The political and economic system currently in operation reminds me of a ‘legend’ my father told me once about the ouzelum bird (for some unknown reason he called it the eujarkapui bird). This is a bird that, when startled, flies around in ever-decreasing circles until it disappears up its own fundament. This explains the bird’s rarity. It is the subject of a poem by W.T. Goodge1 and is an appropriate analogy for the current system under which we operate, for we are, as a nation, flying around in ever-decreasing circles and will finally collapse if we continue this way. We will not disappear up our own fundament; it will be much, much worse. It is difficult to know where to start when describing such a system which is multiply circular in its arrangements and without a particularly obvious point of entry. However, I’ll try starting with politicians in general, using a particular example with which I am familiar.
When running for election, candidates spout platitudes with which few would disagree, but they mean nothing; once the politician gets elected, they toe the party line, and quite often do the diametrically opposed. Not doing so, can lead to losing preselection at the next election and thereby most likely losing their $200,000+ ‘job’. That is a heavy punishment for having a conscience and it seems to be why joining a political party is attractive to those who lack such a conscience. To give an example of the sort of platitudes uttered, I give an example from the former government, one Trent Zimmerman. In his blurb he stated that he is working to:
- support the many local community organisations that make our area a great place to live;
- ensure a strong economy provides local residents with more opportunities to get ahead; and
- protect our local environment and harbour foreshores2.
Nobody could disagree with those sentiments. However, his support for local organisations extended little beyond the platitude and providing barrels of pork for those who were ‘mates’ of the Liberal Party or donors to it. Ensuring a strong economy which would allow local residents to get ahead is only about a strong economy for those with money; if you are a casual worker or a gig worker, getting ahead is impossible. “The rich get richer and the poor get the picture” as Midnight Oil said. Protecting the local environment is another vacuous platitude from a member of a former government whose protection of the local environment only extended until some developer offered them a bag of cash to change the planning rules. Protecting the harbour foreshores was of course a lie, as ignoring global warming will doom the current harbour foreshores to inundation by an increasing rate of sea level rise.
It seems that enough people in his electorate stopped believing such platitudinous drivel from Trent Zimmerman such that he lost his seat in parliament to a ‘Teal’ independent, Kylea Tink3. One can only hope that all voters are starting to realise that believing the lies uttered by politicians like Zimmerman will doom our children and grandchildren to an appalling future. How do we stop politicians from lying like this? Truth in political advertising legislation would stop the most outrageous lies, such as those that constantly came from former Prime Minister Scott Morrison4.
However, this only applies to political advertising and most of Morrison’s lies were delivered in press conferences or speeches, where there are no rules to prevent someone like him lying. One could have expected the media, with whom he was interacting at the time, to have pulled him up on these lies. Some members of the media do5, but so many seem incapable of doing so, either through ignorance or reluctance for fear they will be discriminated against by the same politician.
So, how do we prevent vermin like Morrison lying through their teeth to the population? What we need are more journalists who are up to the task. In referring to the media, I am not including that owned by Murdoch or Stokes who are generally the public relations arm of the Liberal Party, and consequently find it hard to tell the truth, let alone pull up a Liberal politician for lying. Indeed, sometimes these media outlets are complicit in the lies. More on this elsewhere.
Perhaps one of the ways we non-journalists can at least influence the perception of a politician like Morrison as a pathological liar is to constantly repeat the phrase so that it becomes ingrained in public debate. I suspect this is part of what happened to Tony Abbott when he was ousted from his seat in parliament; in addition to being a religious nutter and generally not the full shilling, everyone knew he lied almost as much as Morrison. Other than that, I don’t know how it could be done.