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Day to Day Politics: For Christ’s sake tell the truth.

Friday 4 March 2016

It is said that in war ‘truth’ is the first causality. Lying is probably one of the most common wrong acts that we perform. In fact lying as we understand it is an unavoidable part of human nature. Therefore it’s worth spending time thinking about it.

Whilst it might be true that truth is the first causality of war, I would contend that over the past ten or twenty years it has become a major causality of our public discourse. If I were asked to pinpoint it I would date it at around, or post, Ronald Reagan’s appointment as president of the US.

It was a period that saw the beginning of the Religious Right’s involvement in Politics and of Neo Conservatism.

In the last US election Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan took lying to an unparalleled level. Fact finders alerted the public to 2019 lies by Romney alone. I watched the first Presidential debate and became fascinated with how Romney could present fiction as fact. It is my contention that President Obama lost the first debate not because he was of his game, or that he was unprepared, but rather he was taken by surprise by the wilful lies that Romney was telling.

Political lying in Australia since Tony Abbott’s appointment as opposition leader reached unprecedented levels and insinuated itself into our public dialogue, including the media. So much so that it is now almost impossible for the average punter to know just who is telling the truth.

Which brings me to my point. What resources does the average punter have to accessing the truth? If we have the time we can do some research? Look up the facts presented by fact checkers. Pay for FOI documents. Who has time for all that?

The truth is that in the absence of readily identifiable evidence we all use what is generally called ‘the pub test or common sense test.’ In other words we digest all the available information and ask ourselves the question ’is it plausible?’ Does what I am being told have the ring of truth about it. We make judgements based on our life’s experience. Unless your personal bias clouds the ’Pub test’ your inner conscience dictates your judgement.

Two observations.

‘I don’t judge people but I do form my own opinion of course’.

‘Life is about perception, not what is but what we perceive it to be’.

Let’s take two current items currently making headlines.

Firstly, there is a National Security leak. There is nothing more serious politically. The story appears in The Australian Newspaper which is a known supporter of former Prime Minister Abbott. The journalist in question, Greg Sheridan is also a personal friend of Abbott. Abbott is also quoted in the piece thus giving the leak credibility. To adhere one’s own words to a leaked document is dangerous.

Everyone knows that our former Prime Minister is a liar. He might even be the worst in our political history. He is certainly the worst this nation has ever seen. Many of our most respected journalists and media commentators have said so. He has even admitted he is a liar himself.

The evidence is so abundant, so overwhelmingly copious that it is beyond contradiction. It is fair to say that in general the populace accepted his lying as a fact. I and many others have listed them, quoted them, itemised, analysed them and exposed them in crystal clarity. Even members of his own party have accepted that he is a liar of nefarious intent.

And his sheer indifference to the fact that he lies together with his lack of conscience about it I found sickening. The list is as long as a toilet roll.

Secondly, Cardinal George Pell gives evidence at the Royal Commission into Child Abuse. Despite at all times being but a breath away from all the vile conduct of the church, the suicides, molesting, families destroyed, he denies everything and blames everyone else pleading that he was told nothing.

In the first instance, the leak, an investigation is being carried out. Leaks of course are not uncommon in politics. John Howard famously leaked to Andrew Bolt at the time of the Iraq war to discredit the outspoken Andrew Wilke. It wasn’t successful because Wilke had too much integrity.

History shows that enquiries reveal nothing. I therefore in the absence of hard evidence I conclude that my common sense tells me that Abbott is still upset with losing the Prime Ministership and is intent on undermining Turnbull’s position. The same as Rudd did to Gillard.

In the case of Pell I conclude, again in the absence of proof, that he could not possibly have been that close to the action, and not be aware of the unmitigated evil being carried out. Time and time again he pleads ignorance. I didn’t know I wasn’t told. Even when he pleads the greyness of the context of the time I deduce that time doesn’t diminish the crime.

An observation.

‘The standards we walk past are the standards we accept’.

Despite a tendency inherited biologically by all to lie. Truth in politics and society in general matters enormously. It is not a trivial matter in any democracy. Our whole system is based on the assumption that truth prevails over all else and that it is the people who judge its veracity.

Without truth the people cannot give informed accent to office and democracy fails. There are ethical obligations of integrity and coherence upon which society depends. Our leaders when they lie fail the highest standards of social morality.

At this time in our history we are experiencing a toxic tide of leadership mistrust. No other politician has contributed to it more than Tony Abbott. Is he the most dishonest, the most cynical and pathologically perverted liar to ever lead our nation?

Pell may indeed be found to be the worst religious liar this country has seen. A blight on the very essence of the teaching of Christ.

I will leave you to ponder the question. Use your common sense and ask yourself is what they are saying plausible. It’s the pub test.

Two thoughts for the day.

Humility is the basis of all intellectual advancement. However, it is truth that enables human progress’.

‘Question everything. What you see, what you feel, what you hear and what you are told until you understand the truth of it. Faith is the residue of things not understood and can never be a substitute for fact’.


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  1. Florence nee Fedup

    Pell admitted this morning he knew many of the families. Would have to as he was born and bred in Ballarat. went back as young priest then Bishop. Spent most of his time in the school system.

  2. roaminruin

    Abbott and Pell, two of the most obnoxious characters we’ve ever seen. And they’re close pals. Birds of a feather…..

  3. Möbius Ecko

    Though most sides of politics and nearly all politicians at one (most) time or another lie, I contend that if there was some Truth in Politics regulation or a MSM that actively courts the political truth, the Liberals would rarely if ever win elections. They have become so reliant on dishonesty and deception to win an election, as witnessed by Howard in 1996 onwards, and most of all Abbott in opposition, that they no longer know how to conduct themselves with integrity.

    Dishonesty has now become so ingrained Liberal standard operations and party policy, especially by their far right, that the one thing they honestly believe is that they can’t win without being totally dishonest. They know in themselves just how morally bereft and unpalatable they are to the Australian people, so must use deception aided and abetted by the MSM plus wealthy donors to survive as a party. And that’s what the Liberals are all about, winning power. It usurps all other considerations including sound policy, what’s best for the country and its people along with trashing any modicum of honesty and integrity they might flirt with.

  4. Jaq

    How sad for our society that the very people who are leading us are taking us on the road to Hell. Some will even go quietly, without even so much as a baaaaaa.
    Time to wake up.

  5. Terry2

    I find it disturbing that economic modelling group BIS Shrapnel, having published a report rubbishing the Labor Negative Gearing policy, are refusing to say who commissioned this modelling or what data parameters were adopted.

    Surely such modelling, if it is to have any economic credibility must be fully transparent and peer reviewed : I notice from the news this morning that BIS are refusing to take media calls on the subject.

    This supposedly authoritative report has been used by the government and News Corp to suggest that Labor’s policy, if adopted, would cause significant damage to the housing market and to our economy. An alternative observation on this report was offered by the Gratton Institute :

    “Grattan Institute chief executive John Daley said the report and its underlying assumptions “did not pass the giggle test” and were “manifestly ridiculous”.

    Isn’t it about time the report and its authors were subject to some scrutiny ?

  6. Kaye Lee

    I am astonished that more wasn’t made of Scott Morrison’s comment to Leigh Sales….

    “Presenter Leigh Sales was pressing Morrison about the gap between the Coalition’s budget “emergency” debt-and-deficit rhetoric of a couple of years ago and the current situation, when the numbers are worse.

    After dodging around, talking about the big job, global headwinds, the need to be realistic about the challenges, Morrison finally became frustrated with Sales trying to get him to address the change in rhetoric:

    “Well, you’re asking me about politics Leigh. You’re asking me about politics. What I’m talking about is what is actually happening with the budget.”

    As you can see, Scott admits that, for him at least, politics and truth are two entirely different things.

  7. Michael Taylor

    So a politician doesn’t like being asked about politics.

    He doesn’t seem to mind talking about Labor though.

  8. Kaye Lee

    Another thing…..the Coalition is excusing their lack of policies by saying that they don’t make policy on the run, that every option is being carefully and methodically considered and examined for possible consequences….unless we are talking about Senate reform in which case they want a vote yesterday without any scrutiny and they will make amendments on the run as problems are discovered.

  9. Dame Lacey Bra

    It’s sad that at least half the voting population actually believed the lies that Abbott told, or knew he was lying and voted for him anyway. I guess the rusted on supporters have tbe same LNP morals and values and a win at any cost mentality.

  10. Michael

    John – another great article.

    The twin virtues (?) of
    – transparency (it is self sanitising, let the sun shine in, and if one is looking for efficiency improvements – not to mention the current cost of maintaining opaqueness under the guise of privacy – FOI and GIPA as an art form, old chestnut of “commercial in confidence” especially dealing with publicly owned assets, conflicts of interest, vested interests, cronyism, etc, pro whistleblower legislation) and
    – accountability (will automatically be strengthened to become character building ????, as a learning platform, etc, especially in public life)
    will surely make giant steps to overcome the current habit of lying as the “force du jour”.

    Misleading your fellow human should be dishonor, evil, immorality, vice and all that comes with these.

  11. S

    I find it breathtaking that the LNP have so many supporters on Facebook who just repeat the same old lies that the LNP (in particular Abbott and Hockey) told both prior to, and immediately following, the election of 2013. Lies that have been proven as lies since and still the suppprters say the same!

    It beggars belief, that the LNP still has such a strong following, after the last 2.5 years of mismanagment, economic vandalism, chronyism, austerity and downright lies.

  12. Miriam English

    John, well put. There is only one thing I would disagree with. When you said “Our leaders when they lie fail the highest standards of social morality.” I would change that to: “Our leaders, when they lie, fail the simplest, most basic standards of social morality.”

    The guy Abbott admires most, John Howard, was such a liar he was notoriously referred to by those in his own party as “that lying little rodent”.

    I often wonder about people who lie for their political or religious beliefs. It seems a weird thing to do. If you really believe something is right why would you feel the need to lie about it. Wouldn’t that automatically invalidate your beliefs? Especially odd are those people who consciously lie for their god. It has become so common that there is even a humorous name for it: “Lying for Jesus.”

    In my book “Prescription“, the 13th chapter, which I titled lies, is about political lies and a possible antidote to them. (Chapter 12 sets up the events, but isn’t completely necessary.) Most of the chapters in that book stand more or less on their own, though it all fits together as one story. The entire book is free to download or read online at:
    Chapter 13 is fairly short, only a little over 7 pages.

  13. Kaye Lee

    Kevin Donnelly, chosen to review the national school curriculum, says many parents believe the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals are ”decidedly unnatural” and has questioned whether students ought to learn about such relationships at school.

    In a book he wrote in 2004, Mr Donnelly also seems to suggest that only heterosexual teachers have a right to teach students about sex.
    The book, called Why Our Schools Are Failing, was commissioned by the Liberal Party-aligned Menzies Research Centre. Malcolm Turnbull, who was chairman of the centre at the time, wrote the foreword.

    He is also critical of the Australian Education Union for arguing that school students ought to be taught about non-heterosexual relationships and safe-sex practices ”in a positive way”.

    Mr Donnelly wrote: ”The union argues that gays, lesbians and transgender individuals have a right to teach sex education … and that any treatment of sexual matters should be ‘positive in its approach’ and that school curricula should ‘enhance understanding and acceptance of gay lesbian, bisexual and transgender people’.”

    ”Forgotten is that many parents would consider the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals decidedly unnatural and that such groups have a greater risk in terms of transmitting STDs and AIDS.”

    I wish these people would take their hangups to a counsellor and stop inflicting them on our children.

  14. Terry2

    Yet another leak of Cabinet sensitive documents and yet again the AFP are being asked to look into the leak with every expectation that they will find nothing that will identify the source of the leak.

    Here’s a suggestion, commission the AFP or other security organisation to establish an information security system which is quite achievable and in this age of digital encription will readily identify the source of a leak and allow the AFP to initiate prosecution.

    Years ago when in business we had a problem with commercially sensitive information being leaked so we incorporated a minor spelling or punctuation marker in each document. We waited for a couple of months and gradually tightened the noose until we had positively identified the source of the leak and we took action to terminate the person involved.

    If there is a will there is a way.

  15. Matters Not

    Liberal Party-aligned Menzies Research Centre.

    Indeed! Now headed by Nick Cater and let’s not forget it’s government funded.

  16. kerri

    A good commentary John. It can, however be argued that the political lying started before Abbott with an email and an Ozcar ute?

  17. Kaye Lee

    I would have thought that, on matters of national security, the journalist could be compelled to reveal their source? They go hell for leather to identify people who reveal the torture on Manus and Nauru. Let’s hope they show the same determination towards that arrogant mouthpiece Sheridan.

  18. James Ellis

    When I consider the lies told, not just by Abbott, but backed up completely by his associates, the media and supporters, in order for the LNP to gain power, I note that many Australians are quite capable of lying to themselves……so perhaps when “questioning everything” some Australians need to also question what they think.

  19. gee

    i would like to see deliberate lies told the population by politicians be punishable by sacking. after all, if they want to use the title Honorable, there should be a legal requirement to be a fit and proper person.

  20. Garth

    I saw Sheridan last night on The Drum. He is nothing more than an arrogant bully. He spoke over others, spoke aggressively and was dismissive of others points of view. Indeed he prattled on and on so much in his answers, determined to get his position out regardless of anyone else (including the host Julia Baird who seemed to just give up trying to get him to wind up his answers). At the end of the show the last topic couldn’t be discussed because Sheridan had taken up so much time dribbling on.

    On a different topic, a question for anyone able to answer it – what has happened to the review of parliamentary expenses ? Was it released and I missed it ? I thought it was meant to be tabled at the start of the parliamentary year but I can’t recall seeing anything.

  21. Wally

    Lying definitely escalated when Tony Abbott became leader of the Liberal party but he had a great teacher, John Howard. Some Howard classics, there will be no GST, Tampa –

    Howard and Abbott have built careers on lies and as a nation we have suffered the repercussions. How can you teach kids right from wrong when the PM tells blatant lies?

  22. John Lord


    1 The Drum turned into the Sheridan show.

    2 No.

  23. Phil

    Good post John Lord, thanks. For me, a good article is one that provides much on which to reflect and contemplate – your article does just that.

    Could I add to your tests for the veracity of statements, the concept of Cui bono – for whose profit.

  24. lawrencewinder

    ….which is why I call them Liarbrils! “Le Jongleur” Roskam (chief clown at the IPA circus)is another who would regularly tell “porkys” in “The Wrap” with John Faine. He would most often leave it till near the end of the program so that it wouldn’t be queried and have to be defended in talk-back. His insidious half truths were always worked in with a “straw man” argument, too.

  25. Garth

    Thanks John. I suspect you know someone named Gareth (?) It’s a fine name and I take no offence but I just mention that my name is Garth. I only say this as the mistake has been made twice now – it’s of little consequence though.
    I enjoy reading your post each day and it both informs and prompts further thought. Thank you so much for your ongoing efforts and valuable work.

  26. Michael Taylor

    When I typed in Garth on my iPad yesterday I noticed the auto correct changed it to Gareth. I suspect that may have happened to John too.

  27. Garth

    Thanks Michael. Wasn’t having a whinge, just nice to be addressed by your name. Your comment may explain it all though 🙂

  28. John Lord

    It did indeed. Our name is the most important procession we own. My apologies

  29. jim

    Even ch 7 are in on the lies promoting the LNP eg, Sam Armitage on Negitive gearing said, “it’s going to hurt the Australian public the most”, but I guess you’d say anything if your getting paid hundreds of thousands a year, well maybe some of us. Hopefully the public hhasn’t forgotten the lies the LNP gave us just so they’d get in power, and the cuts to the working families are astronomical heres one of thousands,

  30. astra5

    John Lord
    You neatly underscore what we know about Abbott’s lies. Is he a pathological liar unaware of his habitual use of untruths? Pathological liars may be aware they are lying, or may believe they are telling the truth. Alternatively, is he a deliberate liar who uses lies as a political strategy? Many suspect he is. We will never know; maybe he doesn’t either.

  31. Möbius Ecko

    astra5 does it matter? Even if Abbott is pathologically lying because he deeply believes that he needs to for the good of the country and its people, doesn’t make it right.

    I don’t believe the above for a moment. My feeling is that he lies for personal gain and power, and for the personal gain and power of those he believes are powerful friends or he believes can gain and maintain his power. His adult history is littered with him doing this and others, including his father, in power getting him out of trouble allowing him to perpetuate his lying.

  32. Kaye Lee

    When Tony was at uni, he always wandered around with a pack of bully boys cheering him on. They were rude, aggressive, and “entitled”. Anyone who thought differently was to be ridiculed, belittled, intimidated. Tony wanted to be SRC president, perhaps because he had never been chosen to lead anything before. At the time, I considered him an anachronistic loudmouth nobody with enormous hangups who felt very threatened by feminists and gays. I have watched with astonishment the rise of this man I knew so long ago. You want to talk “flabbergasted”, well that is how I feel about a system and party who would promote a man to a position clearly beyond his capabilities. But that’s the problem. Tony has always been encouraged to believe he is more capable than any results have ever shown. Look at the people who still back him. What a motley crew.

  33. RosemaryJ36

    S – You only have to watch the hold that Trump is gaining over right wing supporters in the USA to realise that there is possibly a majority of the electorate which has little or no understanding of what is required in the leader of a country. The thought that Trump might become POTUS must be causing broken nights around the world!
    We probably are suffering from a population brought up on reality TV who believe that being popular is all that counts!
    It will be years before Obama – and Gillard – have their true worth recognised.

  34. Michael

    When one broadcasts (said once or many times amplified to many) lies, one sets out to deliberately distract and confuse – a tactic exacerbated by modern technology, sorry vested and lazy media, designed to keep one in comfortable obfuscating reflex political mode – fixitabbott in Warringah 61% first preference, fixithockey 61%, fixitturnbull 63%, fixitmorrison 60% …….

    Why think, bother, she’ll be right, it’s either beauty parade or popularity contest, one of us, what can I alone do – there is no pathway?, but when will I confront my failings, where do I go – ahhh, the system has been designed for you to wait till next election to do the same – all care, no responsibility, life goes on.

  35. Peter F

    Florence nee FedupMarch 4, 2016 at 6:37 am
    ‘Pell admitted this morning he knew many of the families.’ This would suggest that the families did not feel they could raise the question of pedophilia with him, or he forgot that they did. How can he get away with this claim that he ‘knew’ many of the families?

  36. Florence nee Fedup

    This government’s problem is not making decisions on the run. Their problem is making none. All within the government party seem to be making their own run. No attempt at unity.

    I wonder how many fractions are at play?

    How can they hold budget meeting next Tuesday when there appears to be policies to base it on.

    They seem to be obsessed, immobilized by their continuous attack of Labor history and new policies they have announced.

    The attack maybe could be of some advantage if they were based on proper data and facts. This is not so.

    This government is coming to the end of it’s term with no idea where it is going, or even where it has been for that matter.

    We have heard some good sounding speeches from the PM. All are aimed at supporting business and corporations, absolving them from all responsibilities in contributing to society or to the infrastructure, human and physical they need to thrive.

    Seems society and people are here to serve business. Not business to serve society. Doesn’t seem right.

    There is much more to life than having a job. The wages of this job, this mob see as best form wellfare???

    Life has to be about much more than this.

  37. Florence nee Fedup

    Peter F, Pell would have to know many of the family. Ballarat is hardly a big city. The church community all these families came from, wouldn’t be that large. Many had to be known to him since childhood.

    He must have had at least one friend from his past that would have told him what was going on. would have to be some within the family.

    I since this is why victims find it hard to believe or forgive. I mean they can’t forgive, as he is one of them.

  38. Miriam English

    Seems society and people are here to serve business. Not business to serve society. Doesn’t seem right.

    Well put, Florence.

    Any government that thinks a person’s job is the most important thing is going to get a very unpleasant surprise and get caught with their pants down when large-scale automation throws vast numbers of people out of work permanently. Already we have large sections of society who can’t get paying work no matter how much they want it. Victimising them serves no useful purpose at all. Facilitating them being useful members of society has little to do with paid work anymore. This is a trend. We need to wake up to it and turn it into an advantage instead of fruitlessly battling against it.

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