing that this trend seems to have become the norm. I am tired of hearing statements such as “Well, politics is a rough game. If you don’t like being attacked, you shouldn’t be in it.”

I expect our politicians to be role models as they are the public face of the Australian people. I expect them to be reasonably polite, to have some ethics as to how they interact with each other, and to respect others’ work and opinions. I do not expect them to lie, to humiliate people, or to bully other politicians not of their own political persuasion.

Pie in the sky, all you who read this are probably thinking. Maybe you are right. But isn’t it time we demanded our elected representatives behave themselves? Isn’t it time they treated their political opponents with some respect? Can’t we have an election campaign that does not set out to deliberately misrepresent and defame other politicians?

I would like to think that voters are interested people who elect our representatives on their track record of how hard they work to represent their electorates. Up here in Coalition heartland, apparently this is not how it works.
Our erstwhile federal opposition leader, Tony Abbott, is alleged to have offered Rob Oakeshott a deal. The following excerpt appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 March, 2011:

The result there and in Tamworth, where independent Peter Draper also lost out to The Nationals, prompted the party's federal leader Warren Truss to take aim at Mr Oakeshott and New England MP Tony Windsor.
The message from voters was that "they got it dead wrong", he said, referring to the two MPs' crucial backing for a Labor minority government following the 2010 federal election.
"Both Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor sold out their core constituencies to support Labor, and people are not happy," Mr Truss said.
The Port Macquarie result already has led to speculation the coalition might be prepared to give Mr Oakeshott a clear run in his Lyne election at the next federal poll, provided he switched sides in Canberra. (end of quote)

This same question of Mr Oakeshott’s alliances was again raised on the ABC’s Q and A last night. Mr Abbott has not denied it. However, I understand from what was said on the program, that Mr Oakeshott has refused the offer as he is a man of integrity, who is prepared to stick with what he believes.

So the moral of this story is that if you are an Independent member in our area, you will be left alone if you become a de facto National. You will be ‘allowed’ to win your seat back. However, if you have enough moral integrity not to buy into this deal, then come next election you will be bullied, slandered and harassed to ensure that you lose. Never mind what you have done or achieved for your electorate. Never mind how many times you have voted to support Coalition bills. Never mind that you had visions of a cooperative parliament, all working together to better Australia. No, it is support us or die electorally in the attempt.

Such tactics may win the Coalition seats. But such wins surely come with the sacrifice of all that is ethical and decent in our political scene.

If this is the future, then it is a very sad day for the state of Australian politics.

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