Too often we hear the phrase “all politicians are the same”. This platitude is the common response of war weary constituents who are sick of the palaver of lies and deceit that is often uncovered when politicians on both sides of the aisle make decisions based on expediency, rather than the greater good of the people who have elected them.
However, a quick and easy way to accept the inadequacies of our present system is to entertain the notion that having politicians is better than not having politicians. Consider other nations which are effectively autocracies. In Russia the only viable opposition leader is Alexei Navalny who after surviving an assassination attempt is currently lingering in prison.
I would suggest that the best way we can hold our politicians accountable is by upholding our faith in our less than perfect democracy and look beyond the line which puts all politicians in the same basket.
In truth, in Australia, not all politicians are the same, in fact some are worse than others which leads me to point out the behaviour of the deputy prime minister of Australia, Barnaby Joyce, who God help us, was our acting prime minister in the absence of Scott Morrison at the Glasgow climate summit.
A closer look at his power plays reveals a man who is hell bent on his own power alliances at the expense of the national interest. While the world was focusing on the future of the globe, Joyce held the environmental health of our country to ransom, arguing that lowered carbon emissions would economically, negatively impact regional Australia which his party represents. He would have us believe he is acting on behalf of struggling farmers, whereas the farmers these days are onboard with climate change and the dire consequences for agricultural production.
When Joyce avowed allegiance to the regions, he was referring to the giant mining interests in the Nationals’ three seats in central Queensland. As Michelle Gratton pointed out in The Conversation, the seats of Flynn and Capricornia are mining seats and the third seat of Dawson is economically connected to the mining industry. That the mining interests in these seats are strongly opposed to net zero emissions should come as no surprise.
Joyce has also distinguished himself by agreeing to sit on the cabinet task force established to oversee the status of women and coordinate the government’s response to two major reviews. One review has the task of investigating workplace culture at parliament house and responses to allegations of rape and sexual harassment, while the other review is charged with recommending a new staff complaints process.
That Joyce was sent packing in 2018 after the scandal involving his junior media advisor, and a sexual harassment allegation which he denied, would indicate that his heart just isn’t in it as far as women’s issues are concerned. It was his dedication to number crunching that saw him miraculously restored to favour, not his mea culpas. His gall in participating in the Status of Women Task Force is up there with Tony Abbott who made himself minister for women, after leading a crass campaign against Julia Gillard on the grounds of her gender.
The best way to ensure a healthy democracy is to maintain an interest in politics in the face of disillusionment, particularly when a general election is looming. One election policy which the government is promoting is that of reducing childcare payments which historically cripple thousands of families. Labour claims the government’s package will only provide relief to 25 per cent of families, whereas Labour will deliver relief to 97 per cent of families. Childcare relief, as proposed by both parties, is a vital, relatable policy that young families are advised to closely examine.
So yes. politicians can be self-serving and hypocritical, but I would encourage voters not to give way to cynicism and to take care when voting. As Don Chipp, the inaugural leader of the Democrats once said, we need to keep the bastards honest.