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Van Onselen pretty much skewers it —- (an edit extract) Decline and fall of the modern political class
“….The personalities who once went into politics have been replaced by careerists who seek to avoid doing anything controversial that may limit their potential. This is a consequence of the professionalisation of major party politics. The era of the mass party driven by large party memberships is over, replaced by professional administrators and parliamentarians whose first goal is winning elections. Ideas, especially those that are right but unpopular, come last.
The media, under-resourced as it is in these challenged times, focuses on “gotcha” moments more than weighty ideas in need of investigation. Even when ideas are debated (on the few occasions that happens) those discussions turn into shouting contests between Team Red and Team Blue. The political media is dominated by echo chambers with small but interested viewerships.
When the debate does occasionally rise above petty partisan squabbles, or when it catches the eye of journalists who choose to delve into the policy details without a partisan lens, the public mostly isn’t interested. People are too busy watching reality television or using social media to pay attention.
The question is, has the quality of political debate worsened in recent years or was it always this bad? The difference perhaps being that 24-hour news coupled with social media’s direct access to the political class simply exposes problems that always existed.
We now see the sausages getting made where once such gruesome details were kept out of view.
I lean towards the view that the body politic has worsened, courtesy of a narrowing of the gene pool of who goes into politics coupled with a throwaway consumer culture that has made the public and the media less tolerant of political failures. Once, people would get their toaster repaired. These days we throw it out and get a new one. The same consumer attitude is directed at politicians in a way it never used to be — fail and we’ll replace you, rather than give the politician a second chance.
This cultural malaise gives us too many narrowcast careerists in major party teams, and the lack of community tolerance for political failure means that ideas aren’t challenged and debated freely lest anyone doing so falls victim to journalistic attack for floating a bad idea.
Labor draws most of its MPs and senators from the union movement. Previously, doing so gave the party a broad cross-section of working-class representatives. Trade unions took in a far greater percentage of the population than they do today. Trade union officials used to come off the factory floors and therefore had a much better appreciation of the issues employees faced.
Not any more. Such exceptions prove the rule that most Labor MPs today don’t have such working-class roots. These days your average Labor MPs engaged in university politics before a brief foray into union organiser ranks or political staffing, after which they lined up for parliament. What kind of background is that?
It’s no better on the Liberal side. Liberals once came from a variety of small and big business backgrounds, as well as some professional ranks. These days the pre-parliamentary backgrounds of most MPs and senators are stuffed full with political staffing experience. Those who did work in professional services — lawyers, accountants and the like — did so only briefly, not long enough to truly understand the issues affecting such businesses and professions. Small-business people are too busy to get involved in politics. The few who do tend to get dragooned into marginal seats where they go out with the electoral tide. That fate awaits several of Malcolm Turnbull’s marginal seat MPs at the next election if the polls don’t improve. In Liberal ranks women often have suffered the same fate….”