Nicholas Way

Watch out! The ethical mud just hit the political fan.

Politicians can be ethical too………really

Niccolo Machiavelli could be spinning in his grave right now — there seems to have been an outbreak of political morality on both sides of the political fence.

The children overboard affair and the $300 million AWB scam, to name but two scandals, have come and gone without any politician feeling a need to resign; indeed, they didn’t even apologise.

But in the space of two weeks, a junior federal minister from Western Australian, Senator Ian Campbell, has felt the need to step down from the ministry because of an innocuous meeting with the Darth Vader of that state’s politics — former disgraced premier Brian Burke.

Back east, Labor’s shadow attorney general, Kelvin Thomson, fell on his sword after it was revealed he had written a letter of support for Tony Mokbel in 2000 in support of a liquor licence application. Even in 2000, Mokbel wasn’t the sort of lad you would want your daughter to bring home.

Today, he’s widely known — especially in Victoria — as a notorious gangland figure who seems to be in no hurry to return to Australia.

In the wake of the Campbell resignation for a lesser crime, Opposition leader Kevin Rudd could not let Thomson survive.

So are our politics suddenly operating on a higher moral plane? I fear not — and nor should Machiavelli. If anything, the politics of the past two weeks have become even more debased — a notion poignantly symbolised by cartoonists who have taken great delight in portraying politicians being covered in mud.

Interestingly, it seems that the public intuitively understands this; they know Campbell and Thomson standing down have nothing to do with political morality and everything to do with political gain. The mood, it seems, is a curse on both your houses.

That reflects the healthy scepticism Australians traditionally have for their elected representatives; they’re seen as a necessary evil.

The tragedy, however, at this particular juncture in our history, is that Australia needs far better leadership from both political parties.

This is not a bleat for some non-existent golden era when politicians didn’t play politics. But it does seem that the incumbents are finding the gutter a very comfortable abode. And this at a time when there is genuine policy differences on critical issues confronting the nation.

Global warming, water, nuclear energy, industrial relations and Iraq are serious issues that demand intelligent debate. Instead, we get silly resignations dressed up as ethical behaviour. We deserve better.



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