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If your view of politicians is seen through the lens of Question Time, you might think that most are rude, uncaring, self-centred individuals.
Behind the scenes, things are different. Politicians are different from what they show in that sad theatre that has become Question Time. Politicians from all sides have to get on. And to a large extent they do, regardless of the show they put on for the cameras. That said, the level of dislike and mistrust between politicians today is the worst it has ever been. We’ve even seen this from members of the same party, and not just opposition parties.
Today’s politician could learn a lot from the much humbler and placid politician of the past. That’s not to say that back then they were all angels, but the tone, mannerisms, and general deportment of most current politicians make criminals look nice.
In 1966, after addressing an anti-conscription rally at Mosman Town Hall, Labor politician Arthur Calwell was shot by a disturbed man. Calwell lived, but it was his actions and words afterwards that highlight the difference between yesterday’s politicians and today's.
The shooter, Peter Kocan, not long after realising what he had done wrote to Calwell. He apologised for his delude actions. Calwell’s reply is something that I could not see most politicians writing today. Calwell urged Kocan to ‘forget the incident’ and he wished him well. Calwell knew of Kocan’s mental imbalance as Kocan’s mother contacting Calwell.
Not that it pays to shoot people, but apparently, Kocan was such a good writer and a poet, he went on to receive an NSW Premier's Literary Award in 1983, and a $50,000 Australia Council Writers award.
The Australian public might like and approve of politicians more if they showed greater respect for one another. Respect for our political system and getting rid of their ideologies will also help. People turn away from political debate today. Even around election time when politics matters most, the current stench of politics turns people off. This can be seen in things like the donkey vote, writing Mickey Mouse on a ballot paper or even refusing to vote and copping a fine, these all show how little respect people have for today's politician.
The bitterness and resentment between politicians and political systems have always been with us. It’s the ugliness, the personal attacks, the venom in conversations today that makes people steer clear of politics. Newspapers and media don’t help when they ignite the flames of hatred and mistrust. This only adds to the lack of polite political discourse.
Eloquence and fluency are things we don’t hear much from today’s politician. Integrity is, and perhaps never was a key ingredient of a politician’s make-up. Tweeting on your mobile phone or sitting with you back to a speaker is more the form of politicians now. None of these things make a person want to vote for a type that does this.
Whatever qualifications politicians have today, showing humility and looking your counterpart in the eye would improve their standing. Having respect for people, the system, and the political office, all normal simple human things would generate greater trust and respect than any policy or grandstanding can ever create.