So far our shiny new ‘No Surprises, No Excuses’ Government has been anything but what was promised in that statement at the Liberal launch in August 2013. I will leave it to the policy experts to detail all the surprises and all the excuses we have received in a very short time. What worries me more is the fact that this Government seem to be so beholden to Old mates from the Howard era and Big Business, blatant about it too. Worse, we don’t seem to be “Surprised” about that? Why not?
We are surprised by the broken promises, the back flips, in some cases downright ‘lies’ or as News Ltd like to politely term them “changes of position” UGH. But we are not “surprised” by the employment of old mates in high paying advisory positions, we are not “surprised” at Big Businesses getting their man to head very important areas like the “Commission of Audit” or Turnbull’s look-see at NBN Co? Why? Why is this not considered a very slippery slope? Why are we not screaming blue murder?
Let me tell you a story... An old time cop mate was at the V8s with his niece & nephew in Townsville, they were having dinner in the hotel’s pub, a hotel which is part of the ‘group’ that the niece & nephew work for, the CEO of the group happened to be in town for the V8’s as well, so they all dined together. At the end of the meal, the CEO having enjoyed the evening, being on his patch wanted to pay for everyone. Now, the old-time cop had to be very very insistent to the point where it got uncomfortable as to the fact that he would pay for his own meal. The CEO didn’t get it, but let it go. See, for the cop, particularly one who was a youngster in the Qld Fitzgerald Enquiry days, he would never put himself in a position, however innocent, where it could come back to bite him later, where it could be perceived that he accepted a favour or reward from business. This is admirable and shows integrity of his position as a member or our police force.
What I want to know, is, why is an ‘employee’ of our Government more circumspect in regard to an issue, which let’s face it, when you get favours or freebies from business, there will be a piper to pay at some stage, is soft core corruption, than his ‘boss’ the MP overseeing the police service?
Surely Queensland’s Fitzgerald Inquiry – it should be noted Mr Fitzgerald had a bit to say about Campbell Newman’s Qld LNP Government in recent times? – and New South Wales more recent ICAC hearings are enough of a warning for punters to be vigilant?
I am sure none of the MPs involved in these inquiries start out in their careers thinking “Woohoo I am on my way to ripping off the taxpayer & becoming king cocky with the help of powerful friends”? It starts small and before you know it, becomes a fact of life, as we now see with too many politicians being too matey with some very rich & powerful people , businesses or unions?
If we were to see an article in the paper about some top cop who was always seen around town, eating for free in all the top restaurants, with the owners of those restaurants, staying in hotels for free, going to boxes at the footy for free, hobnobbing with all sorts of business entities, what would we think? There would be exclusives, photos on the front page of the papers? The CMC (in Queensland when it actually did its job before Newman made it a puppy) would be all over the cop like a rash. Even – and it would be highly doubtful – if the bloke was above board, just happened to have gone to some private school where the old boys still hung out so it was perfectly legit for him to hang out with mates, it would not be ‘perceived’ as such, pretty much his career would be over, regardless of finding any evidence of corruption or repaying of favours to those old school mates.
So why is it different for our elected officials? Should they not be held to a much higher standard than a cop? A cop is enforcing the law, but our MPs are actually making decisions in regard to those laws & how we live, yet for some strange reason, are not held to even a 10th of that standard and much much worse, we the public don’t seem to be interested in making them accountable. It is like we have all been lulled into an apathetic state of mind where we are all so cynical, the favourite saying being “Well what do you expect?” :
Our politicians are defining who we are and how we live, from Local Councils, to State Governments & Territories, to our Federal Government. The actions and decisions they make affect ALL our lives, even the politically disengaged are still affected by politics, so it does matter terribly, yet too many have reduced politics to a two horse race with a few rank outsiders who might spoil the odd race now & then and we treat the choosing of our political parties the same as a sporting team, attracted by the odd rock star style player or the sports manager with the best ‘lines’.
We never seem to look past the ‘brand’ to see WHO these people are. Yes, a lot of this is media, but the point is, unless focus groups had told our pollies that they were on a winner with this type of ‘appeal’ they would not be doing it. Personally I blame a lack of political & civic education in our schools combined with the plethora of reality TV and shows that constantly remind of us what is happening in the show after each ad break, like they are grooming the public to be dumbed down and don’t worry about thinking or retaining information, we will remind you what you need to know. Yes, I know it is more complicated than that and I hope there are some serious academics out there looking into it. If we keep going down this track too many Sci Fi books I have read in the past will become a prescient future.
Unlike Cops who we worry will be tempted to abuse their positions, we don’t seem to pay any attention our Politicians who DO seem to be abusing their positions with impunity, it is just considered a fact of life as we don’t care about them until it comes time to elect them again?
Think about it. When a Police force has had issues it is common to bring in a top cop from overseas who has no connections to the local law enforcement to look into its operations, tidy it up & get it back on track again. Is this not the same as what the Government think they are doing with their ‘commission of audit’? So why is there not University academics, retired economists with a wealth of experience (but not bit share portfolios) doing this commission of audit? Why is it ok for it to be headed by Businessmen with their fingers still in business be it via shares or as board positions? If we come back to the cop analogy, that is akin to putting the Criminal King Pins in charge of a Police Force makeover?
Even if (and I highly doubt it) these businessman were saints, only making recommendations based on the greater good for the general public and not their business interests (see that pig flying past the window), just the ‘perception’ of conflict of interest would be enough to not allow these appointments? Yet, instead of it being the biggest political scandal, the attitude is, oh well, business needs a seat at the table. BS! Politicians are there to serve voters, not short-term business interests. Seriously, you only need grade 11 economics to know that if too many are sacked & wages drop too far so that business can make a quick buck, it is not sustainable, as in future years there will not be enough consumers who can afford to buy their good & services UGH.
I sometimes wonder if the nation is divided into two distinct types of political animal, those who think voting is a pain and they (the pollies) are all dodgy anyhow so who cares, and those who are so caught up in the intricacies of the political shenanigans – how many times do you hear a reporter say “it is a good political move”, like politics is a game, not something that actually affects our bloody lives? – and are just so entrenched in the ‘game’ that they can’t see a bigger picture and have lost the basic concept of ‘why’ we have politicians in the first place and ‘what’ their chief role is?
To be perfectly frank, after speaking to a State MP & raising these issues, he honestly had no idea what I was getting at, this sort of lobbying, stake-holder, business donation rubbish is now so entrenched in our system that he could not even see how it could be perceived as ‘inappropriate’? Even when giving the Police Integrity Rules as an analogy, it was still shrugged off as, well that is just the way you do “Business in Government”? It took quite a while before he would concede that yes, maybe it could ‘look’ that way, BUT, that was just the way it was... That is just not good enough!
I really don’t care what flavour of politics you support, at the moment I feel politically homeless, though I would like to encourage everyone who reads my rants to question more. Encourage others in your immediate life to ‘expect’ more integrity from our politicians, not just ‘accept’ that this form of soft corruption is ok.
- Write letters to the Editor querying how much the likes of Ziggy will benefit from being involved with Malcolm’s NBN co look-see?
- Query your local MP (at all levels) as to why there are business people who stand to benefit from recommendations by the Commission of Audit and how is that not a conflict of interest bordering on corruption?
- When you see in the local paper that your MP was at a lunch with a certain group of business people in a swank restaurant (ala Ros Bates in Qld), phone & question why that lunch was necessary, query how it is not a conflict of interest when your portfolio covers what they provide?
- If your MP was flown to an Indian wedding by a mining magnate (no prizes for guessing this one), then get everyone to contact that MP, ask the MP ‘why’ he was at the wedding, how much it cost the taxpayer, who’s wedding & who benefitted from their presence?
- The examples are endless & can be related to all sides of politics...
Basically, just stop ‘accepting’ that this is the way of life in Government. We would not accept this from our Police Services, so why should we accept it from our Government. Everytime you see appointments, see the holiday paid for by a business, the ‘exclusive’ consistently given to one newspaper that is almost obsolete in significance, question it, demand better from your MPs . If the action an MP has taken would be considered dodgy by a cop, then it is not a good move, time to start reminding them ALL (all flavours of MP) that they work for us, the daggy punters. It is also time to start reminding the disinterested that unless they want to be ruled totally by Big Business AND Interest Groups (all types of Interest Groups with good Lobbying consultants), they better wake up.
Only if we demand integrity, including the perception of integrity, will we receive it in our elected officials.
PS: Would love your suggestions & examples of where we should be demanding more integrity from MPs?
Also note this political favour business goes both ways, thankfully New Matilda are also onto this with "Help Us Track Down Tony's Cronies" so we need to play our part by being on the ball too!
Of course the colourful 'cronyism' graphic in the body of this piece is courtesy of (meaning I stole off him) my good mate Jack, @craigjack36
Professional desk jockey