Recently I watched an episode of Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery where she ‘delivered’ Gillian Triggs back to her high school and university while discussing various elements of Triggs’ life. Towards the end of the program, Zemiro invited Triggs to read some of the commentary made about Triggs in her role as Human Rights Commissioner from 2012 until 2017.
The commentary read out by Triggs was from Tim Blair, Andrew Bolt, Peter Dutton and Eric Abetz — all of which are embedded at the right wing of the political spectrum. All the comment was critical of Triggs, who was wisely shielded from most of the commentary during her term as Commissioner by her husband.
I was watching the show with a young adult who will be voting at the next federal election. At the end of the show, the question was asked by the young adult if the commentary was accurate. The answer was ‘yes and no’.
During the TV show, Triggs stated that she is a lawyer, so when given the role of Human Rights Commissioner, task number one was to read the statutes and legislation around the position and the role of the Human Rights Commission. Once read and understood, facts were assessed against the legislation and action taken. Triggs’ charitable response to the comments she (willingly) read was that clearly those that wrote the comments didn’t understand the role of the Commission because they probably haven’t read the legislation. However Bolt, Blair and the others quoted probably believed their commentary was accurate.
The problem with ideology is that at times you can’t see the forest for the trees. Nowhere in the comments aired was a detailed description of the apparent fault in the legislation the Human Rights Commission operates under or a discussion on how the particular conservative commentator would rectify the issue. The perceived failures in the legislation or the way it was implemented were not explored, because it is far easier to fan the flames of displeasure with the person. In short, they were shooting the messenger, so using the test of reasonableness, the commentary wasn’t accurate.
Ideology gives you ‘permission’ to disregard any other point of view except your own and that of your fellow travellers. As demonstrated over the years in Australian politics, both sides of the political spectrum have implemented worthy advances to our lifestyles. John Howard and Tim Fischer’s Coalition Government implemented gun reform after the mass murder of 35 people (and an additional 23 were injured) in Tasmania in 1996.
Medibank, the universal health insurance system was launched by the Whitlam ALP Government in 1975 and relaunched as Medicare by the Hawke ALP Government after an attempted dismantling of the system by the Fraser/Anthony Coalition Government in the period between 1975 and 1983.
And if your ideology can’t find any counterpoint to the discussion promoted by those who have an alternate view, you have a go at the messenger as Bolt, Blair and others did to Triggs during her term as Commissioner and the IPA recently did to the ABC. According to research paid for by the IPA,
about a third of Australians don’t agree with the ABC, don’t trust the ABC, with some of the information that it has.
Regardless of simple mathematics suggesting that about two thirds of Australia either has no opinion or do trust the ABC, the IPA uses this research (which is questionable statistically) to justify their claim the $1.1 billion-a-year national broadcaster [should] be privatised; which suits their public agenda. The IPA also doesn’t seem to be too concerned by up to 80% of Australians being ‘worried’ about climate change (according to a survey by The Australia Institute). Maybe the positions they take are not based solely on the public good — but ideology.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of shooting the messenger. Politicians are past masters of the art. How many times in the past month have you heard Federal Ministers deflect questions on their competence or how their government is performing with a detailed commentary on what Labor are alleged to have done or promised such as Morrison attempted to do when being interviewed in early March by Leigh Sales on ABCTVs 7.30?
The honest reality is that Labor haven’t been in government since 2013 — therefore whatever policy or process they may have implemented if they had been elected is frankly irrelevant to the current situation. Secondly, we will never know if Labor would have implemented the policy if they had won, as they may have either not gained the necessary support or they might have actually listened to advice which counselled for a different course of action. Third, it seems the current government will not accept, let alone take ownership of the problems it has either caused itself or inherited from events internationally.
Certainly, the ALP also gives commentary on the actions and personalities of the Coalition Government. Frequently, the commentary also contains elements of shooting the messenger which is unnecessary, however ineptness or maladministration needs to be identified and publicised (as the Coalition should be doing if the ALP is in power).
The ideology problem is certainly not only political — there are people around who would never travel with a particular airline, listen to certain genres of music or watch a particular sporting event. And the majority of them will act as adults and not physically or mentally harm those who do use the disliked products. The ideologues are the victims here — the ‘hated’ genre of music most certainly will have some who do have the ability to craft some special melodies or lyrics that deserve everyone’s attention.
It doesn’t work that way in politics. Decrying those that have a different viewpoint solely for having a different viewpoint is not only disadvantaging themselves but the rest of us. No one is 100% right all the time, neither is the introduction of a good idea the sole preserve of any one particular ideology. If politicians are decrying others in the political sphere over ideology rather than the legislation they are employed to implement or maladministration, you have to ask is there actually anything wrong with the idea or policy.
The next time you hear a politician or a commentator make the argument that a certain situation is all the fault of a person or group on ‘other side’, ask yourself if the speaker has a point or if they are just so ideologically tied to a position, they can’t see the forest for the trees.
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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