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Buyer beware – politicians!

Four years ago I wrote the following article. I have released it again, because it shows us the timeless nature of politicians. If it was not so disappointing, it would be funny. Enjoy!

When you buy a television you have an expectation that the thing will work, and that it will fulfil the purpose for which you bought it. In Australia we have a robust Consumer Law, which is quite exemplary, and quite differently from many of our human rights practices, it actually elicits praise internationally. There is one ‘product class’ excluded from its coverage, sadly – politicians, and all their works.

We do not have any laws which stop political parties from peddling untruths, such as the existence of death taxes in the most recent federal election. We do not have any laws which protect us from ignoramuses, or bigots. We are not in a position to ask for a type of warranty, a sort of guarantee that we are not being ‘sold a pup’.

This is surprising, if one thinks about the investment we make in each and every politician who crosses our path. There is the cost to our mental health when we discover that we have someone in the parliament who is not very clever, or honest, or as we have recently discovered, even eligible to be elected.

Then there is the actual financial cost to our taxpayer funds, where some expense claims are truly beyond belief. At this point I proffer the recent example of a senior parliamentarian, a minister, who used a governmental car, with a driver no less, to ferry his two pet dogs around Victoria. Others who, blaming their workload, are suddenly unable to perform their duties. One rather famously was forced, through loneliness, to spend more time overseas courting his intended, than he spent in Parliament. Others who have been charged with dishonesty offences, bankruptcy – the list goes on, and on.

These examples are mainly from the Victorian State Parliament. That is because I live in Victoria, and I am exposed to these clowns on a daily basis. I invite my readers to reflect on their own experience of their own state parliament; I’m sure you are able to dredge up many fun references to our elected dunderheads.

Will Fowles, however, caught my eye recently. He is the young man who became unhinged in his Canberra hotel, because his ‘medication’ was in his luggage, and his luggage was behind a closed door. So he did what any elected representative of the people would do – he kicked the door in, causing a furore which saw his fellow guests bundled out into the Canberra morning, which we all know, can be very cold.

His apology was at first instance less than fulsome, and it appeared to duck the issues raised by his behaviour. He offered to repay the cost of repairs, which is really the bare minimum, and he stated that he had paid his own way there. He was in Canberra for a celebration, unrelated to his Victorian duties. He did not address the reason why he had become violent and a threat to public safety.

He did, however, admit to long-standing mental health and addiction issues, but again that does not explain why he felt that he could destroy property, because he was inconvenienced by a locked door. Was the medicine an anti-psychotic, or was he drunk at the time? Was he fit to travel? What drugs does he use?

Enter Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria. He was pleased that Mr Fowles had apologised, he was impressed that the apology appeared genuine, and he was satisfied that Mr Fowles would pay for the damage. He went on to offer his full support (on full pay) while Mr Fowles sought treatment. He came across as a caring boss, albeit one who wouldn’t be liable for Mr Fowles’ costs.

Those costs will be substantial. Firstly, Mr Fowles will be away from his place of work, and he will not be available to his constituents; he is unable to fulfil his duties, or to actually do anything other than to look after his mental health, and to seemingly address his addiction issues. His time away has been described as being ‘for several months’.

Probably due to politicians being chronically awful to other politicians, and a couple of attempted suicides among their ranks in recent years, they, as a class, have a new-found sensitivity toward their peers, whenever the term ‘mental health’ is mentioned. So they mostly swung behind the Premier’s offer of unlimited assistance to our young parliamentarian. I use the word ‘young’ to highlight not his age, but the amount of time he has been an Honourable Member – seven months.

By his own admission his mental health and addiction issues predated his election. This raises the issue of whether he had a duty to inform his prospective employer, the people of Victoria, through the agency of the Victorian branch of the ALP. It also raises the issue of whether, if he had been forthcoming with this information, would the good people of Burwood have voted for him? Were they offered a fair choice? Did his opponent suffer from a similar handicap? Were the electors ‘sold a pup’?

Employers routinely ask applicants whether they suffer from any condition which might impact on their ability to do a job. Often it is not a block to employment, as many good employers offer to make changes to the role, or perhaps the workplace, so that a good candidate can still take the position. Failure to answer truthfully is seen as legitimate grounds for dismissal.

Was Mr Fowles asked such a question? If he was not, why was he not asked? It seems to be the minimum of due diligence, and as it stands neither Mr Fowles, nor Mr Andrews, seems willing to cover the costs incurred.

We are stuck with him now, and he might continue in the role for years. So, too ill to work, after seven months in the job. He then takes sick leave, on full pay, for as long as needs.

He might even get a pension one day, if he can pull off a recovery.

So, four years later Will Fowles is in the news, again. It appears that he has incurred the wrath of Daniel Andrews, and ordered to leave the Labor Party.

He is still drawing his salary, and if he can brazen his way out of this pickle, he might score that pension. Ain’t Australian politics uplifting?


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  1. Clakka

    Of course, despite political parties being incorporated, parliament itself is not a corporation, nor are MPs officers of a corporation. Therefore they are not subject to the plethora of corporate laws, including Quality Assurance and Health Safety and Environment statutes and regulations, for example.

    Oh dear, the joys of parliamentary supremacy.

  2. Andrew Smith

    I love the refrain used by elites whether sportspeople, media or politics after they have a meltdown or incident ‘mental health and addiction issues’, too easy….

    Should be called out for what it is, even when there is a genuine personality disorder in the background, it’s pure unadulterated and malignant narcissism; coursing around the Anglosphere, wonder why?

    More broadly there is the societal or national ‘collective narcissism’ impacting particular (or vulnerable) voter cohorts and MPs, for outcomes including ‘car crashes’ like Trump and Brexit, which are still rolling on…..

  3. Max Gross

    Seems to me that politicians are just like the rest of us: flawed human beings

  4. Steve Davis

    “it’s pure unadulterated and malignant narcissism; coursing around the Anglosphere, wonder why?”

    Come on now Andrew, don’t be coy, call it for what it is.

    The narcissism we see now in all sectors of society has always been with us, but has really come to the fore after 30-40 years of liberalism as the dominant global economic/political/social outlook, but which emanated originally from the Anglosphere.

    And we should not be surprised by this.

    An outlook based on individualism is almost by definition driven by narcissism.

  5. Caz

    If you a member of the public, particularly if you are a poor member , suffering a mental health episode, you are more likely to be shot dead. If a member of my family was mentally ill, the police would be the last people I would call. Politicians and celebrities use mental health issues as excuses for a multitude of bad behaviours.

  6. Canguro

    GL, purely subjective, but I’ve never seen any image of Stuart Robert that gave me any impression of ‘there’s a man whose face is trustworthy.’ To the contrary… a slug whose entire involvement in politics was predicated on the premise of ‘what’s in it for me?’ And the consequent reports of his behaviour only confirm that, in spades. Go the NACC, string him up!

  7. GL

    “In in-store campaign material, pharmacists have claimed the policy has contributed to medicine shortages and urged patients to blame the prime minister, Anthony Albanese.”

    How does this occur when the scheme hasn’t even started yet? The guild and The Spud must be more than a little annoyed that the Greens are (for the moment or until they get fresh ammunition to shoot themselves in the feet again) backing Labor.

  8. Clakka

    Perhaps in the majority of cases, people join political parties, and become politicians because they believe they can do good for their constituency as a whole. They may be lauded by their fellow members for their participation, ideological development and narrative skills. They would have to become cognisant of their donor community and especially the big funders.

    But taking the big step to becoming an MP requires an ability to endure the many and varied attacks, both political and personal. To endure without becoming inured. Many have been pulled to pieces in the process, others may remain strong and objective, open and willing to learn and compromise for the better. But many fall for the cover of hubris.

    I remain alert to Lord David Owen’s take on hubris syndrome within politics. His promulgation of it is developed from many years observation and interaction as a senior MP both in Britain and for the EU, and also as that of a physician and registrar of neurology and psychiatry. He has promoted the registration of hubris syndrome as a clinical personality disorder in DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and ICD (International Classification of Diseases).

    There are many resources (incl youtube) on Owen and hubris syndrome. Here’s an interesting read:

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