Digging through politicians’ pasts to ensure we only get career politicians

An important question from Crikey today, in light of the sudden attack on Andrew Wilkie regarding thirty-year-old events he long since decried:

Nonetheless, what is the public interest in raising Wilkie’s behaviour 28 years ago? Is the full past of any politician automatically open to scrutiny? Should journalists go digging through the personal histories of each member of Parliament for anything of interest — rather than being in the public interest — simply because they’re politicians? To do so would be to further tilt the scales against the participation in public life of non-career politicians — that ever-diminishing breed of people who had a real career, and a life, before deciding to enter Parliament.

Of course, the people who’d say we should hear more about every little piece of dirt we can dig up on our politicians’ lives outside politics will be the same ones who’ll decry the “machine men” and “career politicians” for their lack of real-world experience, and wonder why we never seem to “elect” anyone else.

If anyone’s wondering why I’ll never run for parliament – there’s your reason. It wouldn’t matter how much my views had changed, any youthful indiscretion or internet quote that could be taken out of context and misrepresented, would be, and it wouldn’t matter how transparent the motives and how ultimately irrelevant the attack – it’s the personal smears that get remembered, that stick. I get enough of that abuse as a minor blogger – you can imagine how much would come back to bite me if I ran in an election. Particularly on a lefty platform that would threaten the interests of, say, commercial media proprietors. It would be interesting, but ultimately not worth it, to see just how effectively they could use their influence to destroy me or anyone else who hadn’t been careful their whole life not to say or do anything controversial.

I doubt very much that I’m alone in that reluctance – and whilst you might so disagree with the things I argue that you think that’s a great thing, keep in mind that whoever it is out there who agrees with you and might be a very effective advocate for your views in Parliament, might right now be making exactly the same assessment and drawing exactly the same conclusion.

When you next complain about the paucity of choices on your ballot paper, remember this.

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8 responses to “Digging through politicians’ pasts to ensure we only get career politicians

  1. Splatterbottom

    Wilkie admitted his mistake and sincerely regretted his actions. That is the decent way to deal with these things. I don’t see how his past behaviour should count too much against him now. There is plenty to complain about in his current incarnation. Maybe this episode will help him to be less of a moralising twit.

  2. But for Wilkie it’s a good sign. Wilkie is at the third step already:
    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

  3. Yes, what people did 30 years ago is highly relevant. Unlike politicians that are current, fully-paid up members of a church legislating from their bibles today (I’m looking at you Abbott). It’s perfectly reasonable to be crazy in the here and now. It’s not reasonable to have been crazy sometime in the past and then apologized or grown out of it.

    Seriously, this is the best dirt News Ltd and the pokies guys managed to dig up on Wilkie? A hazing incident back in the bad old days of Duntroon when everyone was expected to participate or have it heaped on them worse?

    Maybe we should look at the school records of the reporter to see if he was ever caned at school for peeking under girls’ dresses or beating up nerds behind the toilet block? Sounds highly relevant to properly judge the reporter’s current character don’t you think?

  4. baldrickjones

    So I will take it that Wilkie is excused of his indescretions in his military past because of his current views? What make of you then of all the past indiscretions being dredged up right now to smear the ADF and portray the organisation as a bunch of misogynists, rapists and abusers? Are they irrelevent too because they happened in the past?

    I don’t believe that Wilkie should have to answer for this, however the MSM is publishing daily accounts from the past that is being used to paint the ADF as a pack of bastards. I note that you have not had a specific go at the ADF on this issue, however many of your ideological bent have had a go based on this exact same premise.

  5. “What make of you then of all the past indiscretions being dredged up right now to smear the ADF and portray the organisation as a bunch of misogynists, rapists and abusers? Are they irrelevent too because they happened in the past? “

    No, because they’re still happening, that’s the point. Old stuff that’s long since reformed is irrelevant, but states of affairs that still exist are clearly a matter of public concern until they’re fixed.

    Wilkie’s past is very old and he’s long since recanted from it. What he did as a cadet at Duntroon 30 years ago in that toxic culture has precisely nothing to do with his advocacy in Parliament today.

  6. And the great question is “why now?”

    Why wasn’t this smear made when he was running last August? Or why not afterwards? All the information was available then – Wilkie had admitted much of it in writing.

    And we are expected to believe that this has nothing to do with his current campaign against the parasites and purveyors of misery that make up Clubs Australia. (Sorry, I have a strict rule against using personal abuse, but sometimes…)

    Brendan O’Reilly

  7. baldrickjones

    “Why wasn’t this smear made when he was running last August?”

    Simple. He was not in a position then to make or break the current government.

  8. Pingback: I play both good and evil parts… Beware the rise of Young Liberals « Only The Sangfroid

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