For a bunch that proclaims to loathe cookie-cutter political hacks dominating pre-selection battles. Australians are doing a bloody good job of turning anyone else off entering politics.
In 2002, I started work as an adviser for a NSW Labor minister. After a few months, he sounded me out. The party needs strong female candidates. You haven’t come up through the ranks of the machine or a union. You’re the kind of person the party needs. Member for X is going to announce he won’t contest the 2003 election. Do you want to have a go? I admit I thought about it for a few moments. For a lot of advisers, a seat in Parliament is the prize. Then I said, ‘no … it’s not for me.’ There was one overriding reason for that decision: I was afraid that events and choices in my personal life would make public life unbearable. As every year passes, I know I made the right choice. You see, for all of the whining that goes on about the quality of candidates & MPs; the ‘lifetime politicians’, Australia is increasingly (& sadly, in my opinion) adopting an American-style moral character test for our elected representatives – and on a lot of counts, I fail.
If you want a career in Australian politics, you need to start thinking about it at 15, join the Young Libs, Young Nats, Young Labor, Young Un-Fun clubs. I don’t think the Greens have an insufferable youth wing, but if they do, I’m sure it’s a little more tolerable. This way, you’ll be inculcated with not just the party line, learn how to spit venom at your nasty little conferences & attend branch meetings; you’ll also learn about ‘shit sheets’. These grubby documents are the anti-Christ of the Parliamentary privilege debate I wrote about last week. They are the product of scuttlebutt, gossip & personal enmities. I’ve seen them circulated at party conferences & mailed to Ministerial offices. It’s the poison-pen equivalent to the needle and the damage done. What do they teach the kiddies? Whatever you do, don’t do anything ‘wrong’.
In the last month, we’ve seen the office of the Prime Minister denigrated in a tacky, ‘comedy’ commissioned by the ABC. I refuse to watch, ‘At Home With Julia’, not because politicians should be put on a pedestal, but because I saw a promo of the Prime Minister apologising for flashing a bit of thigh trying to get to a meeting dressed in a pink robe and thought, Mark Scott, ‘you wouldn’t do that to a man’. It’s the same principle I apply to Glenn Milne’s loathsome attack on the Prime Minister over a previous relationship, and today’s pitiful smear in The Age on Sophie Mirabella less than a fortnight after the death of a man, who, regardless of their relationship, had a profound effect on her life. Unless there are financial irregularities with campaign donations, who cares? What possible public interest is there in the insinuation that she hid the relationship because of her family? The only person who seems to rejoice in this is Catherine Deveny, who tweeted, “Sophie Mirabella. Self-hating wog. Discuss.” I don’t like Ms Mirabella’s politics, but I will address Ms Deveny’s talking point: “Catherine Deveny. Feminist & progressive when she feels like it. Discuss.”
The nadir of these personal attacks is when it comes to ‘outing’ homosexuals. A NSW Cabinet Minister is alleged to have been caught in a ‘lewd act’. Two witnesses allegedly reported to an off-duty police officer that they allegedly saw someone engaged in a sexual act in public, in an ‘inner city suburb’ (i.e. where all the gays in the village of Sydney live). I have never witnessed a lower act in politics than the outing of NSW Minister (and a former boss), David Campbell by Channel 7 reporter, Adam Walters. In what way, shape or parallel universe did his personal anguish improve public life in NSW? The government lost a hard-working Minister who had not broken any section of the Ministerial Code of Conduct. Funnily enough, the hardest-hitting question put to Walters when the public interest test was applied came from Channel 7 Sunrise host, David Koch, who point-blank asked Walters whether he’d ever been involved in such an activity, as Walters had justified the story on the grounds that Campbell had misused a Ministerial car. The answer was yes, when he & then-partner, Reba Meagher, left her driver asleep at the wheel of her Ministerial car at work after dropping her off at a nightclub. Your tax dollars, hard at work.
Politicians are paid by us. They are ambassadors for our community; but they are human. So, Australia, get used to a breed of politicians who have never been pissed; never had homosexual sex; never used drugs (unless in the company of journalists); never sent a text or called someone just for the purpose of having sex; never had a parking fine; never been unemployed or admitted to hospital for anything other than a sporting-related injury; never had an affair or fallen in love with someone ‘inappropriate’, like a hairdresser. Welcome to a future filled with drones, whose only exposure to life as many of us imperfect angels know it is vicarious because their eyes have been trained on the prize since they were teenagers. Think of an America without Lincoln or Kennedy; a Britain without Churchill; an Australia without a Hawke or Curtin, because that’s where we’re going. It’s not that hard; we’re already there.