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.