- I’m sure there’s a transcript somewhere of the most disgraceful fauxpology ever offered up by an oxygen thief, but I’m not linking to it in this post. Reading commentary on Twitter yesterday was enough. Pinkelstien does, however, have a review of his decades of disgracefulness.
- Apparently some sport things happened over the weekend. Daylight savings time did not happen yet.
- Lindsay Tanner has written a book and has been saying stuff to get folks to buy it
- Good read about the perception of honesty in politics:
Builders build, nurses nurse, politicians lie.
But here’s the news: politicians wouldn’t be doing their job if they weren’t changing their positions and doing things they told us they weren’t going to do.
Governing nations in a fluid global economy that operates outside the direction of any one player is a messy business – and flexibility and a preparedness to shift positions is a sign of a mature, effective leader.
- Meanwhile car-bombs struck in Baghdad, the regime carried on with its crackdowns in Syria, Australian troops continued building the detention centre on Nauru, and Aussie pollies worked the UN for a Security seat.
As usual for media circus threads, please share your bouquets and brickbats for particular items in the mass media, or highlight cogent analysis elsewhere, on any current sociopolitical issue.
Categories: media, parties and factions, Politics, social justice
More from the same event as [name elided]’s comments (something the media isn’t focusing as closely on, but which I think deserves a little attention of its own):
(From the ABC – ”Gillard Turns Down [elided]’s Apology Offer”).
The community and government relations manager of a major retail chain has publicly associated himself with some extremely misogynist comments and attitudes. Now I find myself wondering whether the major retail chain in question is headed by many other people who similarly agree with these comments (it’s possible – like tends to employ like). Certainly makes me feel a lot less enthusiastic about spending my money in their stores.
I was horrified when I heard what the Parrot actually said. I can’t believe he still has a job. I bet that Woolworths guy is more likely to get the sack.
I stopped listening to the “apology” about ten minutes in when Mr $$$$$ said that awful stuff is said about him and it doesn’t upset him and pretty much trotted out the “too sensitive” line which is the general dismissal given to any legitimately offended person or group.
What makes me really sad is that there are some women who can’t see the misogynist nature of these attacks. There are women out there who are gleeful about any sexist or personal attack about PM Gillard. I expect it of men who are sexist to not “get it” but when I hear women in my life defending or dismissing these comments it shows me how insidious, how ingrained internalised sexism can be. His comments reinforce misogyny.
I have a horrible feeling nothing is going to change as far as Mr $$$$$ is concerned. His “apology” gives people a way out and an excuse to move on. And then he’ll add to his many misogynist attacks and he’ll “apologise” and… so it will continue.
It also speaks to the tribalism wherein those who dislike Gillard’s politics argue that any criticism is “not a big deal” because she’s wrong-wrongitty-wrong. Then there’s the contra-tribalism whereby a bunch of people on Twitter let themselves give into their superficially-repressed homophobia and argue that slurs against the Parrot too are “not a big deal” because he’s wrong-wrongitty-wrong.
I think much of the outrage comes not from politicians changing their mind because of changed circumstances, but the public believe that they were just lied to in the first place. And told the public what they wanted to hear.
I think Isobel Redmond (opposition leader in SA) is the most open and honest politician I have ever seen. Actually answers questions she is asked rather than avoiding it and refuses to play a lot of the stupid political games you see during interviews. Unfortunately she also gets into trouble all the time for telling the truth. If she’s still leader at the next election I’ll vote for her party (well give the libs prefs after the Greens) purely because of how honest and non-evasive she is.
I’m rather impressed by the PM’s declining to have a conversation with that man about his shameful comments and his woeful attempt at public apology. People who cross lines should be left on the other side to wear the consequences of their behaviour.
But I’m also pondering the argument (reported in various press) that these comments and actions occurred in the context of a “private function” where people were attending in a “private capacity”. The supermarket seems to be using this defence in an attempt to distance themselves from the actions of their senior executive, and others seem to be attempting to deflect the community’s calls for that man to be kept away from a radio microphone.
What do you think? Does it matter whether the comments were made in a “private context” or “public”? If these men were attending in a private capacity, ie not representing their employer, should they be sacked for bad behaviour? Should the employer be boycotted for keeping them on the payroll?
On the one hand, I think it does make a difference – there’s “work” and there’s “not work”, and any of us would resist an attempt by our employer to discipline us inside the employment relationship for something said or done outside of it.
That man, however, makes his living feeding the airwaves with his opinions, so he surely has to see himself as always speaking “in public”. His employer should see it that way, too. I can’t see them risking a major legal battle by sacking him, though.
What needs to happen, of course, is for his audience to just tune out. Permanently.
The whole private function/capacity argument strikes me as highly weaselly.
* It was an off-campus fundraiser event for a university political club, many of whose members no doubt see themselves as future PM material, thus the swanky harbourside venue.
* They sent out promotional messages to a general email contact list, not just a member list, inviting people to pony up the $100 for a ticket for themselves and their friends, no caveats.
* Many of those people present probably recorded Jones’ speech on their smartphones for their own collections of political ephemera, and he probably would have been rather miffed if nobody in the audience had been excited enough to get their smartphone out.
So how “private” can that sort of function ever really be? Even if an actual journalist had not been present, how could they possibly expect that not a single person there might have put some recordings up on the internet someday?
Jones makes his living out of being a public figure, so shaming his employers for giving him airwaves is fair game, IMO. He’s not going to be sacked by 2GB though – not only is he a major revenue generator for them (and despite the current campaign, they will be expecting that the outrage will dwindle and the advertisers will return) but he’s also a shareholder of the parent media company to the tune of >20%.
The supermarket executive’s actions are a different matter, at least in principle. He’s entitled to his political opinions and activism outside work, definitely, as should we all be. However, he’s the chain’s Community and Government Relations Manager FFS. If I were sitting on that board, I’d be expecting to receive questions from shareholders calling his judgement into question for engaging in such a mean-spirited endeavour as supplying a jacket made of chaff-bags for that auction, because that goes beyond simple support for a political party and well into vicious disrespect/denigration of the leader of the current government i.e. behaviour which is the antithesis of his job description. That’s not just any ordinary employee doing something disreputable, and it’s reasonable for the supermarket chain to treat it differently than if it had been one of their shelf-stackers doing the same.
Those of us most disgusted by this (and other Parrotings) have already tuned out, years ago. The audience he’s got is rusted on (and wasn’t that episode of Rake a few weeks ago with the Alan Jones question used to qualify the jury prescient in retrospect?)
(comment has been edited to improve formatting)
He was on air again this morning, ABC News 24 played some of his repeated ‘apology’ which is more of “I’m the victim here”. He claimed that the wife of a Fed Govt politician said she hoped his cancer came back last week before the scandal broke in the news. I have heard nothing of this, although I haven’t checked Twitter this morning. Greg Combet dealt with the matter quite well when asked about it this morning – he said he didn’t know anything about it, but of course that sort of thing was unacceptable. I’m wondering who it is and why her (if she exists) comments are so damning of the Government (since she is the wife of, not a politician herself) whereas he can say what he likes on air and think of himself as the victim here.
Talking of rusted on listeners, there was apparently someone who rang up this morning saying his apology was lovely and ‘Julia’ is the one who should apologise. For what you might ask. He claims not to have a problem with any politician, yet he can’t bring himself to address Gillard as the Prime Minister. I hope she continues to ignore his calls just to remind him that he is only a shock jock and she is the PRIME MINISTER of Australia. I think he has forgotten who the most important person is in this matter.
There are various claims around that the journalist at the very least misrepresented who he was, claiming that he was interested in becoming a liberal party member etc and not revealing that he is a journalist. But its another lesson for high profile people especially and people who say anything controversial that they may well be recorded and end up on YouTube. Even if it was a really private event – say a small dinner party, would it matter?
I saw the comments, though I don’t remember who said them (it is the wife of a minister though). She said something alone the lines of Jones being 71 and the average life expectancy of a male to be 79 with implications that him dying soon would be good.
I think its probably true that he’s both victim and perpetrator. As someone who is controversial and has a very public profile I’ve little doubt that he receives a huge amount of abuse on a daily basis, much of it probably homophobic if comments on Twitter on the last few days are any indication. But just because you’re a victim doesn’t give you a free pass to do the same to others.
I have little respect for Alan Jones, but I’m also not a fan of showing more respect to someone just because of the office they hold. Until proven otherwise, I believe in showing the same amount of respect to a high profile politician as to the office cleaner.
The “private function” argument is outrageous. He wasn’t having a quiet chat with a mate while watching Q&A at home. He was giving a speech. That is, prepared remarks delivered to an audience, in this case a paying audience gathered for a political purpose. There is no way that falls outside the definition of public, and the preparedness of the statement compounds the fault. He made deliberate plans to say something horrendous to a large group of people because he thought they would all be too like himself to disapprove.
As for the man from Woolworths, whether he was there in a “personal capacity” or not, he should be sacked for being rubbish at his job. As tigtog points out, his job is to have a relationship with the government, but I would emphasize the word “community” in his job title. Who is this community he is supposed to be relating to? I am a Woolworths customer and a woman, and I don’t want a person who will give tangible support to violent, misogynist rhetoric attempting any kind of relationship with me, thank you very much.
@Chris – I should have been clearer, I don’t think Alan (if I may be snarky for a moment) called any Prime Minister by their first name before Gillard became PM. He is not her personal friend, calling her by her first name only, when he is not being unbelievably rude and calling her Ju-Liar, is a put down pure and simple. She is the PM whether he likes it or not and he is only showing himself badly to continue to refer to her by her first name or by his awful nickname for her.
Actually I do think she is deserving of respect for being PM. It is a bloody difficult job, requires a staggering amount of negotiating skill, especially in a minority government, double that because she is a woman. She deserves my respect because of the incredible amount of shit she has put up with since winning the last election, not to mention all the rubbish before that some of it coming from people within the Labor ranks. If her fortitude against all that is not worthy of respect then I don’t know what is. Alan, on the other hand, cops a bit of a backlash and it is all about how it is everyone else’s fault and he is the victim and ooh everyone is just jealous. Seems to me to be a case of can’t take his own medicine.
This from @joeobrien24
Kudelka’s cartoon envisaging the young Parrot.
I love Micallef
I think the PM is entitled to ignore [name elided]’s apology calls.
There’s a few important qualities of a genuine apology to be considered here:
Firstly, it has to contain an acknowledgement of wrong-doing. The person making the apology has to say what they did wrong, and make an admission that the fault was on their side. [Name elided] isn’t doing that (and neither are his self-identified “defenders”) – his position is more along the lines of “it wasn’t my fault there was a journo in the audience”; “I wasn’t really thinking about what I was saying”; and “I didn’t make the comment in the first place, I was just quoting someone else”.
Secondly, there has to be genuine contrition expressed for having done something wrong. Note that this is different to the genuine contrition all wrongdoers who are caught out doing wrong feel about having got caught. “I’m sorry I got caught” isn’t an expression of contrition. It’s an expression of self-pity.
Thirdly, there has to be a genuine commitment to avoid repeating the behaviour in future. Again, this is different to saying “I won’t be saying that specific thing again where anyone can hear me”, which appears to be the most that [name elided] is ever going to commit to in any case.
Fourthly, a genuine apology never requires the reciprocation or even the acceptance of the offended party. That’s the difference between a genuine apology (which is a very personal thing on the part of the person doing the apologising, and is generally the result of some serious soul-searching on their part) and a fauxpology used as a form of harassment. Nagging at a person to get them to hear and accept your apology definitely doesn’t encourage the belief that you’re genuinely regretful about your conduct – instead, it’s a form of attention-seeking.
[Name elided] doesn’t appear to be willing to acknowledge his comments were ill-considered in the first place. He isn’t contrite about having made them, and he doesn’t appear to be willing to commit to a pattern of behaviour which would rule out any similar such comments in the future. Plus he’s attempting to harass his target into accepting his fauxpology as a public relations exercise. He’s not making an apology, he’s chasing another photo opportunity, and Ms Gillard is NOT obligated to give him one.
Sheryl @ 6 –
My take on “private life” and “public life” is that as you rise up the ladder, and as your presence in the world becomes more and more public, you should be willing to expect that your private presence diminishes.
Quite frankly, Mr Berger did something extremely stupid when he donated that “jacket”, and even if the whole incident with [name elided] hadn’t occurred, I suspect he’d be copping a bit of public flack for it anyway. It says something particularly scornful about the way he thinks of the community and the governments he’s interacting with if that’s the sort of thing he feels is appropriate at a public function. And yes, this was a public function, even if the “public” it was drawing from was supposed to be a restricted circle. If you’re paying for tickets, it’s a public function (nice handy little rule of thumb).
To pull this into an online equivalent – the organisation these people were part was the equivalent of a public community on a journaling site (membership restricted by the maintainers, but once you’re on the inside, you’re basically “in”) which is readily searchable by various search engines. It’s not a hugely popular community, and it doesn’t get huge amounts of publicity outside the members and maybe a few selected friends. Posts aren’t locked, because, hey, why bother, it’s only “us” that reads it.
Then someone says something unfortunate, and it gets posted on metaquotes (or slashdotted, or the equivalent thereof). And behold, they discover that obscurity is not the same as security, and any other unfortunate things they’ve been posting are available to the searching public, who now have a reason to LOOK for them.
Oh shit. Cue frantic scramble to hide stuff under the mat, pull the blinds, and cover up the mess. Again.
I should point out, I’ve seen similar such kerfuffles any number of times online, as people miss that the distinction between private (as in “just friends here”) and public (available to anyone) is not a simple binary flip-flop. You can have a private conversation in a public place, after all.
Mindy – I certainly see Ju-Liar as pretty childish, and about on par with HoWARd last time the libs were in government which was pretty popular amongst Green/ALP supporters. I do broadly agree with first name issue, but interestingly why did Gillard run a “real Julia” media campaign, rather than “real Gillard” or “real Julia Gillard” one?
Re: respect for Gillard – I agree with having respect for what she has done and has to go through to do her job, just not (in general, not her specifically) for the office she holds (if that distinction makes sense?). I think a healthy skepticism of our leaders is a good thing.
I think he only came out with his fauxpology in order to limit the financial damage and used attacks on him a a bit of an excuse and redirection. But he does generally cop quite a bit of inappropriate abuse without complaint. For example from Q&A this week:
There’s plenty of room to criticise Alan Jones without resorting to that sort language. I wonder if the ABC will be apologising for letting that through without comment from the moderator.
Wow, missed that one Chris. Yes, AJ says plenty that you can dislike him for without bringing homophobia and past allegations which were not pursued into it.
If you didn’t see John Laws talking about the Parrot on the 7:30 report last night, it’s quite a performance.(ABCNews summary, 7:30 report transcript, both have video)
Wow, ‘excessive loyalty to my sponsors’, that’s some powerful self-justification he’s got going there.
Megpie @ 16 – yes, I think you are right about the further up the ladder you go the more you should expect to be on public view and, therefore, to be regarded as speaking publicly. In the time since I posted the question that man has had a little whinge about “everybody hates me because I’m so successful at what I do”, which makes his claim about a “private” function even more disingenuous …
And my regard for the PM is even greater today, following her steadfast refusal to engage in conversation about this with either the man himself, or the press who keep at her for some comment. Such grace, in contrast to his nastiness.
Latest in the Simon Berger story:
Woolies exec quits amid Alan Jones row
He’s apparently decided to fall on his sword, because the attention he drew as a result of all of this is making the jobs of his colleagues more difficult. Oh, and apparently the chaff-bag jacket was supposed to be “a prop”.
I’m tempted to start a pool on when he’ll be employed again, but I suspect he already has another job lined up somewhere else, where his political support for misogyny and the aggressive marginalisation of women won’t be as much of a problem as they would have been for a major retail chain.
Apparently Berger’s quite well known for his song and dance routines at rallies/fundraisers, so I guess it might have been a prop. But it was still a prop that made light of a revolting remark made by Jones and relied for its effect on everybody in the audience knowing that reference and finding it amusing. Not much of a defence.
Interesting timing on all the #SensitiveTony & #DowntonAbbott stuff, as it happens. I know that these big feature stories/interviews don’t just happen overnight, but having this story happen this week of all weeks took quite a bit of attention away from the continuing #destroythejoint boycott of the Parrot’s advertisers. Lenore Taylor’s take on “The Tony I Know” blitz is worth reading:
What is it with “don’t seem to like him”, why is it always qualified? I don’t like him. There is no seem about it.
Mindy @24 – ditto.
It doesn’t matter how nicely he behaves to the women in his immediate family, or how much of a domestic angel he is. The point is that his public behaviour towards women (particularly towards women who have the effrontery to engage in the public sphere and do better than he does) tells another story entirely. The story his public behaviour tells is of a man who is deeply and viscerally threatened by women in public positions, deeply and viscerally threatened by women in positions of power, and who, when faced with a powerful woman in a public position, cannot restrain the aggressive expression of his fear and loathing for same.
Tony Abbott’s public persona is of a man who does not think that women should be involved in public life, and of a man who doesn’t think women should be permitted to make decisions about anything, least of all what happens with their own bodies. In the publicly expressed views of Tony Abbott it becomes clear that a woman’s body should belong at worst to society as a whole, at best to the woman’s husband or father, and never to the woman who inhabits it.
Why am I supposed to like this?
Quite. You don’t have to hate all women to be a misogynist, you just have to hate the ones who don’t know their place.
Well Orlando, blatantly hating them all at once would be terribly tiring and somewhat obvious. The ones who are waiting quietly and patiently in their pens until you deal with the unruly escapees don’t need the attention yet.
Whoops, Parrot defenders told an easily fact-checked lie!
Summary: today’s Sunday Telegraph story on the Parrot – several Young Libs spoke to the Tele and to Media Watch all claiming the same thing – that there had definitely been a public announcement at the event about it all being “off the record” according to Chatham House Rules etc, and thus the Tele journalist was in breach of ethics to report. Problem: the journalist recorded the whole night’s proceedings, from before anybody took the mic until the end of it all, and no such announcement is on that recording. Oh dear.
There was that debate thing over in the US this week, too. I rather liked a new word I learnt from George Monbiot: Romnesia – “the ability of the very rich to forget the context in which they made their money”.
Over here, would we call it Rilesia?
Megpie71’s statement, “Tony Abbott’s public persona is of a man who does not think that women should be involved in public life, and of a man who doesn’t think women should be permitted to make decisions about anything, least of all what happens with their own bodies. In the publicly expressed views of Tony Abbott it becomes clear that a woman’s body should belong at worst to society as a whole, at best to the woman’s husband or father, and never to the woman who inhabits it.”
This puts it all so well. This is the problem.
I note that Mr Jones’s radio station has now made his show ad-free, to enable companies that no longer wish to be publicly associated with him to still spend their money at his radio station. My thoughts are that: that hardly fixes the problem (the public are saying loudly that they don’t want Mr Jones to be supported by them), and doesn’t this give him far more time to spew the awful words that he’s got into so much trouble for saying? The words the public want him to stop saying? One-eyed supporters excepted, of course.
I like the characterisation of the various boycotts and write in campaigns as “cyber-bullying” and “censorship”. My take is that they’re an exercise in consumer provision of marketing data.
What’s happening is consumers are letting it be known to the various firms advertising on Mr Jones’ show that having their products and/or services linked to the words of someone who is bigoted, misogynistic, and at the very least highly intolerant of others, makes them less inclined to purchase said products and/or services. As I say, it’s marketing data, nothing more, nothing less.
The advertisers are free to ignore it.
It’s all part of the wonderful workings of the free market, something I would have thought that Mr Jones would be right up alongside, as a member of the Liberal Party!
Yes, where does consumer feedback turn the corner into cyberbullying exactly?
But they don’t just “hold office”, in our democratic system. I totally understand not having any more respect for, say the Queen, because of the office she holds – she didn’t earn it, she was born into it.
But office holders like high-profile politicians have earned their position. PM Gillard didn’t just get the Prime Ministership handed to her on a plate – she worked incredibly hard over many years and serves the people of Australia.
I fully agree that everyone, from office cleaner to Prime Minister deserves to be respected and treated with dignity as a person – but I do not agree that people who serve the country don’t deserve respect for their office.
So will your respect for Tony Abbott suddenly increase if he ends up Prime Minister?
I’m not saying that we should be actively disrespectful to politicians. Just that being in a position of power does not infer respect from me. The hard work that someone may have done to get there on the other hand may do so.
The other issue is that I think its pretty rare to find people really high up in the hierarchy, whether it be a PM or a CEO who hasn’t go there by climbing on top of the bodies of opponents. They do it because its just the way the system works and commonly the only way to get to the top. But it doesn’t earn respect from me.
Tigtog @ 34 – presumably it becomes “cyber-bullying” when it threatens the finances of white male misogynists. After all, I understand at least part of the reason 2GB is rather reluctant to get rid of Mr Jones is because he’s their 4th largest shareholder (behind John Singleton, Mark Carnegie and Russell Tate), as well as being their single biggest ratings draw.
Drag0nista: At what cost do we defend free speech?
@Chris, I won’t necessarily respect Tony Abbott anymore but I won’t refer to him as Tones when it is appropriate to refer to him (if the situation should ever arise) as the PM. That is the bit about respecting the position. Gillard deserves to be treated with the same respect as any PM before her, which she is not being by many. Alan Jones never called any PM previous to her by their first name, as far as I know, and he never abused any of them for being late or appended liar to their names. Gillard is due the respect of her position same as Abbott would be if he, FSM forbid, were to gain that position.
Yes, if you want ‘free speech’ then you have to take the crap that comes with it, but seriously people did you really have to go there?
Mindy @ 40 – reading about the question that sparked the whole thing, I’d argue yeah, it’s nice money, but not enough for the jobs being offered. I mean, let’s see what’s being offered for a million dollars:
Option 1 – naked “Gagnam Style” in Times Square. To start with you’re putting yourself at risk of arrest for public indecency in a foreign country (and the USA isn’t a place I’d want to be arrested here and now, quite honestly). Never mind the number of people who’d be filming the whole thing as you did it, and the number of copies of the footage which would be all over the internet within minutes. If I were willing to do such a thing, I’d be wanting waaay more than a million dollars for it.
Option 2 – eat a plate of raw cockroaches. Given there’s someone who died recently from doing just that, I’d say a serious risk of death is worth more than a million dollars.
Option 3 – “root Alan Jones”. Is Mr Jones consenting, fully, freely and enthusiastically? Otherwise, you’re being offered a large sum of money to commit a crime (rape).
So basically, it’s a mug’s game there – you’ve got two offers which involve committing a crime to perform them, and another which involves risking your life. I’d be asking for a lot more money than a mere million, to be honest. Plus, of course, given such an arbitrary choice of tasks, there’s no guarantee the “donor” won’t suddenly change their mind once you’ve done them, and leave you to deal with the consequences. So, at least two million, and half up front.
True Megpie. Also AJ is already doing the poor me thing, don’t give him real reason to feel that way. As I say to my kids, ‘it’s not funny and it’s not clever’.
Chris, I already have a great deal of respect for the work every MP does, and particularly for both Ministers and Shadow Ministers and the PM and Opposition Leader. I don’t think most people realise quite how hard these people work, or quite how much is sacrificed personally in order to serve their constituents and the country, even when you don’t agree with how they’re doing it.
And yes, although I disagree emphatically with Tony Abbott’s beliefs, policies and attitudes, I would have more respect for him as Prime Minister, as I did for John Howard (with whom I also disagreed emphatically on many levels).
Politics by its nature is adversarial – I do not see anything wrong with fighting and fighting fiercely for what one believes in, so I don’t see the fact that they have overcome opponents and won those fights on their way to the top as something to be ashamed of.
And I don’t see why you would lump in CEOs – they don’t serve the public, but rather the interests of a corporation and shareholders, and although they may of course be good at their jobs, I do not see their jobs as commanding extra respect, because they are not serving the community.
And I hope with every fibre of my being that Tony Abbott is never Prime Minister.
I do agree they work really hard and its not a particularly family friendly job (a school friend’s father was a federal MP so I had some visibility into that life). But I don’t buy into the “serving their constituents/country” line. They get paid pretty well for the work they do and there are lots of other jobs out there that are just as hard with equally big sacrifices for the same or less financial reward. So to me the “public servant” angle for politicians and many other public services jobs is neither here nor there. (Volunteers are a different matter).
Its also pretty clear that for most politicians their loyalty is to their party before the constituents. Not surprising since its the party that pays them in terms of pre-selection and support within the party for promotions.
Its not the fact that they have vigorous debates over policy (that’s good) its all the other crap where again its pretty clear that ideology or even what is best for the country is thrown aside for personal ambition or personal disagreements.
I think there is a lot in common between a CEO and execs and politicians in leadership positions. A company’s primary purpose may not be to serve the community, but they do end up contributing a lot to society as a side-effect of what they do. And as I see it, both Gillard and Abbott are leaders of their party first, and PM/Opposition leader second. And the major political parties have made it pretty clear that their first priority is power (admittedly you can’t do much from opposition) and if good policy happens too then that’s a great side-effect of the process.
You are very much mistaken, about this and about the public service. There is no other job in the country where responsibility for the country rests on your shoulders.
Rebekka – take a couple of votes in the parliament from the previous few years. With the bill over gay marriage it was pretty clear – Liberal MPs even openly admitted it – that they supported it and thought it was what their constituents should have, but voted against it anyway. AFAIK the closest a LNP MP got to supporting it was to abstain from voting by pairing with someone else. So were they serving their constituents or serving their party’s interests first?
Or look at Gillard’s personal stance on the bill. Do you honestly believe that’s what she really believes or it is a stance she has taken to shore up political support within the party and certain sections of the general public? Or in terms of leadership look at the decision to make it a conscience vote rather than making it a binding vote? Was the leadership of the ALP looking at the interests for their constituents first or their own interests (don’t want another big internal fight)?
Another example is the carbon tax. There are clearly MPs on both sides who voted the party line rather than what they actually believe to be best for the country. Party power and interest first, public second.
Also outside of politics the line between public servant and private worker is getting more blurred. For example, job seeking assistance has been mostly outsourced. Is someone who formerly worked for the public service but now works for a private company but doing essentially the same job somehow doing a less virtuous job?
When execs in large corporations screw up they can do a huge amount of damage to a country as well.
And one of the most annoying things to me that politicians justify making a decision by saying its the advice that they have been given by the public service. How is that taking responsibility for their decisions and not instead setting up the public service for blame if things go wrong?
I think those particular Liberals did the wrong thing on the same-sex marriage vote, but I can see that there is an argument that if you took a position to the election – as they did – then you should stick to it.
And yes, I believe the PM’s stance on the Bill – I don’t agree with it, but I believe it. It is a position she has stated consistently since well before she was leader, and I don’t get it, but it’s clearly her view.
There were Liberal MPs who crossed the floor on carbon – but to be honest I don’t understand why you think this is an either or – serve the party or serve your constituents. There is a saying in the labour movement – “the unity of labour is the hope of the world”.
There is a strong feeling amoung almost everyone I know in the ALP that although there are occasions when we as individuals disagree with a party policy, or with a piece of legislation, or whatever it is, but that united we can achieve things that as individuals voting on conscience lines we could not. We can change the world for the better if we are united – we cannot if we are divided. And those changes are worth sometimes being on the losing side of an argument within the party – and over time, those positions sometimes change, or people realise they were wrong to start with. There are a lot of people in the ALP, for example, who opposed reducing tariffs, but who realise in hindsight that it was the right thing to do.
Politics is never going to be about implementing pure ideology – and frankly it would be a disaster if it was.
In answer to your other question, no, I don’t think someone who works as an outsourced job services provider is somehow doing a less virtuous job than someone who works for a government job services provider – they’re essentially doing the same job, and I would classify that as public service.
Nor do I disagree that when CEOs stuff up companies that has the potential to stuff up things more widely. That still doesn’t mean it’s the equivalent of having direct responsibility for the lives and welfare of everyone in the country. Not even close.
PS It was not the Party “leadership” that decided on a conscience vote on same-sex marriage. It was a vote at National Conference.
The delegates at National Conference are elected by the various State Conferences. State conference delegates are a mixture of union-elected delegates and local branch elected delegates. Conferences, not the “leadership”, are how policy positions within the ALP are decided. As one of the State Conference delegates for my local area, I make sure I vote for a delegate to National Conference who shares my views on particular social policy positions, including same-sex marriage.
I don’t think its particularly specific to the ALP or the union movement – the LNP effectively have the same approach too, though perhaps aren’t at least outwardly quite as tight on party discipline (eg no automatic explusion).
I don’t think it has to be an either-or situation for supporting the party or the people they represent (often the goals are well aligned). But its pretty clear from this approach that when it comes to a conflict between the two, that nearly always support for the party wins over what’s best for the people they represent.
Perhaps thats just how the party system works in Australia, but I don’t think it has to be. In the lower house we’re theoretically meant to vote for an individual rather than a party. But if you vote for someone affiliated to the Libs or ALP you don’t get someone who will put their constituent’s needs first (or even the country really).
Well in practice I think its more a case of “all care and no responsibility”. By the time the results of their actions come through most of the time they have either left parliament, or no longer in government. There’s rarely any real consequences that impact them for what they do (except perhaps on their conscience). There’s so many layers of bureaucracy (as there should be for safety and accountability) below them that there is always someone else to blame.
But that’s because what’s best for the people they represent *is* for the Labor Party to remain united. It’s taking the long view – without a Labor Party in Australia we wouldn’t have had workers’ compensation, a social security system, publicly-funded hospitals, Medicare, the Racial Discrimination Act, the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, recognition of Native Title and the Apology to the Stolen Generations, fair workplace laws and a price on carbon, and work would not have started on the NDIS or the NBN (and I’m sure many other achievements and current projects I haven’t thought of).
If every member of the party had a tanty every time the majority of their colleagues didn’t agree with their views, then none of that would happen. By abiding by the majority view, they make big reforms possible, and it’s better for the country and for their constituents in the long run.
Once again, loyalty to the party and loyalty to the country and their constituents are in no way mutually exclusive.
Those reforms may have happened because of the efforts of members of the Labor party, but I don’t believe its correct to assume that they would not have happened with a political system that has a much lower level of party discipline.
If we didn’t have a culture of having to vote along party lines we’d probably already have a gay marriage bill through the federal parliament. Maybe even one on voluntary euthanasia too. At the moment politicians hide behind having to vote with the party on every bill when talking to constituents to avoid responsibility for their actions.
Not always, not most of the time. But sometimes they are. And the party nearly always wins when they are in conflict. Note I’m not talking about just compromising on what an MP may think is a suboptimal solution for a bill, but voting for something they think is actually bad.
If most of the time they are not in conflict then why would it cause so much harm to have a culture of allowing people to dissent when it does?
In many ways the development of legislation has been a lot more open with a hung parliament because the government has needed to consult with both independents and the Greens. It might be a publicly messier process, but isn’t it better than the government just ramming through their internally negotiated deals?
Yes, I know what you’re talking about, but the longer view is that by the party winning, ultimately everyone wins.
I don’t believe same-sex marriage legislation would have passed even if both sides had a conscience vote – I happen to have looked at the numbers very closely, and examined everything every MP and Senator on all sides has said publicly, and it would have been narrowly defeated in the Senate and much more comprehensively defeated in the House.
I haven’t looked at the numbers on on voluntary euthanasia, but as it’s a state issue, I’d be surprised if the federal Parliament passed anything on it, whether allowed a conscience vote or not.
If that’s true, its a pretty strong sign that with 66% popular support for gay marriage the MPs are not actually representing the views of their electorate. Is it unofficial factional pressure that results in this or just the way the parties select their candidates? Ie need to get into a faction to get preselected and so have to adopt the factional moral outlook even if you don’t agree. And even with a conscience vote can’t actually vote your conscience because it’ll mean you lost factional support at the next preselection.
The federal parliament did (still does?) have control over the territories so it is quite relevant. And the problem with strong party discipline does extend to the states (and in some places local councils too). With 75% of the general population supporting voluntary euthanasia why isn’t this a hot topic in the state parliaments for MPs? Except perhaps they (both of the major parties) know how much intra-party conflict this would cause and so don’t want to discuss it. Again, putting the needs of the party over the what the people they represent actually want.
No idea how it works in the Liberal Party, but that’s not how it works in the Labor Party – the factions don’t bind on conscience issues. Plenty of people from the various factions on the right of the ALP supported same-sex marriage at National Conference, and there are generally no repercussions over that sort of thing.
My guess is people from the general public vote for people who are slightly more conservative than themselves, perhaps for similar reasons that people send their kids to religious schools even though they’re not religious, because they like the “values”.
As I understand it, the federal parliament has the ability to overturn laws made by the Territory governments, but not to impose territory laws.
Just because 75% of people support something doesn’t mean 75% of people think it’s the most important issue of the day, or that a state parliament should spend their time on it at the expense of other issues. My feeling is that it will happen eventually, and I certainly don’t think that parliaments avoid these topics because they’re worried it will cause itra-party issues. If that was the case, various states never would have legalised abortion, Victoria wouldn’t have changed surrogacy laws, etc etc.
I’ve noticed a very strong age effect with approval of same-sex marriage, so all that’s required is for sitting members to be older on average than the electorate. (My parents are an awesome exception but I suspect I partly talked them around.)
Wikipedia tells me
Median age Total: 37.3 years
Male: 36.6 years
Female: 38.1 years (2009 est.)
So I’d say you’re right, or at least politicians are older than the median.
But to join a faction in the first place do they filter on these sorts of views?
The ACT election results reminded me of why I quite like the Hare-Clarke system. Everyone in the parliament ends up directly accountable to the population – there’s no such thing as a safe lower house seat or a position on the senate ticket that a party will always win. It gives internal party groups a lot less power over their MPs as voters can quite easily continue to support the party and its policies, but dump specific MPs. And importantly MPs can afford to dissent and be reasonably unpopular within the party but be popular outside of it and still get elected.
The Liberal federal government overturned the NT euthanasia laws with an act of parliament. And just the *threat* of action by both the liberal and ALP federal governments ended up with the ACT watering down their gay marriage bill. So yes, they can’t propose new legislation but they do effectively control what gets through.
If there was an issue that had such strong support that ran along party lines (rather than putting the party in conflict with itself) the party would be supporting it in an instant and importantly advocating it at election times as policy.
Not in my experience. There are still some divisive issues – I don’t think you’d be welcomed with open arms by any of the various right factions if you were anti-Israel for example – but views within the right vary markedly on other issues, for example same-sex marriage, euthenasia and reproductive rights. But for the most part, alignments happen based on personalities.
But those instances are very, very rare. For the most part, the territories pass hundreds of bills, and the federal parliament leaves them alone.
There are plenty of policies that have divided the party that have still been passed. Decriminalising abortion in Victoria springs to mind. I think it would be naive to suggest that issues that are divisive in the community – which despite a majority supporting it, euthenasia is – are going to be uniformly supported and campaigned on by the diverse group of people who form a parliamentary party. There are strong views on these conscience issues both inside and outside parliament.
If you support a particular party for the most part, but don’t like where they sit on a particular issue, my suggestion would be to join the party and have a say on it, rather than carping from the sidelines.