Politicians play us for fools

Australians are increasingly cynical and disillusioned about our parliamentarians and are rapidly losing faith in the ability of the federal parliament to deliver good government.

What’s new? many will cry (some in despair). And it’s true: most Aussies have a traditional suspicion of politicians at every level of government and the old joke about how to tell when a politician is lying is to see his lips move has become an article of faith.

Yet accepting these verities with a wry grin, as most of us tend to do, is perhaps selling ourselves down the drain. Why? Because the standards of behaviour exhibited by our elected leaders continue to spiral downwards faster than a brick tossed off a tall building.

They are thumbing their noses at us and we have been turning the other cheek. If we accept the premise that a fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing but expecting different outcomes, we have only ourselves to blame for not, adequately, calling our MPs to heel.

The causes of our disillusionment are many but much of our angst goes to the defining characteristic of today’s elected representatives: their sense of entitlement. They have jettisoned the once sacrosanct article of faith that they are elected to serve OUR best interests. Instead, they have created a cargo cult in which they see the God of Entitlement (aka the Remuneration Tribunal) delivering an ever-expanding folio of lurks, perks and gratuities.

So fat and brazen have these lollygagging lumps of largesse become, they have turned customary notions of democratic franchise on their head. Think of people like Maxine McKew who stunned the political class by defeating a long-term and esteemed prime minister on her first attempt at entering parliament.

Tossed aside at the next poll, however, and she returns to her journalistic roots to peddle a tome that bewilderingly brays: how could this possibly have happened? Surely the voters did not understand when they cast their ballots to rid me from their sight, she sobs into her memoir. She just doesn’t get it and probably never will. Just another of the class of political apparatchiks with which we are lining our parliaments like pseudo libraries stocked with fake books by the metre.

It is, frankly, disgusting how our parliamentarians have turned their backs on us, the voters. Striving to enter the fabulous gold-digger mine that is parliament, they fawn over us sickeningly as they beg us for our votes beseech promising to deliver us a quality of life we could hardly dare envisage. Yet, once elected, they shun us.

We are treated like a nuisance, hindering our representatives as they grapple with all the problems of the world as if their stunning intellects were actually capable of grasping a big idea and, worse, that their meagre talents were actually capable of achieving some form of change.

The greatest insult we cop constantly is the sense of entitlement our politicians have that they should be rewarded more than handsomely for their meagre efforts on our behalf. Why should we tolerate this debasement any longer? The time is long overdue for us to consider some form of performance-based remuneration for our ruling class.

Let them meet our expectations before we give them the keys to the kingdom.

To be continued . . . this issue has a long way to run. If you have an opinion, share it with us. Do you think our politicians respect us or demean us?


Acknowledgement: Imre Saluzinski, The Weekend Australian, 17-18 November 2012.

Griffith University federalism project.