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Exit Honour Among Foes and Enter The Age of Darkness

By 13 June 2014 10

knights

We hear almost daily the complaint from the chattering classes that the business of parliamentary debate has descended into puerile high farce seen usually in the sandpits of child care centres. Unfortunately this is all too true and I don’t see any parliament in which this is not the case.

I speak from the position of having been a participant in this arena and being an idle observer since leaving the game. During my time I saw the demise of the honourable foe being warmly embraced after the battle and the introduction of an atmosphere of antipathy bordering on hatred. I mourn its passing. Indeed I engaged in both styles of debate and am proud of only one of them.

Gone are the days of Daly and Killen (for those embryos out there, Google them and sit back to be entertained). Gone are the beautiful phrasings of Menzies, Whitlam and their ilk. Gone are the days of Hawke and Keating. Ushered in are the days of Bishop, Mirabella, Pyne, Albanese to name just a few. Tony Abbott’s treatment of Julia Gillard is a striking example of this.

In the ACT legislative Assembly, I found true and genuine friendship across the divide. Then, the clouds arrived and I found that the days of honour among foes had ebbed away. Once, the families of members were sacred and not to be attacked. No so, nowadays. Once, points were given out for a good verbal thrashing interlaced with pearls of wit. Not so nowadays. The debates start from the premise that to hurt the opposite team is just part of the process of debate. The personal attack is deep and dreadful, hideous and hurtful.

Nowadays, politicians keep diaries of indiscretions, store little tidbits away to be used at an appropriate time to embarrass the other side. It is a hateful system and will only result in tears before bedtime. Seriously, and we have seen it time and time again, it is a malevolence and a malaise which has its human toll. The number of Members who have developed depression is huge and indeed one Member of the Federal Parliament took his own life. I said on departure that the Black Dog haunts the corridors of power and folks ought to be careful to whom they introduce the Dog, for it will kill.

I yearn for the day when politicians will deal with each other with respect, humour and friendship understanding that the divide between them is about ideas. Perhaps I yearn in vain. Humour can diffuse a tense situation. The shame of it all is that some of the current generation of politicians, particularly locally, don’t care about that. They may live to regret it and retire or be tossed out to live bitter and twisted old lives.

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10 Responses to Exit Honour Among Foes and Enter The Age of Darkness
#1
Grail9:46 am, 13 Jun 14

Grail said :

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasise that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-schmich-sunscreen-column,0,5909206,full.column

Politicians have been keeping “dirt files” for as long as politics has existed, Gary (how can one complain about “dirt files” without bringing up a reference to McCarthy?). You are merely viewing the past through rose-coloured glasses, and the present through jaded cynicism. I think you’ll find that politics was a game that you enjoyed playing while you were winning.

At least you weren’t complaining about the people of Canberra this time. So I guess you are getting better at directing your spleen venting. Good work!

#2
dungfungus10:14 am, 13 Jun 14

You say “Tony Abbott’s treatment of Julia Gillard is a striking example of this.”
An example of what?

#3
fabforty11:24 am, 13 Jun 14

It’s time for Mr Hargreaves to get his own blog.

#4
justin heywood2:12 pm, 13 Jun 14

A little ironic given that the OP posted an attack on Abbott based on a family issue just a few weeks ago, managing some gossipy insinuation based on (apparently) very few facts.

….”It appears Tony’s daughter got a $60,000 scholarship largely because of who her family was connected to. No doubt she was a worthy recipient but what competition for that one occurred? Rumour has it that it was she was the first Whitehouse scholarship awarded. Mmmmmm.” (John Hargreaves Ex MLA, RiotACT, 23rd May, 2014)

So John, are you saying that you miss the days when politicians behaved respectfully. But when it comes to Abbott, all bets are off?

The true test of an honourable man is revealed when faced with his true enemies.

#5
John Hargreaves Ex M2:05 pm, 14 Aug 14

Here we go again! Berry has to apologise for calling Lawder a cow! a teaspoon of cement needed here! Lawder should toughen up. A lot worse has been said in that place than that.

Notice that Hanson called Barr Darth Vader (insinuating that he is from the dark side) and called Rattenbury an ewok. What’s worse – a cow or an ewok? did Hanson apologise – No!

Barr calls Hanson character names form the Star Wars series because the Libs have described the proposed office block as Death Star II.

All riveting stuff! Not!…. childish and puerile.

But also what got me was the pontificating hypocrisy of Smyth going on radio and calling Berry on the insult. He has a track record of being a very nasty piece of work in that place.

Maybe we should get Paul Keating and Peter Costello to run a session on clever repartee.

I am still in mourning.

#6
dungfungus5:04 pm, 14 Aug 14

John Hargreaves Ex MLA said :

Here we go again! Berry has to apologise for calling Lawder a cow! a teaspoon of cement needed here! Lawder should toughen up. A lot worse has been said in that place than that.

Notice that Hanson called Barr Darth Vader (insinuating that he is from the dark side) and called Rattenbury an ewok. What’s worse – a cow or an ewok? did Hanson apologise – No!

Barr calls Hanson character names form the Star Wars series because the Libs have described the proposed office block as Death Star II.

All riveting stuff! Not!…. childish and puerile.

But also what got me was the pontificating hypocrisy of Smyth going on radio and calling Berry on the insult. He has a track record of being a very nasty piece of work in that place.

Maybe we should get Paul Keating and Peter Costello to run a session on clever repartee.

I am still in mourning.

“I am still in mourning”.
Did your cat die again Johno?

#7
HiddenDragon6:18 pm, 14 Aug 14

I don’t think it’s just the chattering classes who are unimpressed by parliamentary conduct these days. Whether it’s school kids, or pensioners, I imagine many Question Time visitors to the federal parliament would leave disappointed and unimpressed by what they see and hear. The same seems to be true to a degree for other parliaments, including our own.

There’s probably all sorts of reasons for this, but I wonder whether one of the causes is that we now have many elected politicians whose whole (or just about) adult life has been about politics, with precious little work experience outside of politics, and closely related fields, and with a tendency to seek out and mix with people who share their particular world view. For such people, the idealism (at times of a distinctly righteous nature) of adolescence and young adulthood seems to congeal and harden fairly quickly into a driven “I/we know best” arrogance and a dismissiveness and intolerance of alternate views.

Others may suggest that, on many issues, there’s really not that much difference between the main parties, and so any genuine differences get exaggerated, often in a rather personal way.

#8
justin heywood7:30 pm, 14 Aug 14

HiddenDragon said :

I don’t think it’s just the chattering classes who are unimpressed by parliamentary conduct these days. Whether it’s school kids, or pensioners, I imagine many Question Time visitors to the federal parliament would leave disappointed and unimpressed by what they see and hear. The same seems to be true to a degree for other parliaments, including our own.

There’s probably all sorts of reasons for this, but I wonder whether one of the causes is that we now have many elected politicians whose whole (or just about) adult life has been about politics, with precious little work experience outside of politics, and closely related fields, and with a tendency to seek out and mix with people who share their particular world view. For such people, the idealism (at times of a distinctly righteous nature) of adolescence and young adulthood seems to congeal and harden fairly quickly into a driven “I/we know best” arrogance and a dismissiveness and intolerance of alternate views.

Others may suggest that, on many issues, there’s really not that much difference between the main parties, and so any genuine differences get exaggerated, often in a rather personal way.

Nailed it Dragon, especially your last paragraph. Politics in this country has become far too tribal. Too many otherwise intelligent people cannot bring themselves to believe that their side can ever be incompetent or dishonest. Yet they are only too willing to believe anything negative they hear or read of the other team. Throughout our history we have had good and bad governments from both sides.

The idea that ‘your’ side is a force for good and the other side is evil is obviously incredibly stupid, but it’s amazing how many people believe just that.

#9
260410:52 pm, 14 Aug 14

justin heywood said :

Too many otherwise intelligent people cannot bring themselves to believe that their side can ever be incompetent or dishonest. Yet they are only too willing to believe anything negative they hear or read of the other team.

The biggest problem is confirmation bias. People only choose to get their news from media whose biases reflect their own. Over time, people’s convictions become so reinforced and entrenched that they become completely unable to re-examine, and think critically about, their worldview.

My observation is that most Canberrans only get their news from the ABC and the Canberra Times. Accordingly, their political convictions reflect the view presented by the CT and ABC. Unions are great. Capitalism produces too many losers. A central aim of our tax system and government should be to maximise “fairness”. Rupert Murdoch is evil. And so on.

The more people read this stuff, the more convinced they become of it, and the more black and white their worldview becomes. They become completely closed off to, and even hostile towards, alternative viewpoints. The Australian is a far superior newspaper to the Canberra Times, and yet most Canberrans won’t read the former on principle. They’d rather read the ravings of Jenna Price rather than the sensible and measured thoughts of Paul Kelly because of who Kelly’s employer is. Completely irrational.

#10
dungfungus8:47 am, 15 Aug 14

2604 said :

justin heywood said :

Too many otherwise intelligent people cannot bring themselves to believe that their side can ever be incompetent or dishonest. Yet they are only too willing to believe anything negative they hear or read of the other team.

The biggest problem is confirmation bias. People only choose to get their news from media whose biases reflect their own. Over time, people’s convictions become so reinforced and entrenched that they become completely unable to re-examine, and think critically about, their worldview.

My observation is that most Canberrans only get their news from the ABC and the Canberra Times. Accordingly, their political convictions reflect the view presented by the CT and ABC. Unions are great. Capitalism produces too many losers. A central aim of our tax system and government should be to maximise “fairness”. Rupert Murdoch is evil. And so on.

The more people read this stuff, the more convinced they become of it, and the more black and white their worldview becomes. They become completely closed off to, and even hostile towards, alternative viewpoints. The Australian is a far superior newspaper to the Canberra Times, and yet most Canberrans won’t read the former on principle. They’d rather read the ravings of Jenna Price rather than the sensible and measured thoughts of Paul Kelly because of who Kelly’s employer is. Completely irrational.

You have said it all. Mind you, very few Canberrans read the CT and watch the ABC.

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