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If politicians want our kids to stop bullying, they should set a better example

Dear Mr Turnbull,

Thank you for your letter regarding bullying in schools.

As you are no doubt aware, despite political interference through attacks on the Safe Schools program and reneging on signed funding agreements, schools already have extensive anti-bullying programs in place and are continually refining them to educate our children about respectful relationships in today’s world.

Children learn their behaviour from others.  That is why such pressure is put on our elite sports people to be role models. Their behaviour is always under public scrutiny and they pay a hefty price when they fall short of expectations.

But not so our politicians whose behaviour every day displays the worst aspects of bullying.

In 2012, anti-corruption campaigner, Tony Fitzgerald wrote:

“There are about 800 politicians in Australia’s parliaments. According to their assessments of each other, that quite small group includes role models for lying, cheating, deceiving, ‘rorting’, bullying, rumour-mongering, back-stabbing, slander, ‘leaking’, ‘dog-whistling’, nepotism and corruption.”

Your own party has deliberately adopted a political strategy to “Kill Bill” with the express purpose of attacking the character of Mr Shorten.  You have used innuendo and rumour to question his personal life.  You have cast doubt on his integrity despite extensive investigation finding no wrongdoing.

This is not politics which should be a contest of ideas.  It is unabashed character assassination, otherwise known as bullying.  You continually leak stories about each other to the press in a barrage of public shaming.

In a recent report to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights defenders in Australia, the UN Special Rapporteur said he was “astounded to observe frequent public vilification by senior public officials” of charities, community groups and democratic institutions who hold the Government to account “in what appears to be an attempt to discredit, intimidate and discourage them from their legitimate work.”

He was also “astonished” to observe “mounting evidence of regressive measures” being pursued by the Government.

“New laws and policies have increased secrecy provisions, particularly in the areas of immigration and national security.

The cumulative factor of secrecy laws created significant barriers to legitimate reporting on human rights abuses or to whistleblowing on misconduct in government activities. It also led to a worrying trend of pressure exerted by the Government on civil society through intimidation and persecution. The Special Rapporteur received credible reports of doctors, child protection officers and even academicians who suffered.”

We have seen the same intimidation tactics used to gag journalists who question government policy such as the NBN and the effect of company tax cuts.

In 2012, you spoke these words:

“we all hear again and again that Australians are ashamed of the parliament, that they see it as nothing more than a forum for abuse, catcalling and spin.

There are reasons for this view. Question Time, Parliament’s most visible ritual, is one. If you love your country, have an interest in politics or policy, and care deeply about our nation’s future, there is nothing more certain to arouse your fury and invite your contempt than listening to an entire House of Representatives Question Time.”

That is even more true today.

The central purpose of government in a democracy is to be the role model for, and protector of, equality and freedom and our associated human rights.  Government leaders must set an ethical standard for the people to emulate.

In this regard, you are failing badly.  The behaviour exhibited daily by our politicians would not be tolerated in any school, any workplace, any organisation.

If you want to help us address bullying, clean up your own act and set an example of how you would like our children to behave.

Kaye Lee


28 comments

  1. Freethinker

    Politicians are behaving in the way that the electorate like to see if not just remember how Abbott and his team treated Gillard, remember how Brandis acted towards anyone that was against him
    Well kaye, it is time for you and others to accept the reality, we are in the minority and until the majority does not change what it is acceptable for them or not we have to stop blaming the ones elected.
    Why it is that people cannot accept reality, why it is that the attitude of the previous and present government is wrong and the behavior of Paul Keating in the parliament was Ok.?
    Today we have elections in Tasmania, and the electorate have the chance to see what they like to see from their politicians.

  2. Frank Smith

    As backbenchers often mutter in a deep male voice Kaye Lee, ‘ere ‘ere!

  3. Kaye Lee

    I popped over to our Minister for Women’s facebook page to see if Kelly O’Dwyer had made any comment on Michaelia Cash’s attack on the reputation of women working in parliament. In an astonishing display of cognitive dissonance, Ms O’Dwyer’s latest post says

    “Every day, I am inspired by my incredible female colleagues. Ahead of International Women’s Day, I am excited to be delivering a speech at the National Press Club.”

    My response….

    “Every day, I am disgusted by the behaviour of our less than credible politicians. Where was your condemnation of the outburst by your colleague Michaelia Cash who impugned the reputation of all women working in parliament? Our Prime Minister sends a letter to all schools about bullying while you adopt a “Kill Bill” political strategy of character assassination. This is a clear sign that you cannot engage on policy so you take the low road. And you wonder why you have lost our respect.”

    One hopes that the Press Club journalists ask some pertinent questions on Tuesday.

  4. Kyran

    As always, Ms Lee, totally on point. In addition to Michel Forst’s report to the UN as ‘Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders’, there was Nils Melzer’s report in his capacity as ‘Special Rapporteur on torture’, both of which were delivered to the current UN sitting due to Australia’s dubious appointment to the UNHRC.
    It should be noted that the UN and Transparency International made similar observations to the UN when this government continuously berated our (then) Human Rights Commissioner, Ms Gillian Triggs, for her repeated defence of those she was required to defend. The impertinence of the woman!
    The bullying, slur, innuendo and rumour that have become the trade mark for this unruly cabal, with the rabid assistance of a feral MSM, is unbelievable.
    The hypocrisy, no longer even vaguely concealed, is just staggering. In addition to Shorten’s union conduct, decades old and having been scrutinised by a RC, there was Gillard’s decades old relationships being subjected to similar scrutiny, not to mention Rudd’s constant linking to deaths that were repeatedly found to be unconnected.
    Yet, on the government benches, they lie and defraud with impunity. As you have previously pointed out, the cronyism and nepotism is rampant to the extent it is now ‘normal’ to expect that any senior public service appointment will be due to bias rather than any pretence of competence.
    And the standard to which our politicians now insist is appropriate for scrutiny of their pathetic behaviour? A ‘sniff’ test, or a ‘pub’ test, to adjudge whether their behaviour is acceptable.
    You wouldn’t try a ‘sniff test’ without appropriate ‘hazmat’ protection, such is the stench. As for the ‘pub test’, this crowd wouldn’t pass a vote taken well after closing time.
    “Government leaders must set an ethical standard for the people to emulate.”
    Without wishing to bully or intimidate, being a battle I would assuredly loose, can you name one current government leader whose standards could, would or should be worthy of emulation.
    One.
    Just one.
    Any one?
    It is in that context that we should view the Turnbull/Birmingham missive. In the absence of any government leader being capable of delivering a believable example, these two clowns have preempted leadership from school communities. Context is everything.
    “The National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence is later in March, and the letter penned by Mr Turnbull and Education Minister Simon Birmingham said schools, parents and families all had a role in ending bullying.”
    “We believe all students have the right to be safe at school,” the letter said.
    “Bullying and violence has no place in Australia.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-01/bullying-must-stop-pm-writes-to-schools-amid-university-hazing/9496150

    If you go a little further you find this, off the government website on bullying;
    “On Friday 16 March 2018, Australian schools will stand united in their communities to celebrate the eighth National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence (NDA).
    The National Day of Action is Australia’s key anti-bullying event for schools and in 2018, schools are called to imagine a world free from bullying and share their BIG IDEAS.”

    “For the 2018 National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence (NDA), Australian schools are invited to share their BIG IDEAS for a world free from bullying within their communities.
    A new range of thought provoking materials enable schools to capture authentic student voice and promote their ideas and solutions for a world where bullying has no place.”

    https://bullyingnoway.gov.au/nationalday

    In the off chance this absurdity isn’t apparent, the ‘adults in charge’ are now, officially, seeking instruction from our children on what is acceptable behaviour.
    Thank you Ms Lee. Take care

  5. Glenn Barry

    Great article Kaye Lee, it would be wonderful to be able to interrogate Malcolm in a circumstance where he was legally obliged to answer truthfully or face incarceration.

    Malcolm’s inner cretin is on permanent display for all to see, still wondering about The ~35% that would vote for them as first preference

  6. Jon Chesterson

    Very well said Kaye, very well said. We are with you too on the Michaelia Cash debacle… role models indeed!

    Freethinker… We are not cattle or herd of cow, nor sheep even though there appear to be many who behave this way. Responsibility, dignity and respect. I cannot agree with you when you say, ‘Politicians are behaving in the way that the electorate like to see… Well Kaye, it is time for you and others to accept the reality, we are in the minority and until the majority does not change what it is acceptable for them or not we have to stop blaming the ones elected’. This is nonsense! There are in fact millions who do not fit your description of electorate, 1,385,650 who voted for the Australian Greens and many more than this again behind the GetUp, Greenpeace, Change, Amnesty International and refugee movements, and statistically not entirely likely to be mutually inclusive. Where is your evidence for this majority you speak of? We do not have to accept abuse because of an opinion about majorities, in fact this is part of the problem, first the assumption and then the obfuscation of democracy for populism, or is that ignorance and indifference? I for one am deeply disturbed by Parliamentary question time. Leaders are meant to lead not follow the lowest common denominator, which by the way is not a majority either, but assumption. “Stop blaming the ones elected”… I am willing to do this only when they do and behave like honest human beings, until then they are herd of cow… unproductive cow, I say with some dissonance as cows to me appear to be far better behaved.

    I think Turnbull should be writing to and targeting Australian private schools like Sydney Grammar… the true source, scourge and origin of our bubonic plutocracy, Turnbull’s childhood stomping ground – we are talking of role models aren’t we? Unless you consider also the privileged Universities of Sydney and Oxford, after all both Turnbull and Abbott attended these educational institutions and we would have good reason to be questioning what they teach, permit and promote when it comes to social norms, ethics, moral development, respect, responsibility, behaviour and leadership, by role and example.

  7. helvityni

    Excellent reply by Kaye Lee to Ms O’Dwyer’s drivel, love it…

  8. Freethinker

    Jon Chesterson, you are asking, quote: Where is your evidence for this majority you speak of? end of quote

    On the elections results Jon, there is the evidence that counts. It is not nonsense!
    Obviously you are in the minority like I am and yes, we rise our voice, we cast our vote but unfortunately it counts very little.
    Yes, as you have said, there millions that do not fit my description who not accept these behavior and I am one among them.
    I do not mean to stop campaigning against it, what i am saying is that the majority supporting it.
    And will be better to stop there because if we address the refugee issue and how they are treated then Jon, I am in a minuscule minority.
    That it is the fact and until we do not accept it we will not be able to reverse the situation, until we do not ask for change in all the parties we are not going to win Jon.
    We are talking about bulling in the parliament and expect change?
    Well we should start looking on those that can be the future politicians, just in the news, as an example within the ALP, Mr Butler’s scathing attack on the “backroom buffoonery” of the party’s factional warlords earlier in the year, which riled many on the party’s Right and set off a new round of Labor navel-gazing.
    That it is what I mean Jon, that it is the reality, the culture, what it is accepted.
    Talking about the Greens we cannot forget Bob Brown and the right faction acting against the Lee and the left faction with in the party.

  9. Kaye Lee

    The examples of bullying are endless.

    When it was reported that there had been a sexual harassment complaint about Barnaby Joyce against the wishes of the complainant who wanted the matter to be investigated confidentially, Barnaby went to the media to say the complaint was “spurious and defamatory” and demanded it be referred to the police so he could defend himself.

    This was further intimidation of a woman who has tried to follow procedure. What sexual harassment case gets referred directly to the police unless there has been actual assault? In any workplace or organisation with which I have been associated, a sexual harassment complaint is made to management who investigates and either mediates or takes disciplinary action.

  10. diannaart

    Kaye Lee

    Add the fact, the complainant’s requested privacy was ignored by the Nationals and MSM.

    Trial by intimidation! No wonder most victims remain silent.

  11. Kronomex

    The Largely Nazti Party is shit scared of what will happen when they declare the election later this (I don’t believe it will be otherwise) year and not having Bill rise, so far, to the bait of their petulant, vicious, and outright slanderous attacks (all done while hiding behind the cowards castle battlements of parliamentary privilege) is only making them into ever more stupid and childish bullies.

    On a side note – does bloody Trembles think he’s going to be the PM after the election? He must do or he wouldn’t have had this latest taxpayer funded brain fart.

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/aliceworkman/now-im-feeling-so-fly-like-a-g6?utm_term=.swVqvkK1x#.eh91kwDEL

  12. Kaye Lee

    Kronomex,

    From your link, “Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull is spending $250 million of taxpayers’ money to buy himself a new private jet for official trips.”

    Yet not so long ago……

    Feb 27, 2016 – MALCOLM Turnbull has insisted officials keep looking for lower cost options after he “inherited” Tony Abbott’s $190 million plan to replace his clapped-out VIP jet. The Prime Minister’s dilemma has been revealed in the defence white paper that confirms officials have allocated $190 million to buy an A330 …

  13. Andrew Smith

    It’s largely a feature of a paranoid and angry LNP, PHON, et al. who have been encouraged to adopt the quasi evangelical WASP Christian haranguing, gas lighting etc. of perceived difference, minorities and enemies.

    It’s a clear tactic in the US from again radical Republicans described by John McCain as ‘lemmings in suicide vests’ who neither think of broader consequences nor care, the height of arrogance.

    In the US Ian Haney-Lopez has researched and documented this well:

    ‘In Dog Whistle Politics, Ian Haney Lopez offers a sweeping account of how politicians and plutocrats deploy veiled racial appeals to persuade white voters to support policies that favor the extremely rich yet threaten their own interests.’

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17847530-dog-whistle-politics

    It’s not just about race and stirring the electorate up or deflecting attention but to create antipathy or cynicism toward liberal parliamentary democracy and politics (then needs a ‘solution’); through conservative parties and masters this is afflicting the US aka Trump, UK aka Brexit and Australia’s mainstream political/media elites following orders?

  14. Rhonda

    Thanks Kaye for keeping up the truisms. I’m feeling done in. Nb. Said a sad farewell to our most beautiful whippet this morning. Our precious Sapphy.

  15. Freethinker

    Sorry for your lost Rhonda, it is painful losing the best friend, they leave an empty space in our homes that it is impossible to fill.

  16. Kaye Lee

    Rhonda, I am so sorry to hear that. I know your pain.

  17. Joseph Carli

    Rhonda…I had a lovely cat that I treasured…it too was a sad day when she passed..I wrote this “metaphorical piece” for her memory …can I share it here?

    A Balloon.

    A bright blue balloon
    Am I,
    As blue as blue as an azure sky.
    Catched for a moment
    By an Hibiscus flower.
    Wind buffeted,
    Held for an hour
    Of fragile kind-ship,
    We were.

    Now..

    The delicate thread broke free..
    Now, can you see me anymore
    As I drift away
    Shape and colour
    Lost against a vast array
    Of blue as blue as an azure sky.
    My bright blue balloon
    And I..
    She is gone…
    Goodbye my sweet..goodbye..

  18. diannaart

    Rhonda

    For you

    Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love and loyalty. They depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog; it merely expands the heart. If you have loved many dogs, your heart is very big.

    – Erica Jong

  19. Jon Chesterson

    Freethinker – You have provided no evidence for putting such extensive majorities behind your argument, which you have re-asserted as many times as you deliberately mention my name. Elections results do not speak to one issue, no correlation here. Populism and salience bias do not equal democracy, and a majority does not equal right even if/when conceded. Tactic of repeated name calling to assert indefensible authority I presume, just a touch patronising… But lets move on shall we.

  20. Roswell

    Saddened to hear that, Rhonda. Pets are our babies (yes, I’m a big softy when it comes to animals).

  21. Freethinker

    Yes, Jon, I think that the best will be to move on because we do not understanding each other, trying to debating me will be no good, for sure I have more years and being trough of more civil and political unrest that you even can image.
    Obviously you cannot understand what it is a majority or respecting it.
    I do not patronising, just writing with my limitation on English grammar.
    Have a nice dy.

  22. Terry2

    Barnaby says the claims are spurious & defamatory

    Barnaby you can initiate an action for defamation, but will you ?

  23. Kaye Lee

    the Nationals MP told Fairfax Media the baby boy he and Ms Campion are expecting in April would be raised as “mine” but conceded the identity of the biological father was “a grey area”.

    The pair’s travel does appear to make the paternity uncertain. Mr Joyce was in Europe travelling on official business – accompanied by his then wife Natalie – for 10 days from June 23, 2017. Ms Campion was in North Queensland at the time.

    He then commenced a period as acting prime minister upon his return in early July during which he was accompanied by close personal protection body guards. The couple are expecting the birth of a baby son in early April.

    Late last week the now backbench member for New England told Fairfax Media that the “biological” question made no material difference to him.

    “It’s mine, on the record, there it is,” he said. “And can I say, even if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t care, I’d still go through this, I’d still love him.”

    Why on earth would he bring that up? Just to add more grief?

  24. Matters Not

    Joyce has completely lost it. Yes I know he really loves his daughters, his new partner and her unborn child.

    Just think – he was Deputy Prime Minister, occasional Prime Minister and a staunch advocate for traditional family values. But given the levels of (apparent) rural idiocy , he will probably increase his margin in the next election.

    What if another(s) emerges to claim paternity?

  25. Joseph Carli

    ” Why on earth would he bring that up? Just to add more grief? “….

    It has long been recognised that the most lethal weapon known to mankind is a young, attractive, fertile woman…Kings and Emperors have been destroyed…Whole Empires lost and Dynasties decimated for the attraction of that one beautiful, irresistible… bi’ o’ skirt!

  26. Kaye Lee

    “the most lethal weapon known to mankind is a young, attractive, fertile woman”

    Will we never move beyond men viewing women as brood mares or objects of sexual desire?

    And you wonder why we get pissed off.

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