Will 2013 be the year of the moral politician?

After a year of broken promises and dishearteningly despondent debate, a few weeks back the chorus of cries to remove all personal vestiges from political discourse in 2013 rang as loud and as relentlessly as the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

In the afterglow of their clean slate, parliament mutually agreed upon a New Year’s resolution to do just that – to move beyond personal attacks – in a bid to bridge the divide between a parliament blinded by personal vitriol and opinion polls and an electorate tired of having tantrum-prone toddlers for elected leaders.

While it is an almost universally recognised truth that New Year’s resolutions are about as useful as flyscreens on a submarine, politicians and plebeians historically tend to utilise the January 1 duster to wipe off the chalkboard board graffiti of the year before.

And so the New Year’s resolution tap was turned on and down they came. Prime Minister Julia Gillard called for optimism and unity in the New Year. Malcolm Turnbull pushed for a focus on "the responsibility of dealing with the big issues of our time” rather than "the game of politics”. Even Bob Katter – no stranger to both the inner workings and inherent madness of the establishment – urged a better performance in the New Year after ranking 2012 as the worst in his memory.

The proof will be in the pudding. Can 2013 – this election year littered with deeply personal, moral issues – really be the year to show the voters that humanity still exists in parliament?

Last year’s mud-slinging was, ultimately, a charade. It was mud-slinging for the sake of mud-slinging, for the cheap thrill of the pungent smell of sodden dirt as it slips down the walls of parliament house.

Voters deserve better. As an electorate we want to know that our representatives are in touch with the concerns of everyday Australians. That they have a heartbeat and a moral compass.

Calculated as they may have been, Julia Gillard’s very public reaction to her father’s passing, as well as Tony Abbott’s various personal trials and triumphs – did contextualise the bureaucrat behind the blouses and the blue ties. They provided a peek behind the curtain of the usually stoic establishment, and may have unknowingly set a precedent for the year ahead.

The hunt is already on for the hot-button issues of ‘Election 2013’ with both sides of the divide pulling, polling and preening the electorate to within an inch of its sanity in order to uncover the matters that will sway people’s votes come polling day.

Economic management will of course feature, particularly in the wake of the government’s abandoned budget surplus and the opposition’s never-ending chorus of fiscal irresponsibility. The government has already unveiled what will likely be its two major election spends – the NDIS and the Gonski education reforms – and like its 2010 election linchpin, the NBN, they will be counting on the ‘grand scale’ of the projects, as well as the almost unheard of tangible, tactile benefits to the everyday lives of millions of Australians to sway votes.

The coalition will say that sound economic management, not grand spending, is what Australia needs in these uncertain times.

But it’s the moral – and dare one suggest personal – issues which underpin these policies that will likely resonate; equality and the promise of a ‘fair go’ chief among them.

Australia’s appointment to the United Nations Security Council will offer the establishment a front row seat to the great, global moral issues of our time. Ongoing conflict in the Middle East, the vitriolic gun debate in the United States and the continuing rise of China will collectively call on politicians to form sophisticated, personal judgments from which to build their political platforms.

This says nothing of ongoing moral debates on home soil; the recurring back and forth over same-sex marriage, the impact of climate change and the Royal Commission into the sexual abuse of children, to name but three.

Voters can’t expect their leaders to take important moral stances in one court of public opinion and simultaneously act so contemptuously of each other.

After all, morale is not a commodity; it cannot be costed and rolled out. The vitriol of 2012 drove many voters to dismiss political debate and its establishment as irrelevant. The most effective way to counteract this is for Canberra to show it has a backbone. Not to shut out the personal elements of the political debate, but invite them in. Best of all, moral leadership costs nothing.

By injecting a personal touch directly into these debates, politicians on both sides will be afforded the chance to take the kind of moral leadership such issues not only demand, but which history recalls to be of equal importance to economic and political leadership.

It is a resolution all of us would welcome.

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Will 2013 be the year of the moral politician? NO (Will 2013 be the year of the moral politician?, January 19).
Voters already know that politicians play games with the meaning of words and promises...core and non core promises which a leader today might make and the next leader will repudiate. In reality our political leaders are really a Chairperson/ mouthpieces of the Board they call the Cabinet which is expousing what policies the Cabinet wants to promote yet the leaders are used as pawns to give the perception of difference or individuality from the Cabinet in the publics eyes imo. These elected/ appointed leaders of the Board/Cabinet are generally those who are very good communicators and have the best command of english language to sell a policy to the potential voters at election time.
Imo the ALP has a natural advantage because its voter base are more in number and who are made to feel they are battlers and need the union muscle behind the party to extract more tax from the HAVES to redistribute to them via social welfare and other programs of most benefit to them. Its easier for the ALP to promise more giving than the Liberal Party who are perceived as financially tight fisted.
The Liberal voter on the other hand probably feel cheated that they are paying an unfair share of the tax burden and want to generally pay less but still enjoy the benefits of MediCare and other welfare benefits and would want politicians to break any increase in tax promises. In reality when one tax goes, another tax by another name or scale is introduced to give the perception of a promise fulfilled.
Most voters already know that most of our politicians mean well and believe in the same things which are considered todays morality but they will never expect or imo always even want politicians to tell the truth when it comes to trying to win a majority of seats in the Parliament when each side is trying to score extra votes (Will 2013 be the year of the moral politician?, January 19).
"Voters deserve better". Can't argue with that.
But the media bears a lot of the responsibility for the quality of discourse. It has a huge role in deciding the political issues of the day which will get coverage (Will 2013 be the year of the moral politician? January 19).
The media prefers highlighting the salacious and the personal (eg "Julia, you've got a big arse") over what is sees as the tedium of policy analysis. Even when a "gate" it has been beating up over a number of months is found to have no legs, the media lets it drop without properly scrutinising the role of those that orchestrated the scandal/shock/fraud in the first place. Instead, it then moves on in search of a different sensation. No wonder the mud slinging is so widespread as there is little incentive for restraint. The most recent example is Ashbygate/Slippergate. While the Daily Telegraph is at the forefront of this type of "journalism", others have also been wanting. A chronicle of the Telegraph's treatment of this story can be found at: http://www.independentaustralia.net/2013/politics/the-ashbygate-conspiracy-of-silence/ .
I note that the Business Spectator has now joined the Daily Telegraph in the News Limited stable. I hope this will not be an impediment to your focus being on the enhancement of moral, economic and political leadership rather than the sensational.
How very noble of you Mitchell. A glaring omission in you piece is the fact that we, the electorate, have come to expect a lot more form government than we are prepared to give, we have indulged in a somewhat toxic culture of entitlement and any morality has long gone for the political arena, the political class in fact is a reflection of the people they lead (Will 2013 be the year of the moral politician? January 21).
Thinking people have been waiting for the words, POLICIES, MORALS & ETHICS to enter the Politicians vocabulary for well over the last 20+ years, not only in Australia but a number of Western Countries. Journalists seem to opinonate well after the trends start in certain sectors of Society? (Will 2013 be the year of the moral politician? January 18.)
The year just past offered the sobering scene of our politicians behaving like two tribes of hyperactive monkeys throwing unpleasant missiles at each other - the stickier the better.
Many of us will be hoping to see a change. But are we perhaps overly optimistic? Most of the monkeys will be returned to the cage but can they be trusted to do anything other than swap roles? (Will 2013 be the year of the moral politician?, January 21).
If I hear one more media pundit essentially call for 'moral leadership' from both majors I'll fair choke to death. As much as the MSM has been acutely embarrassed by their favourite flavoured Govt, one Tony Abbott is not singularly responsible for their annus horribilis, nor the acute stench that arose from the Treasury benches all year (Will 2013 be the year of the moral politician? January 18).
It is essentially the job of an Opposition to point out the shortcomings of the incumbent, not their fault that the task is made so easy sitting back in reclining chairs. The reclining chairs and popcorn came out early with the Rudd Gillard spill sideshow and sadly for voters there was no reason to fold them away all year. The pundits just don't or won't get it, but I'm not quite sure which just yet.