By David Stephen Ayliffe
My view of Matthew Guy, leader of the Victorian Liberal Party changed within minutes as I watched him address the party faithful with great courage and humanity soon after congratulating Premier Daniel Andrews on his amazing election victory. The realisation that his Liberal Coalition was decimated in the Victorian State election must have been a bitter pill …
Watching him over the term of the Andrews Labor Government I have not been impressed. Not likely to vote for the coalition anyway, I saw Guy as constantly negative and to be honest, very unappealing. On Saturday night it was for me like watching a miraculous transformation. It was a totally different man to the one we have seen on the campaign trail and throughout the past few years. Indeed I think there’s a chance that had Victoria saw more of Saturday night’s man, many in the state could have been won over to vote “Matthew’s My Guy”.
It was certainly a very gracious and yet positive leader standing in front of his people, despite the Tsunami that will put many of his colleagues out of office. Fighting his emotions he put on a very brave face that sought to inspire the faithful who would have been heartbroken to say the least. I was impressed.
As one who has watched with dismay the debacle that doubles as Politics Negative 101 in Australia I was intrigued by the change I saw. Yet this is not the first time. It seems that when our politicians take off their political face to reveal their humanity they actually can appear not only human, but sometimes quite likeable. In this I suggest is part of the problem we face today. With modern media such as it is we see our political leaders too much and too often and both sides – governments and oppositions – during their term seem to us to spend all the time bagging out the other side as if in so doing they win brownie points with the rest of us.
It is just not possible that the only vestige of truth and good government rests in the Labor Party, or the Coalition, neither the right, the left, the middle or anywhere else. If “only my party has the way, the truth and the life“ for the nation then that view is more akin to religious cults than to careful and good government.
I know a bit about cults having spent two decades in a fundamentalist Christian group and having spent much of the rest of my life trying to help people who have come out of high demand control groups. Yes I know the importance of involving discussion and input from a variety of people rather than expecting than only the views of the Party matter.
For a long time I have believed that our two major Party system has betrayed democracy to us rather than upholding it as representatives seek to be approved by Party leaders rather than the people who elected them.
So I have watched a number of politicians both in office and after they have left and a strange thing seems to happen when they no longer have to score points off one another for the nightly news. Miraculously, just like the transformation in Matthew Guy, they become believable and dare I say it, likeable too.
How often have you heard or watched an interview with a Minister or Shadow Minister where it just seems that the person is reciting by rote a message agreed to be said, rather than what the person believes. If they are great actors they may appear convincing but most often that isn’t the case. I’m reminded of lines from TS Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men”:
“We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw.”
That may seem a harsh comparison but I wonder how many reading this might agree.
Then we have our latest Prime Minister reinventing himself as a kind of latter day Crocodile Dundee in baseball cap and outback cliches desperately trying to win our love.
The combative nature of politics in Australia does nothing to enhance us as a nation or a people. In a good committee for a local school tuck shop the contribution of all should be welcome and compromise and harmony the key to successful delivery of sustenance to hungry children.
What a pity our leaders don’t seem to recognise this.
Yet we have too many professional ego driven marketing people telling leaders how to present themselves and how to win points over their enemies. Rather than inspiring leadership that recognises the need for intelligent discussion that values the input of all, we have a bullfight with everything but blood on the floor.
Truth is they do win brownie points for their effective destruction of their opponents, but it seems to me that the accolades come from their supporters and not the ordinary voters, some of them swinging voters, who will determine the ins and outs of their election.
I’ve often thought of perhaps putting my name forward for election to parliament. Every time I think of that I immediately think of the human cost and question how could I survive? Perhaps that is the problem for our politicians too. It could be that only those who love a fight survive and succeed in bull pit that are the Parliaments of Australia. Yet are pugilists the best to lead us?
Last week I woke in the middle of the night thinking about politics. Now that’s disturbed sleep if ever there was. For some reason I imagined myself making my maiden speech in one of the houses of parliament. What would I say? Then I began to write the following poem. With no plans to deliver it in Parliament, I present it here:
(Dedicated to the Parliaments of Australia)
by David Stephen Ayliffe
Liars murderers and thieves,
The world is full of them.
But better people should gather here.
The congregation of the peoples
Should be different without
the barking of dogs across the chamber
demanding the other side acquiesce
under the condemnation of fools.
So much the stuff of our evening news,
their corruption not welcome in the peace loving homes of the brave.
Their bickering loved by multinational pharmaceuticals making a killing
with their suicide prevention drugs – an epidemic of malaise that cripples our national psyche.
No wonder we don’t like our politicians.
No, news reported from this place should be of a different kind,
the embrace of great and differing minds,
the best of the best coming together for the good of all
deserving our admiration and gratitude.
This place no longer fuel to suffer the mental health of the nation
the blending of great minds and great hearts, a coming together
for the betterment of our humanity’s dream
A world where our children laugh and play
aspiring to be like worthy heroes
who are not just comic book creations
but some of them actually here.
This place an example for the innocent child within us.
For here the best of our humanity
reveal how we the people should live our lives
How we should treat each other and govern ourselves
in peace and prosperity.
A true Commonwealth that cares and provides for all.
This place, so loved and cherished
and no longer the butt of jokes so our sons and daughters
will finally seek their place amongst them.
It doesn’t have to be an idle wish
But it can be our truth.
As the song says:
“We are the people.
We are one.
We are Australian”.
©℗ DSAyliffe 2018
Thanks to singer/songwriter Bruce Woodley. The last three lines are from his great song “I am Australian” written in 1987 and sung made famous by The Seekers. Perhaps a future government will recognise the lyrics of this song as a genuine Australian anthem.
(There is an audio of This Place on David’s blog).
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