Our leaders aren’t leaders. They’re self-serving, self-interested actors in a political game being played at the country’s expense. Time, after time, after time, we are regaled with the stories of elected officials using public money, or resources to their own benefit. We’re constantly presented with one MP or another figuratively pointing the finger at their opponents and shouting: “They’re doing it wrong! You should vote for me next time and I’ll do it right!” only to for them to behave in exactly the same manner upon their election.
Around and around we go, lurching from one major party to the other while they all continue to put their hand in the jar and take what they feel they’re entitled to. They’ve fought the internal battles of their party to get their nominations. They’ve bested their political foes on the election battlefield. It’s now their turn to draw on the privileges of public office – dubious travel entitlements, electoral office expenses, living away from home allowances, using their position to elicit lobbyist funding, and enjoying the promise of lucrative careers in the very industries they were often responsible for regulating after they depart politics. Who cares if it’s their collective organisations who’ve set up the rules to allow such favourable and generous outcomes? It’s how political power works, and they’re working within the rules, don’t you know?
This two party dominance of our political system, combined with a lack of independent judiciary oversight, has created a playing field that incentivises a ‘born to rule’ mentality. The key focus of an aspiring politician is to get themselves preselected in a ‘winnable’ seat for their respective party. Of course, getting yourself to that position is in and of itself quite the feat of internal politicking – currying favour with powerbrokers and decision makers, proving yourself to the party faithful, and being a good soldier of the cause. Once these people get themselves elected, it’s no wonder some may feel they’ve earned a little bit of privilege.
The problem is these feelings, aligned with the public’s propensity to continually give the major parties their first preference votes, can also breed arrogance and complacency. You become far more interested in besting the other party through petty point scoring, and keeping yourself in a position of power, or favour within your own party than you are in being an effective public servant. Quite often that leads to actions and initiatives aimed squarely at favouring the narrow vested interests that keep your respective party cashed up. If you’ve attracted party funding through your actions, you’re an asset to promote. It doesn’t matter that you aren’t a leader’s left big toenail.
For any ethically motivated citizen of this country, who may have held, or still holds a position of public trust at some point in their career – public servant, military personnel, police officer, judge etc – this kind of behaviour is galling. The backbone of our society, the people who keep our services running, our country safe, and our cities governed by the rule of law, are rightly expected to carry out their duties in the spirit of fairness, transparency, and impartiality. The selection and employment of public servants, spending of public monies, adjudications of civil and legal disputes, and administrative decisions are ruthlessly monitored for assurance these things are carried out in the public’s interest. Why then, I ask, are these same standards not applied to those who seek to govern us? Why are we constantly presented with politicians whose only skills are public speaking, attracting lobbyist funding, and taking shreds off their political opponents?
Equally galling is the fact we keep voting for this, yet go on complaining about it. We’ve got to stop putting a #1 on that ballot card against the Liberal, National, or Labor parties. If we want this behaviour to stop, we have to stop it. I’m begging people to think twice about who it is they’re voting for. Investigate your candidates. Find out who they are and what they stand for.
As for me, I’m running as the Australian Progressives candidate for Canberra. The Australian Progressives place ethics as our first value, and one of our key policy agendas is that of anti-corruption. We want to end the self-centred, self-serving, born to rule nature of our two party system. We will change the rules and make sure our elected officials are ruthlessly monitored, and their behaviour exposed to the public’s interest. Government is a duty, not a privilege.