Gavin King....Love him or hate him, the man is popular. This morning he expressed his views in an article in the Cairns Post which is sure to raise an eyebrow or two and cause spontaneous combustion in other's.
My confession is that (aside from the vitriol drivel he spouts about Val) I actually look forward to reading his caustic commentaries on anything local he feels worthy of attack. I often disagree with his opinions but if you can't clearly recognise the other side of an argument, it's not worth having one. Occasionally I actually agree with him, and I stress occasionally.
This mornings rant was rather disappointing though. It was simply a rehashed article comprising of various parts of similar arguments made all over the country about the political system during the past few weeks. That makes this article, at best, yesterday's news.
Much has been made about the fact (and it is 'fact') that the left side of politics is suffering from the 'political machine blues'. The Labor Party and the Greens have always been the parties offering hope, honesty and a straightforward approach. At the moment, the Greens are still doing that well, but Labor is not.
The Liberal/National Coalition have been broad in their scope in gathering their candidates and have stuck to the usual message that they can do it all better. It has always worked well for them, and continues to do so.
'The Drum' featured several panelists this week who all lamented the fact that Labor are getting too polished and are appearing 'out of touch'. They have stopped listening and they are worrying so much about themselves that they are BECOMING a community rather than REPRESENTING the community. According to the data, there are only two members of the elected Federal Labor team who are not previous staffers, politicians or lawyers. Does this mean that the community is not effectively represented? No. Someone said to me recently, who cares what you did before politics, it's what you do while you are there that counts. It does however, mean that for the Labor Party, it's time to look further afield for potential candidates so that 'ordinary' people feel more connected to their politicians.
For the Liberal Party, that's unnecessary, the core voters on that side are white collar business owners, and high income earners. Those demographics do not NEED to feel a connection to their representatives, just see that the job is done.
Blue collar workers, Unionists and low income workers form what used to be the core voting demographics for the Labor Party. These people NEED to feel a connection to the person they are voting for. They want to know that they are listened to personally, AND see the results.
Gavin King is right in that most of the elected politicians we currently have in our region, in all tiers of Government, are not well liked. The spin and the polish have distracted us from seeing the results. And there have been results. Last week the Council voted on some very important environmental policies that will ensure our region maintains it's sustainability amongst a herd of other great things, all obscured by the argument that Cr Lesina should not be able to vote on an issue concerning a second cousin's separated husband (are they kidding?).
Before Jim was knocked off, he spent over 2 years getting vital funds for JCU, approval for several key projects and many other newsworthy achievements, all of which we never noticed because the media were too focused on his personality, or lack thereof.
The Bligh Government were actually doing ok, travelling along nicely, until the introduction of the asset sales. The explanations and discussions over these are irrelevant. The simple fact is, the majority of people don't want them. As soon as you start to argue for something that most people don't want, they switch off.
So for all the parties, big and small, here is the simple message. Spin has got to go (yes, for you too Warren). The party machines have got to be switched off. The candidates and elected members need to get out more (with the exception of Curtis Pitt, who appears to be everywhere) and instead of just nodding heads all in a row....listen to what the public are saying (all of the public), take those views with you to caucus, and vote on THOSE issues. Stop considering each opportunity to achieve something, or discuss something, an opportunity for re-election, and start thinking of it as an opportunity to really engage with the public.
Lastly, .....encourage debate. Stop flicking the off switch when people from your own party are telling you that you are wrong. Opinions are many and varied, and no, you can't please all the people all the time, but why not at least take some time to explain yourself.
To the media, start printing (in BIG letters) the achievements from all forms of government, and from all sides of politics. Focus on what is being done, not what is NOT being done. Just try it for a few weeks and you will find that good things are happening, some ordinary things are too, but it's not actually as bad as you would have us believe. Politicians are accountable to the people, who are you accountable to?