Is there a pollie out there who can tell the truth and act in the public good?

Ian Bushnell 3 July 2021 33
Police at APH

Police guard Parliament House (June 2020). Respect for our politicians is at an all-time low. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

It’s been bubbling away for a fair while, but recent events have made me wonder if there is any politician out there who can look beyond their own and party agendas and have some semblance of the public or common good.

The COVID-19 vaccine and quarantine failures are public administration disasters that also dashed hopes of a change in the way government operated – expert advice guiding it to make decisions in the overall best interests of the people it represents.

Sometimes not everyone in the room may agree, but at least whatever emerged would come out of a ferment of contested ideas, not what would be a good look in the news spin cycle.

The federal government inertia on COVID is but one example of ignoring the advice in favour of marketing and wishful thinking.


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Climate change is the other big issue where the federal government shoehorns whatever selective advice it can find into its own distorted perspective to coddle the vested interests that favour it.

From coal mines to gas fields, renewables to electric vehicles, it’s a schizophrenic government that publicly acknowledges the science at the same time as it fibs to communities and panders to the fossil fuel lobby, setting back the orderly transition the country needs to make.

Labor’s fence-sitting and multi-messaging are not that different.

The shrill response to the UNESCO warning about the Great Barrier Reef heading for the endangered list was pathetic and ignored the fact that it was Australia’s own data that underpinned the report.

It highlights the way our politicians shamelessly double down when caught out.


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Look at the sports rorts scandal and now the car park scandal, both schemes tossing notions of merit out the window and administered for maximum electoral effect.

Bridget McKenzie is back in the ministry after a reluctant spell on the bench, and Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher simply says we won the election, so there, despite two years later only two of the 47 community car parks having been built.

Here in the ACT, Business Minister Tara Cheyne swears the ChooseCBR voucher scheme has been a success despite obvious flaws in how it was structured that allowed it to be gamed.

No one seems capable of admitting to a mistake or taking ministerial responsibility under those quaint Westminster conventions that matter so little anymore.

It is happening so often that trust has evaporated and the electorate is so cynical it is almost inured to the ongoing slipperiness, accepting it as part of politics.

In the process, public servants are being compromised, respect for the rule of law corroded and the instruments of administration damaged.

The ACT has gone where the Feds fear to tread. Photo: Supplied.

It is no wonder that the federal government seems loath to set up a Commonwealth corruption watchdog, and if it does, there probably won’t be many teeth.

To its credit, the ACT Government has established an Integrity Commission to handle corruption complaints, but it probably won’t stop bouts of stupidity or vanity when it comes to our politicians.

In a time when we face existential crises on several fronts on top of comparatively run of the mill dilemmas such as keeping a roof over people’s heads, we could use a few leaders who can be straight with us, respect the machinery of government and act in the public good.


What's Your Opinion?


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33 Responses to Is there a pollie out there who can tell the truth and act in the public good?
Carole Ford Carole Ford 7:19 am 08 Jul 21

Good question, sadly the answer will be a big FAT NO!

Astrid Smith Astrid Smith 8:06 am 06 Jul 21

There maybe some really great politicians out there, however, they would be shut down by those who are not in agreement or wish to push their own agenda. Thus we have bullying in Parliament and the good ones get the raw end.

Now all we see are the untrusted and horrible ones we have in our faces every day.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:53 pm 05 Jul 21

It’s been bubbling away for a fair while, but recent events have made me wonder if there is any journalist out there who can look beyond their own and their employer’s and advertisers’ agendas and tell their audience things that they think their audience don’t want to hear.

With the alternative to what’s left of Australia’s mainstream media being the lovely, candy-coated, instant gratification, I-me-mine, there is no such thing as being too precious, world of Americanised social media/marketing it’s easy enough to understand that those trying to make a living in the former will be strongly tempted to provide glib, palatable reportage and opinion pieces (often artfully masquerading as “trust us, we’re on your side” reporting and frank, fearless and balanced opinion) but all of that just makes it easier for those in high public office to succumb to the temptations which have always attached to those offices – “oh what times, oh what customs” (as Cicero said – in Latin – a couple of thousand years ago).

The downward spiral will likely continue, but the economic reckoning which is coming for Australia when the easy money (and the easy options which it funds) dries up will sort out quite a bit of the nonsense and bulldust.

Hans Dimpel Hans Dimpel 6:26 pm 05 Jul 21

who voted for these politicians?

Ol L Ol L 5:36 pm 05 Jul 21

What’s worse non trustworthy or self entitled gooses? Think Chris Bowen’s’ if you don’t like our policies don’t vote for us’ or our would be Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong refusing to shake Simon Birmingham’s hand after a debate? Imagine them in charge of anything

Acton Acton 4:08 pm 05 Jul 21

A good and honest person who enters politics now encounters unrelenting vitriolic attacks from social media that they never would have had to face in past generations. If social media puts off good and honest people from entering politics then democracy and good government is undermined.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 2:22 pm 05 Jul 21

Zed is honest and he is doing an excellent job for the ACT and Australia.

Yet half the people who contribute to this blog hate him.

Go figure that.

    ArthurianFish ArthurianFish 3:03 pm 05 Jul 21

    Honest? Excellent job? He has a sook and blocks people who don’t agree with him on social media, he votes against things the majority of his constituents support, the man is a giant weenie.

    samurai samurai 6:56 pm 05 Jul 21

    Gee, you’re not biased at all are you?

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:36 pm 05 Jul 21

    ArthurianFish is certainly biased as well as very negative.

Luke Reeves Luke Reeves 1:11 pm 05 Jul 21

There are plenty of politicians doing the right thing, but the media keep ignoring them in order to promote the two terrible parties who don't care for the country. That and you have Murdoch media who won't cover the truth at all.

Won't see anything from team red and blue that's for sure.

Joanne Mitchell Joanne Mitchell 12:52 pm 05 Jul 21

No - it appears to be not part of their job description

Belinda Maiden Belinda Maiden 11:40 am 05 Jul 21

Is there a pillow out there who can tell the truth and act in the public good? Apparently not. It’s all lies, misinformation, spin, and/ or silence. Personal gain trumps public good because integrity is non-existent.

Tom Adam Tom Adam 11:23 am 05 Jul 21

Like the doormen from the Labyrinth.

“One of us always tells the truth”

“And one of us always lies”.

It’s a paradox, the one who says they tell the truth because if they’re telling the truth when the other one says one always lies then they’re telling the truth and the one who says one of us always tells the truth must be lying.

The reality is - people who speak their mind don’t often go into politics. Why? Because they see the ones who claim they always speak their mind (Barnaby, Other nutters) and realise the only ones who speak their mind aren’t well regarded.

If I went into politics there would be a lot of swearing

Mark Collins Mark Collins 9:32 am 05 Jul 21

A good article. The politicians help set the ethics and integrity of a country. Australia is going down hill very rspidly

Daniel O'Connell Daniel O'Connell 9:23 am 05 Jul 21

Give them a break.

Steve Winchester Steve Winchester 9:17 am 05 Jul 21

Yes, Pauline Hanson, Mark Latham.

Harry Williams Harry Williams 9:11 am 05 Jul 21

Havent found one yet

Shane Westmore Shane Westmore 9:06 am 05 Jul 21

of course not... when people vote them in, that gives them free reign to do or say what they want because they're not accountable, then once they've left power the public forgets how terrible they were... people know how evil & inhumane Dutton is, but don't remember Philip Ruddock was evil & inhumane first & still holds a leadership role in politics

Jane Skillicorn Jane Skillicorn 9:04 am 05 Jul 21

Not one....

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 8:45 am 05 Jul 21

If Chewy would actually read the article, it clearly acknowledges that Federal and ACT Labor can be just as bad.

Morrison and Hunt bet the house on hotel quarantine and A-Z, and and clearly have lost. Instead of fessing up – Ian’s point – they gaslight voters with a toddler’s cut-and-paste instant “plan”.

    chewy14 chewy14 1:13 pm 05 Jul 21

    Stephen,
    If you would actually read my comment, I agree that they all lie.

    My point is in relation to why that occurs, in which I’ve used the specific examples the author has and his history of reporting.

    The reason they all do it is because of the level of partisan response we see in reporting and commentary.

    Thanks for providing me another example of my point.

Tee Baz Tee Baz 8:44 am 05 Jul 21

Unfortunately, today’s politicians are all about the populist vote which requires to compromise on the truth. Sad situation for this great country.

    John Coleman John Coleman 11:05 am 05 Jul 21

    Tee Baz and whose fault is that?

    We're all about blaming politicians for not telling it, but the average Facebook thread discussing a new policy (on mask rules for instance) shows we don't actually care about knowing the truth. Usually it's just a click away.

    It's always been so though - otherwise someone before Churchill wouldn't have said 'the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter'.

chewy14 chewy14 7:43 am 05 Jul 21

The problem is that whenever a politician even comes close to being more honest with the electorate, particularly about the costs or consequences of supposedly popular or “trendy” causes, their political opposition and media supporters bring out the strawman arguments to denigrate them for maximum political mileage.

Hell, despite claiming to be an argument against politicians lying, this article contains a number of those very types of complex issues where the author thinks that there is black and white “good” and “bad” positions on the topics.

“Look at the sports rorts scandal and now the car park scandal, both schemes tossing notions of merit out the window and administered for maximum electoral effect.
Bridget McKenzie is back in the ministry after a reluctant spell on the bench, and Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher simply says we won the election, so there, despite two years later only two of the 47 community car parks having been built.”

For example, I have no idea how the author could have written the above sentences with a straight face after the volumes of articles he’s written in support of light rail in Canberra which clearly hasn’t been assessed against a merit based framework but rather a political one.

Those in glass houses, shouldn’t throw stones.

    Grail Grail 8:13 am 05 Jul 21

    At least the Light Rail was built and works. The ACT Government has delivered on COVID-19 vaccination, delivered on minimally intrusive lockdown and contact tracing.

    They still have their problems but they are funding fire stations as an emergency services program guided by emergency services advisors, not as a pork barrelling exercise.

    When things go wrong they front up, not disappear from the public eye in the hopes this all just blows over.

    Whataboutism is easy when you cherry pick.

    chewy14 chewy14 8:57 am 05 Jul 21

    Grail,
    So government waste is OK as long as what it’s wasted on works?

    And I would totally disagree with the rest of your comment. In my opinion the ACT government mostly deflects or ignores reasonable criticism of its clear failures.

    But that’s kind of the point in my response to this article.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 7:27 am 06 Jul 21

    In what way does the light rail “work”, Grail?

    privatepublic privatepublic 4:02 pm 07 Jul 21

    I recall Gallagher making comments of the light rail being too expensive at 674 Million at the time. Once the left (union/CFMEU specific) had kicked her out, sorry up to the Senate seat, Barr and co could get a leg up and implement the light rail.

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