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Politics and the price of pillory

By John Hargreaves - 16 January 2015 16

parliament-house-stock-031214 The price we sometimes pay for freedom of expression is that people can use language to strip people of their dignity and self-respect and reduce them to lesser mortals. It is no more evident than in politics.

Members of parliament (read: Legislative Assembly here in the ACT) and ministers appear to be the targets of offensive and derogatory articles more so than any other profession. And with the rise of social media and its anonymity, this insane bigotry has reached new heights.

I have been to many countries both as a politician and a tourist, and in my experience, no country treats its elected representatives as badly as in Australia. We should not seek the over-the-top reverence that countries such as the United States confer on their representatives, but I do think our elected representatives could do with a greater amount of respect and consideration.

Our elected representatives are not all lazy, crooked, egomaniacs. Whilst this may be true of some, it is not true of the greater majority. These are hardworking human beings trying to do a good job for the people who voted them in (and in many cases for those who did not). They do not deserve to be pilloried at every turn, to be despised and metaphorically spat on because they have made decisions with which we, as individuals, disagree. They do not deserve to be the objects of derision and mockery.

This is the tall poppy syndrome applied by small-minded individuals who have neither the intellect to propose an alternative view or suggestion nor the courage to put their name to critical comment.

The way in which critical comment is the applied through abusive and violent language is appalling. It is the weapon of the gutless! The most recent barrage of abuse and ugliness directed at Joy Burch MLA is a case in point. She has copped abuse over an issue in one of her multiple portfolios.The Feds have one portfolio each and an army of staff to assist them. But still we demand perfect (yes perfect) decision making from our local politicians. No room for error! No credit for the enormous workload and the attendant stress they engender.

But still the detractors come and say that Burch should consider her position as a minister and member of the Legislative Assembly. What a cowardly lot they are! These same people are those who get weekends, quality family time and who perhaps haven’t had to make many difficult decisions in their lives. They grumble when MLAs get pay rises and they make outlandish and outrageous claims of the largess which accompanies MLAs when they leave. And the basis of their position? Nothing! But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story!

Burch came to the Assembly with qualifications and experience as a nurse in the Northern Territory and as a small business owner and operator in the childcare industry. She has given of herself to the people of Canberra as an MLA and a minister.

She has sacrificed much in this journey and it has had its toll on her family, as we have seen through the prism of the media and its “the community has a right to know” position. Fair? I don’t think so. Surely families are sacrosanct unless impropriety is evident.

Lampooning is one thing. It is humorous and insightful at times. It can be hurtful. But long campaigns aimed at reducing people is savagery at work and unbecoming of a nation which boasts of ‘a fair go’.

If voters are unhappy with political parties or members, they can deal with them at the ballot box. There is no need to constantly go the person to force them into resignation or a psychiatrist’s rooms.

The black dog of depression stalks the halls of power. It claims its victims from the weakened. If we continue to seek the destruction of politicians, we have their mental blood on our hands.

What’s Your opinion?


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16 Responses to
Politics and the price of pillory
rommeldog56 9:22 pm 19 Jan 15

The OP raises some reasonably valid points but there is no easy answer or solution. Many criticisms of politicians at all levels are borne out voters’ / ratepayers passion and concern for the future – not specifically intended to be malicious.

Having said that, the comment “The black dog of depression stalks the halls of power. It claims its victims from the weakened”, is a bit much. So depression stalks the LA does it !

Well, it also widely stalks out in ACT voter/ratepayer land. What about the depression and stress caused the artificially rapidly increasing Annual Rates which will inevitably drive many to seek a more afforeable place to live – away from family and loved ones. What about the stress and depression caused by the inaction by the ACT Gov’t on the Mr Fluffy situation – despite the fact that they (as admitted by the ex Chief Minister last year) knew about the situation 9 years or so ago – not to mention the stress and depression that will be caused by the ACT Gov’ts decision not to allow affected homeowners the 1st right to buy back their cleared block ?

There is also plenty of depression and stress caused on residents and ratepayers by incompetent ACT Gov’t decisions. When people feel strongly/passionately about those things, they have a right to be heard. And if that impacts on the decision maker in Government, then maybe the message to those decision makers is “do better”.

miz 8:43 pm 19 Jan 15

Thing is, John, you were an excellent local member: you were always out and about, talking to people, consulting, discussing. Whereas Ms Burch just doesn’t appear most of the time – and when she does, she tends to be bumbling and bungling. People are generally willing to forgive a few foibles, but I’m afraid with Ms B it’s just been too often. I am sure that is a hard thing for Ms Burch to hear, but the truth can hurt. While people in the public eye do get feedback they would probably prefer not to receive, Ms Burch’s unpopularity and apparent incompetence has been on her report card for ages but it seems the Party has not been listening – perhaps because she is a woman. As a woman myself, that is plain embarrassing. I really don’t think it’s bullying to say it how it is in such circumstances.

Masquara 6:07 pm 19 Jan 15

Why John, Wayne Berry has managed to get a member of his immediate family into the Assembly – with your “mates cred” shouldn’t you have done the right thing by your nearest and dearest by now?

dungfungus 11:04 am 19 Jan 15

Madam Cholet said :

neanderthalsis said :

If this gaffe was a one off incident, then the level of criticism would be unwarranted. Burch, however, has a long history of incompetence, ineptitude, stuff-ups and coverups.

We saw children in crisis care were left to sleep unsupervised in derelict buildings with not even the vaguest of mea culpas from Burch. How about failing to evacuate the youth detention centre in Mitchell during the highly toxic fire a few years back. They managed to evacuate the horses from EPIC, but Burch decided to leave the juvies in situ. She survived a very damning report by the Public Advocate that basically said that the Minister was totally incompetent and her department lacked leadership because labor and the Greens closing ranks to protect their own.

It is all well and good to claim that we should all be nice to Joy Burch in case she feels a little fragile. You say that we can always just vote her out, but where else but in government (or perhaps the public service) would they tolerate someone totally inept holding a position of power for potentially the next four years and having no ability to remedy the situation. The voting public has every right to call out Ministerial incompetence and demand that government leadership do something about it.

+1

Noticed a new post from you today John. Nothing more to add here?

Give him a break!
It takes a couple of hours to digest raw mince.

dungfungus 10:58 am 19 Jan 15

Zan said :

Masquara said :

“Weekends & quality time” – John, count the sitting days. Then get back to us. And I remember some of your ministerial mates used to have coffee at Tosolini’s until 11 am before waddling in to work.

And so did some of the public servants, in the Federal PS and also the ACT PS, not just pollies.

I also see lots of bullies are out in the RiotACT too.

But we bullies don’t hang out at Tosolinis.

Madam Cholet 10:04 am 19 Jan 15

neanderthalsis said :

If this gaffe was a one off incident, then the level of criticism would be unwarranted. Burch, however, has a long history of incompetence, ineptitude, stuff-ups and coverups.

We saw children in crisis care were left to sleep unsupervised in derelict buildings with not even the vaguest of mea culpas from Burch. How about failing to evacuate the youth detention centre in Mitchell during the highly toxic fire a few years back. They managed to evacuate the horses from EPIC, but Burch decided to leave the juvies in situ. She survived a very damning report by the Public Advocate that basically said that the Minister was totally incompetent and her department lacked leadership because labor and the Greens closing ranks to protect their own.

It is all well and good to claim that we should all be nice to Joy Burch in case she feels a little fragile. You say that we can always just vote her out, but where else but in government (or perhaps the public service) would they tolerate someone totally inept holding a position of power for potentially the next four years and having no ability to remedy the situation. The voting public has every right to call out Ministerial incompetence and demand that government leadership do something about it.

+1

Noticed a new post from you today John. Nothing more to add here?

neanderthalsis 12:04 pm 18 Jan 15

If this gaffe was a one off incident, then the level of criticism would be unwarranted. Burch, however, has a long history of incompetence, ineptitude, stuff-ups and coverups.

We saw children in crisis care were left to sleep unsupervised in derelict buildings with not even the vaguest of mea culpas from Burch. How about failing to evacuate the youth detention centre in Mitchell during the highly toxic fire a few years back. They managed to evacuate the horses from EPIC, but Burch decided to leave the juvies in situ. She survived a very damning report by the Public Advocate that basically said that the Minister was totally incompetent and her department lacked leadership because labor and the Greens closing ranks to protect their own.

It is all well and good to claim that we should all be nice to Joy Burch in case she feels a little fragile. You say that we can always just vote her out, but where else but in government (or perhaps the public service) would they tolerate someone totally inept holding a position of power for potentially the next four years and having no ability to remedy the situation. The voting public has every right to call out Ministerial incompetence and demand that government leadership do something about it.

Affirmative Action M 10:40 am 18 Jan 15

John the reason electors treat politicians badly is because when it comes to a choice between the public interest & the politician (and their party’s) self interest then their self interest wins every time & the public be damned.

As for Joy Burch most constituents who have had dealings with her suggest she is a classic Labor apparatchik. A plodding timeserver pretty much lacking in talent but picking up a very nice salary & pension scheme.

Zan 4:51 pm 17 Jan 15

Masquara said :

“Weekends & quality time” – John, count the sitting days. Then get back to us. And I remember some of your ministerial mates used to have coffee at Tosolini’s until 11 am before waddling in to work.

And so did some of the public servants, in the Federal PS and also the ACT PS, not just pollies.

I also see lots of bullies are out in the RiotACT too.

Masquara 9:05 pm 16 Jan 15

“Weekends & quality time” – John, count the sitting days. Then get back to us. And I remember some of your ministerial mates used to have coffee at Tosolini’s until 11 am before waddling in to work.

Masquara 9:02 pm 16 Jan 15

John, what happened to “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”?

farnarkler 7:44 pm 16 Jan 15

John it comes down to the old chestnut of man bites dog headline. The everyday things an mla does aren’t reported, however, when it is reported that mlas take spouses on overseas trips or do other things that get the public riled. If someone wants to be an mla they have to expect to be hauled over the coals when things go pear-shaped. They’re in the spotlight and the public expect them to behave appropriately. I wonder if mlas have their own code of conduct like the public service. If not, they should do. As for foreign pollies getting worse, the English tories get much worse when (not if, but when) they’re caught in flagrante delicto with guardsmen.

Madam Cholet 12:01 pm 16 Jan 15

Leaving aside the usual howls of indignation from the washy washy opposition, Joy Burch probably should consider going to the back bench. Just from the cursory notice I take of local politics it does seem like she is only ever in the news because she has made a mistake or her management of portfolios doesnt seem to please her stakeholders who rely on her. Can’t get everything right all the time or please everyone, but she does seem to struggle.

Instead of staunchly defending her, maybe you should just admit she stuffed up (as Barr did), and move on. The job may just not be for her. It might be a blessed relief for all if she falls at the next election. It’s not fair on the people who vote you in to have such a weak link. When you get elected its no longer about you and she needs to consider the greater good.

And I thought you said you didn’t hang around your computer waiting for comments. You and your two favourite detractors seem to manage quite well with speedy posts.

John Hargreaves 11:08 am 16 Jan 15

Zan said :

Well said, John, it is really bullying, isn’t it. However a lot of the bullying can be seen in both the local and Federal houses. You just need to watch Parliamentary broadcasts on the ABC. The amount of bullying that goes on in there is just disgusting, especially during the last few years. An absolute disgrace. That type of bullying then carries on into the wider area particularly with politicians. Stop the bullying in political arenas, the shock jocks and maybe then the wider public might stop. However I doubt it.

Wellsaid to you, too. Picked it in one. Once upon a time it was de rigeur to be a colourful bully in Parliament, I know cos I was part of that generation. But whilst there I also saw and suffered first hand what is essentially bullying. The cleverness of language has been replaced by attacks on the person to ridicule and pillory, instead of challenge on an ideas front.

I don’t see much change in the future alas.

Zan 9:02 am 16 Jan 15

Well said, John, it is really bullying, isn’t it. However a lot of the bullying can be seen in both the local and Federal houses. You just need to watch Parliamentary broadcasts on the ABC. The amount of bullying that goes on in there is just disgusting, especially during the last few years. An absolute disgrace. That type of bullying then carries on into the wider area particularly with politicians. Stop the bullying in political arenas, the shock jocks and maybe then the wider public might stop. However I doubt it.

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