One of the promises the new Prime Minister made during the election campaign was to create or recreate a more civil parliament and, for that matter, a more tolerant and reasoned society. Most would all agree that we want our politicians to put their better minds to the problems confronting us. We want the screaming and disrespect to end.
This can only come about if we show each other consideration. Respect is an admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities and achievements. Some say that we earn it by way of our behaviour toward others. I think we would all agree with that.
To quote Roy Jenkins (from 2003):
“Civilised conduct, mainly: courtesy or politeness, lamented the decline of civility in our politics. It lacked a polite act or expression of the little formalities of political society.”
However, other words come into play if Anthony Albanese is to achieve a more civil parliament.
Manners are associated with a person’s outward bearing. Manners are often described as either good or bad to indicate to others whether or not their behaviour is acceptable.
In sociology, manners can indicate a display of social status and a means of differentiation between classes. This is less so in Australia, where class matters less.
Manners are integral to the function of the social norms and conventions enforced through personal practice and upbringing and are self-regulated in public and private life. They also apply equally to both men and women.
Other words such as etiquette, politeness, charm, values and demeanour also come into play.
All these niceties, of course, don’t only apply to politics. I believe erratic behaviour in sports comes about because of a lack of respect for the games they play by the players.
Respect for the sport you play and provides you with a living is the first criteria for being a success at it. The best are usually hard-working, humble, show respect for their opponent, and are gracious when they lose. However, some seem to think the sport they play owes them something.
The same can be said of politics, where politicians generally enjoy privileges that far outweigh other areas of society. In our politics, Question Time is often seen as the showcase of our parliament. It is here that Albanese wants to start his crusade against bad behaviour.
No one could seriously challenge the thought that it has descended into a bear pit of savagery.
Some think they can win a debate by being loud and crass. Others believe they can win with a perceived superior intellect. Few realise how necessary civility is to produce reasoned outcomes.
A debate is not necessarily about winning or taking down one’s opponent. It is an exchange of facts, views, ideas and principles. At its best, it is simply the art of persuasion.
The public might be forgiven for thinking that the chamber has descended into a hate forum. A sideshow where respect for the other’s view is seen as a weakness. Where light frivolity and wit have been replaced with smut and sarcasm. And in so doing, they have debased the parliament and themselves as moronic imbecilic individuals.
“How refreshing it has been to hear Albanese and others talking about our problems without the constant interference of politics interrupting the discussion. Policy problems and how to fix them is now the new politic.” By @saint13333 #AlboIsMyPM https://t.co/ujEKQpIGnE
— Michael Taylor 🇦🇺🏴 (@AusIndiMedia) June 22, 2022
There is no doubt in my mind that at the beginning of Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership, we entered an American period of our politics. A term I use to describe the Trump form of lying, bad manners and vile politics that became the norm in the US. It had a rotten smell that has hung around for a decade.
Those on the right fostered these behaviours until they became legitimate tools in the armoury of political tactics. And so, over the decade, the Australian politic fell into disrepair.
We abused free speech when what it required was respect. In a democracy, the right to free speech is given by the people through the parliament. Therefore, it should be incumbent on people to display decorum, moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason, tolerance, civility and respect for the other point of view. Nobody has ownership of righteousness.
In the American period, all that mattered was that you created a picture of a man or woman you wouldn’t trust. If you dragged others in, so much the better.
With that said, how will the Prime Minister create more respect than disrespect at Question Time? From what I understand, the manager of the House of Representatives, Tony Burke, doesn’t plan many changes to the standing orders. Much to the chagrin of many, Dorothy Dixers will still be allowed. Burke reckons they fill a function of informing the parliament about government progress. Some questions usually allocated to the opposition will now go to the teal members. Dutton is said to be unhappy with this arrangement.
Without any formal statement, it is challenging to predict opposition behaviour, and given Dutton’s foul-mouthed past, one cannot imagine any change. Although now that parliamentary behaviour is front and centre, I would expect Peter Dutton to make some sort of effort or carry the consequences.
My thought for the day
Do you show respect to those trying to mould you into fine young men and women who will relish what confronts you in the future?
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