Australian politics and integrity.

I happen to be reading Plato’s Republic, and am deep into his treatise on how democracy should work and his ideal of the philosopher king. It’s fairly interesting, though I’m not sure of its contemporary practical value and can see why some of the more psychopathic dictators of the past have been inclined to Plato’s ideas, but it serves as an interesting sidenote to another article I happened to read this week regarding the current health of contemporary Australian politics.

Should personal integrity the most important facet of being a politician in Australia? Gregory Melleuish argues that it should be in an interesting article over on The Conversation. Melleuish claims that ‘clever’ politics is flourishing in Australia due to the tenuous grip federal Labor has on government. Clever politics, so Melleuish says, is the politics of doing ‘whatever it takes’ to cling to or acquire power – and something evident in both major camps, with Tony Abbott clearly not accepting the result of the last federal election and Labor nominating liberal dissident Peter Slipper to the speakership late last year. Melleuish contends that these tactics don’t sit well with the Australian public, that these bring short term political gains, but risk long-term voter backlash. I’m inclined to agree with him.

I do wonder if it’s simply the situation federal parliament finds itself in or the character of politicians elected by constituents. I’m inclined to the latter, but don’t entirely blame the public. Major parties are responsible for pre-selecting candidates for voters to choose from. Frequently, it seems, we’re getting getting a poor choice, and I’m left wondering if any due diligence is ever done on major party candidates. Clearly, I’m not the first to notice this, David Donovan of Independent Australia making the exact same point in his humorously titled article “Party politics delivers village idiots, not village elders”. Here, Donovan argues that priorities for party candidates puts the party’s agenda is first and their constituents last. This criticism seems to, on face value, ring true.

Democracy seems to be suffering in Australia at the moment. The traditional media are doing a poor job at keeping us informed, dwelling on soap-opera like moments, pushing personal agendas and generally annoying people with any sort of brain. Plato would roll in his grave.