NOT ANOTHER VILLAGE IDIOT…
Like Julia Gillard’s dad, my father also wanted me to be Australia’s first female Prime Minister.
Missed it by that much…
But I think I would have made a fairly decent politician. I’m a good public speaker; I genuinely love getting out and about and talking to people; I can listen and be convinced but can also be persuasive; I’m passionate on a range of issues; I’d like to think I’m tough enough.
However, reading the extract of Maxine McKew’s book Tales from the Political Trenches made me think, as I’m sure you did too, that if Ms.McKew – a seasoned public figure, intelligent, wonderfully presented and spoken, supremely politically-connected – can’t hack it in politics, what hope is there for the rest of us who’d like to have a go?
Putting aside the personality clashes Ms.McKew encountered, (and only insiders know the truth of it) she makes the point I suspected she would: that politics is a brutal and bewildering game, even for those who attain the highest office.
She’s convinced me. Her obvious disillusionment tells me there’s something very wrong with our democracy.
Voting day at Port Macquarie 2012. Image via News Ltd.
Australia’s entrenched two-party system; factional in-fighting; lobbyists for commercial interests; string-pulling, done deals; relentless scrutiny and the interference of media cheerleaders… As an outsider looking in at Canberra? It’s terrifying.
We now have two leaders in Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott who are career politicians.
It’s their “calling”. They’ve spent their lives negotiating and planning their next move within Labor and Liberal party structures. Both have a distinct whiff of “whatever it takes” about them. (“Whatever It Takes” is, of course, the oft-quoted title of Labor powerbroker, Graham Richardson’s autobiography.)
Of Tony Abbott, retired diplomat, Bruce Haigh wrote in Fairfax last week: “His present political tactics are similar to those employed all those years ago on campus and with the Student Representative Council.
“Abbott is a strange and complex individual; all of these complexities are contained in a person who has had very little life experience.”
Ah yes! Life experience. Age, wisdom… all that.
An irresistible passion for a cause that overtakes us. A complete and utter frustration that something needs to be done. A willingness to make a sacrifice and throw ourselves into the fray in the hope of making a change. Can I do it? Yes I can!
That’s what should propel us toward sticking up a poster that says: “Vote 1. Independent”.
This “calling” can come at any time in our lives.
Failing to join a political party in our 20s – when, let’s face it, most of us were interested in watching art house movies, backpacking around Europe, getting legless and shagging – shouldn’t be a bar to entry. Too often, it is.
The moment for me came a few years ago on a local issue. Sleepless nights, endless meetings in my kitchen and old-fashioned fury led me directly to the broader issue of rampant development and lack of community consultation. Experience as an urban affairs journalist was an extra qualification.
I’ll run for NSW parliament, I thought.
Stupidly, I told a journalist and within hours of me thinking out loud, I had various political powerbrokers I’d never heard of ringing my home and attempting to co-opt me.
That didn’t appeal, at all, so I asked two pollie friends what they thought?
Forget it, they said. Even if you do get elected, without a party power base your efforts will come to nothing. It’s a waste of time.
Non-aligned Independents are regarded as feral pests in our political system. Few survive and those who do are derided as “single issue candidates”. They’re loathed when they hold the balance of power and isolated and ignored for the rest of the time. That’s just the way the big parties like it and what we’ve come to accept as business as usual.
I have no doubt, whatsover, that there are people all over Australia who are 100% qualified for a stint in politics – passionate about issues, not after power for its own sake – and who are deterred for the same reasons.
|Page 1 of 2||next >>|