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Improving the image of politicians

By Dorothy Pratt - posted Friday, 15 February 2002

What image? The constant cry of ‘rorter’, ‘liar’, ‘unscrupulous’, ‘blame shifter’ and ‘self interest’ says it all. It wouldn’t take much to improve the image because the image can get no worse. I believe politicians rank just one above used car salesmen (that’s verging on optimism) and they’re at the bottom of the ‘image flunkers’.

"Shame, shame, shame" are the words that often reverberate in the chamber of the Legislative Assembly in parliament when either the government or the opposition wish to criticise a member’s opinion. Shame is a feeling I have often felt at the words and actions displayed by the ego-driven people within. Disgust is another as I’ve sat and witnessed the assassination of the character of other representatives because they differed in opinion, or as members competed in ‘one upmanship’ for the glory of a thirty second grab on the nightly news or a headline in the written media. School students often witness this performance on TV. Letters received reveal their abhorrence at the behavioural example being set by our so-called leaders of state and nation. This is one hour of the day that is not truly representative of the way parliament is conducted. It’s an hour that taints the entire assembly of politicians. The acting skills of many politicians are well known and such skills aren't natural but are cultivated to gain attention.

Many Politicians have forgotten that they are the servants and ‘voice’ of the people. This may be idealistic but a future of true representation would see a more even-handed approach to services and utilities throughout the country.


The belief that parliament is the arena of the people or that the politicians are representatives of those people is, sadly, waning rapidly. Rather, they are seen as only self-seeking self-interested individuals who use the political role as a stepping stone to fame and future opportunities of wealth. Most people feel they are duped into believing they have a say in how their country runs by the sham that is voting, especially the compulsory preferential type.

Parliament is no longer the arena for honest open debate. To many of those within, it’s just a well-paid game. Even when there is an overwhelming majority in government, tactics will be used to minimize the input of the Opposition. Bills that are published in order on the Notice Paper (1-26 etc) would be expected to be debated in order. On the morning of the debate the list may be suspended so that although a member is ready to debate the first half dozen Bills, those further down the list will be bought forward, thus ensuring a minimal number of speakers against the Bill. This allows the bill to be pushed through quickly with minimal dissent. This is permissible but it isn’t fair and it certainly isn’t right.

To make certain minimal or no time is afforded the opposition to attack the government, Ministerial statements will be long and numerous, ensuring all time is taken up by the Government’s self-praise and viewpoint. Although other avenues are available they can be reduced to one hour by a cunning government.

Debate on Bills can be stopped short if the Leader of the House (Government) wishes to ensure a Bill is passed quickly. This is done by ‘guillotining the debate’, i.e. by the leader of the House stating a Bill must be debated by a given time. This eliminates many speakers who may, through wishing to convey the effects the Bill might have on the electorate, keep the debate going for a further sitting. This elimination of their ‘right’ to address any Bill brought into the house negates the concerns of the constituents who will ultimately have to live under the effects of that Bill. No wonder many get ‘hot under the collar’.

Party politicians’ behaviour can be equated with the pack mentality. The Independent is the quarry to be humiliated, ridiculed and intimidated by words that are soft enough not to be recorded in Hansard. All Parties find themselves drawn into this ‘feeding frenzy’ to drown out the point of view of a representative who endeavours to get a community’s view heard on the floor of the house. It is the Party purpose to ensure that people who have the strength to stand alone do not do so because it jeopardises the Party power, threatens their chance at government and possibly destroys their opportunities to be Prime Minister or Premier.

I have always believed that it’s necessary to respect the position of Prime Minister, Premier or other high office, but there is no requirement to respect the person who holds that position. Too often those who hold these positions believe they have the right to abuse the privileges afforded them by the people and too often they have betrayed the trust placed in them. To stand at an election is an unwritten contract between a candidate and the people that they will serve the people for the term of the Office if they’re elected. However, it is often tossed contemptuously into the people’s faces, as in the case of Rob Borbidge who resigned immediately before he was even declared the winner. A by-election then costs the taxpayers in time, frustration at another bombardment of political advertising and many thousands of dollars.


So, how can a politician improve their image?

The first requirement is to leave the Party before they become intoxicated by the rhetoric of long-time party members who fill them with so much balderdash that they are convinced of their own self importance. Start to represent their electorates, not their own point of view, not the view of the city (if they represent rural areas), nor the disproportionate influence of big business when small business is being destroyed.

They need to quit selling their support to the highest bidder and using politics as a stepping stone to an appointment on a board of Directors in some big company after the political career is over.

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About the Author

Dorothy Pratt is the Independent Member for Nanango in Queensland.

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