Like everyone else, politicians have private lives. Unlike everyone else, increasingly they have been sharing these with us during the course of their work.
Brittany Higgins made a powerful statement during her address to the National Press Club about Scott Morrison’s response to allegations that she was raped in a minister’s office.
“I didn’t want his sympathy as a father… I wanted him to use his power as Prime Minister. I wanted him to wield the weight of his office to drive change.”
Scott’s concerned dad persona wasn’t going to cut it.
No-one could have failed to be touched by Labor MP Stephen Jones when he shared the story of his nephew and son and the harmful affect that the debate about religious freedom has on kids. Surely it doesn’t take having a transgender child to realise that?
Whenever voluntary euthanasia is discussed, we hear politicians recount stories of the passing of an elderly relative regardless of which side of the debate they are on. This is something that everyone faces and everyone’s story is individual. This should be about choice, not competing stories of what happened to every politician’s nan and pop.
Discussion of the NDIS causes the same thing – they tell us about someone they know. Whilst hearing about someone else’s struggles might make people realise they are not alone, it does nothing to assuage the despair that so many carers are feeling. There’s no room left to hear the story of someone who can easily afford to pay for the support they need and the connections to access it.
Sadly, when it comes to domestic violence or sexual harassment or bullying, too many politicians also have personal stories to share.
Should this be necessary? Is it even helpful? Do you have to be personally affected to be able to deliver fair and just legislation? Does using your platform as a politician to tell your own story raise awareness or does it take over? Is listening to individual stories more important than hearing expert advice?
Empathy is great but what we need from politicians is action.
But where the line really gets crossed is when politicians deliberately use their families for image making or political campaigning.
As with everything, Tony Abbott was openly crass in the exploitation of his daughters.
‘If you want to know who to vote for, I’m the guy with the not bad-looking daughters.’
Scott Morrison’s daughters are much younger. Like many young kids, they often seem excited by the cameras and the attention, though I am sensing less so as time passes and they get to the ‘you’re embarrassing me’ stage.
Photos of dad building cubby houses and chicken coops are one thing. Sharing poetry on a very important day when the whole country is listening is another. It’s great to be proud of your kids but it is a parent’s job to also protect them. Morrison’s constant stream of family photos on social media is, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, a shameful disregard for his daughters’ well-being in pursuit of political advantage. Every time he drags them into the spotlight to try to soften his public image, he risks them copping the consequences of his unpopularity.
I cringe in anticipation of Sunday night’s hard-hitting episode of Karl at Kirribilli where Jen and the girls save the day for the celebrity PM before he gets kicked off the island.
This campaign is not going to be good for anyone’s mental health – perhaps best to leave the families out of it and stick to the issues.
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