Exit Honour Among Foes and Enter The Age of Darkness

By 13 June 2014 4


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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4 Responses to Exit Honour Among Foes and Enter The Age of Darkness
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.,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!

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?

fabforty11:24 am, 13 Jun 14

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

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.

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