Sunday, 1 February 2015

Thoughts After the Queensland Election

I hope that the results of this weekend’s Queensland election herald a return to a more civil and communicative society.

The astonishing dismissal of the Newman approach perhaps should not have surprised. We saw what happened in Victoria. We can see it happening in the federal sphere. It is now surely clear that the public will no longer tolerate the inauthentic and will not hesitate to deliver swift judgement. There are no longer any second chances. A decade ago the public was still tribal in its allegiances, but those days are now indisputably gone. It is now time for our political parties to abandon the tribal approach too.

We want to listen to our political leaders, but too often they do not wish to speak. We long to be persuaded by cogent arguments, but too often we are fed empty slogans. We desire a direct relationship with our politicians, but too often these relationships are mediated out of all humanity.

I like watching television election night coverages because for a short time politicians sometimes reveal the authentic. Last night, for example, Peter Beattie and John-Paul Langbroek, from opposing political parties, were able to engage in genuine dialogue, unfettered by tribal allegiances. Why can’t governing be like this? By contrast, on the ABC’s Insiders program this morning Bill Shorten, even on such a morning, could speak in nothing but robotic mantras. Why couldn’t he speak from his undoubted good heart? What is it that he fears?

The Queensland ALP, should it form government, will find itself in a fascinating position. Presumably, it was not expecting to govern. In some areas it will need to find policy direction from a fresh start. It will bring with it many new members of parliament who have not emerged from political machinery and who will have much to learn. I hope they will learn from what is palpably present: that the people want to listen to the authentic.

Good government is the outcome of personal virtue. Let’s hope that such virtue is released in whoever governs and is spent in the service of good policy persuasively argued. It was Jefferson who reminded us that “all tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” Now is the time for those of personal virtue and good conscience to speak and to govern with authenticity.  

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