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Day to Day Politics: So you want to become a politician?

Saturday 3 February 2018

I’m sitting here thinking of what I might write about for Saturday. I’m feeling a lot of mixed emotions, a brew of disgust, nefarious loathing, if you like, for this self serving rotten government.

I even feel somewhat depressed that governments are able to get away with what they do. Truly, I would much rather be writing positively about some initiative the government is proposing even if it might advantage my enemy.

The psychology of politics is what interests me most. The “why” of why people act one way or another. Why they support one philosophy or another. What motivates them to enter the profession. Why they dump long held belief when it suits them.

You may have noticed this in my writing. Perhaps it’s because I’m a self-confessed idealist who believes that there are better ways of doing things, but we let ideology get in the way.

List Crux provides 10 reasons to enter politics. A full explanation for the headings is provided here, but here are the reasons:

  1. Power to use your responsibilities in the right way
  2. Popularity and attention
  3. Generate your ideas and bring a change
  4. Embark a social status for yourself
  5. Go hand in hand with the world
  6. Sharpen your communication skills
  7. You are always employed
  8. Remove the weak from power
  9. Luxury privileges
  10. What is age?

After reading the explanations in full I didn’t find them particularly enticing, so I moved onto Peter Reith.

In 2015 Peter Reith wrote an article for the SMH titled ‘Five lessons to learn if you want to go into politics‘. Of course, the title is self-explanatory. He reckons that there is no school for politicians. You just have to learn on the job:

Learn from experience. On the day of his return Malcolm Turnbull as PM it was crystal clear he would oversee a traditional cabinet system. To his credit, Turnbull had learnt the lesson of pragmatism and consultation.

Learn how to have differences of opinion. Having differences on policy is what politics is mainly about. My memoirs demonstrate that I often disagreed with John Howard, for example on protectionism. I was not the only one, but Howard let everybody have their say.

Managing colleagues. Another necessary skill is the one-on-one management of colleagues. This part of politics is as much about personality as anything else. I think it’s widely accepted that the failure to work with colleagues played an important part in the demise of Kevin Rudd.

You need a plan. People management was also an issue for Peter Costello. He had the lot: he was strong intellectually, good on his feet and solid on policy. The top job beckoned him. He had choices.

Faction friction. My last lesson, on factions, started in 1989. I was with John Howard when he was dumped as leader. He was ousted by a well-organised coup masterminded by Andrew Peacock supporters.

Way back in 2005, Mark Latham in a piece for The Age titled ‘Ten reasons why you shouldn’t go into politics‘ wrote:

I’m sure there are some young idealistic people interested in running for Parliament. I have to say to you, as frankly and sincerely as I can, don’t do it.

The system is fundamentally sick and broken, and there are other more productive and satisfying ways in which you can contribute to society. Let me give you 10 good reasons why you should do something else.

No. 1: Public apathy. There was a time when politics was treated as an honoured profession, but that time has now passed. After decades of ridicule in the media and shameful opportunism and cynicism on both sides of politics, most people now treat politicians with contempt.

No. 2: Loss of privacy. Politics is now regarded as just another form of entertainment, ripe for ridicule and prying into politicians’ private lives.

No. 3: The crippling impact on family. As former Howard Government minister Warwick Smith said to me: every day you spend away from your children is a day you never get back.

No. 4: Rise of machine politics. A recurring theme in my diaries is the corrosive impact of machine politics on the ALP. This is a key point for young people to understand.

No. 5: Politics of personal destruction (Labor-style). As the factions have taken control of the ALP, they have perverted its political methods.

No. 6: Politics of personal destruction (Liberal-style). The John Brogden tragedy has shown that the culture on the other side of politics is just as bad. The political class in this country is narrowing into two types of characters: the flint-hearted machine men who are happy to do whatever it takes, and the freaks and weirdos of the religious right, with their sexual hang-ups and policy obsessions. This is happening on both sides of politics.

No. 7: Entrenched conservatism of Australian politics. These trends are making the work environment of Australian politics incredibly conservative.

They like their politicians to be cautious, predictable and easily brought under control.

No. 8: Arrogance and incompetence of the media. Anyone going into politics has to deal with an extraordinary level of media incompetence – basic errors of fact and misreporting.

No. 9: Social problems require social solutions. I regard party politics and the media as public manifestations of a bigger, more serious problem – the loss of social capital.

In many cases, this has denied them the time and pleasures of family life, replacing strong and loving social relationships with feelings of stress and alienation.

No. 10: The sane, rational choice. If you are a young, idealistic person, don’t get involved in organised politics. Contribute to your community, your neighbourhood, your immediate circle of trust and support. This is the best way forward for a better society.

I have edited a great portion of these three pieces and I suggest they are worth a read in full, even if they make you somewhat wary of the present status of our political system.

One that is badly in need of more than just a grease and oil change … It needs a new engine. One that suits Australian conditions. One that encourages young people to at least go for a test drive.

If you are of the view of this person (on Whirlpool Forums – sorry, link no longer available) then I suggest you go to the next step by following the this link. ‘This person’ had this to say:

I’m sick of how this country is governed, and would like to try to have my own input at a larger level!

I am currently studying a BCOM, majors in finance and accounting, but politics have always interested me. A few of my friends are doing BA majoring in politics, but just how many of our politicians have gone through that area of study?

What is the “normal” level of education that our politicians have? I’ve looked at the credentials of a few of my locals, and they seem to have law degrees.

How does one seek to join a party?

Is there anyone here in a party and what does your level of work involve?

Aspiring politicians should follow the above link!

My thought for the day

“We live in a time where horrible things are being perpetrated on us. The shame is that we have normalised them and adjusted accordingly.”


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  1. Jack Arnold

    Interesting reverie John and thank you for explaining your history in politics and so likely biases. I think there may be more to the Brognan story than you divulge. As leader of the Opposition Liarbral Notional Opposition he made a rare (for Sydney politicians) visit to UNE Armidale for a student dinner and after public address with questions. He failed to impress a small group of local identities who were interested in forming the Seventh State between the Hunter Valley and the Queensland border. A later LNP government sold off Newcastle ports for about $900 million and “very generously” returned about $50 million to Newcastle for “development projects”. Thus the local myth was proven that Sydney Parliamentarians believed that the world was flat and when people went beyond the magic circle of Hornsby, the Nepean Bridge and the Royal National Park they fell off the edge of the world to be consumed by dragons.

    I think there may have been some inter-personal causes for the demise of the Brogan family unit and his subsequent well earned departure from state politics.

  2. Terry2

    I hear that Turnbull when asked about his $1.75 million donation to the Liberal Party in 2016 has conceded that this was a poor strategy as he only got back with a one seat majority but at least he got a tax break.

    For the future, rather than give money to the Liberal Party he is going to give money directly to the punters only it won’t be his money it will be government revenue in the form of tax give-aways.

    Mr Turnbull told the assembled media that it’s all about getting a bang for your buck and clearly giving your own money to the Liberal Party is like flushing it down the toilet but giving away tax revenue directly to the electors translates into votes and means you don’t have to dip into your own pocket.
    Asked about foregoing a tax deduction, Mr Turnbull said that he didn’t come down in the last shower, he keeps his money in the Cayman Islands where of course he pays no tax and he recommends to other Australians that they do likewise.

  3. corvus boreus

    If you could provide a verifying link to the PM publicly advocating ‘innovative tax avoidance’, it would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Glynne

    John, couldn’t get past reason to enter politics #8: “Remove the weak from power”
    The idea has been around for some time now, and look how good it’s working.
    It’s like a perpetual motion machine, vote one dud out and viola, another one appears.

  5. Terry2


    Highly reliable and credible source in the public bar at O’Reilly’s on Friday night : I think his name was Bruce.

  6. corvus boreus

    Thanks, I’ll store it in the ‘someone said’ section of the circular file.

  7. Kronomex

    “…getting a bang for your buck…” I got a bang for my buck but it ultimately turned out to be too deer.

  8. corvus boreus

    Deer me, I thought it was good bang for a buck, but in hind-sight it was just wasted doe.

  9. wam

    Latham was spouting drivel in 2005 and it still is.

    The reason politics is not an admirable profession but merely a job is the fact that a team politician may argue a personal point in team meeting but must follows orders in public or leave the team.

    The bile shown by the efforts of commentators (media and bbq) who cannot understand how such a team works, is a major contributor to the disrespect shown to politicians,

    But the main aspect of the poor standing is human vanity.
    Politicians(and commentators) are vain, vulnerable to the truth of themselves and the lies of others.

    Can you imagine a job description that means you never have to work on public or school holidays as having a ‘crippling effect?

    A simple method for showing Australia the difficulties of the job is to publish their diary – who, why, where, how long of meetings as a record of work done, at the end of each month. The vehemence of the opposition to this suggestion from a politician who retired ‘to spend time with her family’ shocked me and when I pointed out she had taken her children on holidays for years all over Aust and overseas which she subsequently claimed from us or was paid for by converting first class government fares to cattle class.(I didn’t say then upgrade to business with the millions of points racked up on government business)

    Lord John, have you looked at di natali’s greens for pragmatism, arrogance and vanity?

  10. Ross

    I read Niki Savvas’s book Road To Ruin over Christmas. The thing that struck me in this book was how inbred and incestuous federal politics in Australia is. Everyone knows everyone else, they mostly come from the elite private schools and universities (Law), never had a real job, most have only worked in political offices and most sitting politicians were staffers to former politicians. It’s a real ”catch 22” situation.
    No wonder the average disengaged voter lunges for the remote whenever a politician gets his or her melon on the TV.

  11. townsvilleblog

    Who would be a politician, good question John. I dreamp’t of being a union organizer when I was 15, never came to be, I dreamp’t of being a politician when I was 30 and it also never came to be, now at 62 I am so thankful the second one never came to be. The lies you have to tell, the principles you have to sacrifice, I could never do it. I would have been a great union organizer though, when it came to advising bosses on Industrial Laws I was in my rightful place as Union delegate at my workplace.

    To foolow ‘wam’s’ point about Di Natali’s pragmatism, arrogance and vanity he is one of my picks as one of the politicians I most detest on New Matilda’s most hated 30 politicians. Under his leadership The Greens have gone from a trendy Leftist party with a loony fringe, to a mainstream party who want to agree with this tory government on things like keeping Australia’s top profit making corporations income a secret, his so called leadership is why The Greens are attracting less votes today than they did under Christine Milne, quite frankly he gives me the shits.

  12. townsvilleblog

    Ross, I agree completely, a good steak dinner and a full day’s work would kill two thirds of them off, I used to work with others who would spend most of the day telling others how hard they worked, while I alone did most of the work. So the pollies have a few mates!

  13. wam

    sadly townsvilleblog your typo is the descriptor for trying to get the Lord to realise ‘truth’ is not absolute and fact is in the eye of the beholder, but honesty is personal and one of the character traits missing in today’s politicians, journalists and auto-cue-ists.

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