Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Intimidate with soggy spaghetti or go for the jugular?

It's strange, I don't consider myself to be particularly interested in politics, but the recent shenanigans by the Victorian and Queensland state governments and the federal opposition have irritated me no end. I'm not committed to either of the major parties, but am appalled at the lacklustre interest they seem to take in acknowledging the advice from an earlier Prime Minister to represent the people of our country fairly and to act with humility and without self-interest. (See photo at the end for quote.) Whether they're currently holding power, or hoping to be elected, the words are an important guide for appropriate behaviour.

I've written about the damage the local policies are having on jobs and local communities in Victoria. I've talked about my frustration with the lack of policies and commitment to strategies to adapt to climate change, arguably the biggest social and environmental challenge to face human beings ever.

However that almost, but not quite, fades into the background with the latest jaw dropping inanities uttered by the leader of the opposition last week on national TV.

Link to 7:30 interview with Leigh Sales.

The leader of the opposition is reported to be paid $342,250 per annum, and for that sum, I'd expect him to be prepared about the topic he's about to be interviewed on. It's what I'd expect of a secondary student, a graduate or an employee. Actually, it's not about the money; whether he's paid or not, I'd expect him to have read the report he's about to be interviewed on, prepared to discuss it in an intelligent, articulate, rational manner.

That Tony Abbott saw fit to utter incorrect, insistent, repetitive, dogmatic pronouncements about a recently released BHP report, yet hadn't had the courtesy or professionalism to even open it and read and digest the contents is arrogant in the extreme. The interview is embarrassing and cringeworthy and would make an excellent teaching tool for how not to present yourself if you expect to look remotely credible.

Leigh Sales, the interviewer, asks questions with growing incredulity, yet she remains professional, polite and courteous. She is clearly astounded by Tony Abbott's obvious ignorance: "But hang on, no, no, you haven't read their statements today, but you're commenting about what they've announced today and how the Federal Government's to blame for that."

Perhaps Mr Abbott has become so used to providing "spectacle and conflict" that's he's become complacent, and thinks that doing some honest research and quoting accurately is beneath him, or perhaps it's a tedious irrelevancy.

He and his party may be surprised to know that many Australians are genuinely interested in his party's plans for our country if they win the next election. How will they address climate change, sea level rise, water shortages, food insecurity? How will they line these challenges up with economic responsibility and sustainability? These issues will affect us all. They will require intelligent, considered, calm, rational, wise leadership, not ignorant, dismissive, contemptuous, superficial rhetoric.

If Tony Abbott can't be bothered to read a report which he knows he will be interviewed about, how can he possible be considered by his party as suitable to represent Australia on the world stage with any confidence? There, he'd be expected to answer curly, possibly insightful questioning from people with no interest in protecting him or being as mild and gentle as Leigh Sales was.

In relation to refusing to seriously answer questions about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Tim Dunlop of The Drum says "Mr Abbott is not being judged on his ability to run a government, but on his ability to manipulate the media coverage by refusing to address a central question about a major policy." This is seen as admirable by some in the media.

Lack of knowledge and the ability to avoid answering serious questions is being encouraged and rewarded! For goodness sake, that's disgusting and it's time our reporters as a group lifted their act. Go for the jugular! Continue asking insightful questions and expect them to be answered appropriately, let us see when they're avoided. Australia and Australians are worth it! Aggressive sound bites are no substitute for thoughtful policy. Spare our country if this shameful embarrassment of a leader of the opposition continues in the role...and even more so if the opposition wins the next election. What is their vision for the future? We can hear their passion to destroy the current government, but that's not balanced by sharing thoughtful, wise policies.

And if the men and (very few) women of the Liberal Party consider Abbott's sound bites adequate to show his fitness to lead and possibly represent our country - what does their choice say about them?
Photo from a wall in Old Government House - Canberra. 
"May those who enter this open door govern with justice, reason and equal favour to all. May they do so in humility and without self-interest. May they think and act nationally. May they speak with the voice of those who sent them here - the voice of the people." 9 May 1927
Stanley Melbourne Bruce, Prime Minister, 1923 - 29

Leigh Sales has since been called a bit of a cow for the interview. In my opinion, the apology that followed appeared half hearted and disingenuous. (Link to the interview here)

But to recap, here's the question asked of by Liberal party strategist Grahame Morris regarding the Abbott interview:  "Were you surprised that he [Tony Abbott] didn't handle that better?"

... and Morris's reply "Well, Leigh can be a real cow sometimes".

Over on G+ I said that Morris's eventual apology is condescending, offhand and dismissive, using words like ... "poor sensitive little souls", and "silly".

A commenter replied that he thought the public reaction was a bit over the top. I disagree. To me, it comes across as a ploy to deflect attention from the fact that Leigh Sales asked a question that exposed Abbott's lack of preparedness for the interview, and his willingness to express incorrect ideas as fact.

The term cow can be used is a derogatory way to belittle or dismiss the woman it describes and to undermine her credibility. It's never used to show respect for someone asking appropriate questions.

By responding in this way, Morris avoided answering the important question "were you surprised that he didn't handle that better?" Of course a simple answer could have been damning. The unspoken answer clearly wasn't supportive of Abbott or Morris would have said so loud and clear.



Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. can't really comment - except I feel the same way - people are too self-interested and ensuring they keep their profile up, without addressing any pertinent point.

I've just been thinking about my mother .. and her business - she set it up to look after the staff, as much as the residents ... and give herself a reasonable living.

The interesting thing was that I heard similar from Yeo Valley Foods -an organic farm - who farm that way, and who market their products that way - the organisation helps other farmers .. so similar objectives - organic farming, organic production, looking after others and making a living, and they are developing a future for the farm with new initiatives including their children ..

That's enough .. I'm not good with politics! cheers Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. forgot to tick the follow-up comment box .. H

sue said...

Hilary, the whole set up we have with politics and giving time to inanities is extremely disappointing. Sound bites are presented as if they're meaningful dialogue and attempts to encourage and promote in-depth discussion of complexities is shunned. It's not the way to run a political party OR country. It's almost as if they're so far up in the clouds they've totally lost contact with what's important in the long run...only interested in power for their short term in office, not the long term health and welfare of the populace they are supposed to govern.

Thank goodness many smaller companies are aware of what is really important!

Thinking of you, and hope all is well.