The following excerpts are from Ross Gitten‘s comment piece in the SMH, Wednesday 8-feb-2017. It is worth re-publishing and encouraging people to read it closely.
“But one of our pollies does claim to have got the message. Wading through all the usual guff in the start-of-the-year speech Bill Shorten gave last week, I came upon a passage so surprising I thought it worth recording.
“Restoring … faith in the system is the threshold challenge for politics today. Rusted-on supporters and deep tribal loyalties are not what they once were,” he said.
“There is one certainty in 2017: people are disengaged from politics and they’re distrustful of politicians.
“To many Australians the political system is broken – and more than a few don’t trust us to fix it.
“I say ‘us’ because virtually everyone in this room [at the National Press Club] is considered part of the problem, part of the political class.
“Rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly, we are seen as members of the same insider club, letting down the rest of Australia.
Bill Shorten is engaged in tit-for-tat politics no matter how he tries to spin it. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
“This sense of alienation isn’t a local curiosity – it’s a global phenomenon. Strong enough to take Britain out of Europe – and put Donald Trump in the White House.
“And in these unusual times, politics-as-usual doesn’t cut it any more.
“Yes, we are an adversarial democracy, built on the clash of ideas – I honour that. My job, as Leader of the Opposition, is to oppose what I believe is wrong. My job … is to put positive ideas forward.
“But this year I am going to remind myself as often as possible: people first, politics last. I can’t guarantee I’ll always get that right – but I’m certainly going to try.
“Because Australians are sick to their core of the petty schoolyard bickering, he-said she-said, the tit-for-tat.
“They’re not opposed to genuine debate about the future – but they are over the smallness of so much of the national political conversation …
“Mind you, that counts for nothing if [scandals over politicians’ expense claims make] people think we are acting in our own interests, instead of theirs.”
Wow. But this column is no free ad for Team Shorten. I wanted to record it because it was so true, but also to help the man stick to his New Year’s resolution.