There has always been an unpleasant edge to public discussion of politics. It is much easier to vilify people who see things differently from you, than to engage with them and to see this engagement as an opportunity to learn.
The rise of Facebook and Twitter have exacerbated this tendency to personal insult and hasty dismissal instead of reasoned discussion. It is not uncommon for posts on political issues to be met with one word responses: “Fascist!” “Racist!” “Redneck!” “x, y, or z Phobe!”
It is just as common to find these words used to describe politicians or other public figures, as if screeching names or slogans said anything about the person referred to or issues at stake.
One of the most obvious recent examples is the media’s calling down of a rain of fury on the Prime Minister, because he took a short break with his family.
Fire and emergency management are, of course, the responsibility of the states. Despite this, the Prime Minister met with state leaders to talk about strategies and resources, and offered them everything they said they needed. He has visited affected communities, and talked with families, farmers, and firefighters.
So why should he not take a break with his family, his first since becoming Prime Minister, during school holidays when he can spend time with his children? There is no reason at all.
“But it’s a bad look! He doesn’t care!”
Rubbish. It is only a bad look because the media says it is a bad look. The Premier of Victoria, Dan Andrews was on a longer holiday, while the Premier of Queensland, Anna Palaszczuk, decided to pack up and go on a cruise. But fire and emergency management are their responsibility, not Scott Morrison’s.
I couldn’t care less about Andrews or Palaszczuk having a holiday. What is alarming is the hypocrisy, and the extent to which people are willing to be outraged simply because the media tells them they should be.
Scott Morrison recognised that volunteers are not in it for money but because they care about their communities. He is also the first political leader to recognise that while small businesses want to support, they cannot pay wages indefinitely to people who are not working, and volunteers need to pay bills and buy food for their families. Consequently he has offered the states money to compensate fire-fighters and others who are off work for extended periods of time.
Again, it is worth noting that this is despite the fact emergency services are a state responsibility.
It is interesting to look back on the media reaction to former PM Tony Abbott’s actually being on the frontline of fire-fighting. See the article from The Guardian below. There is no pleasing some people. Because for some people the issues are not the issue, it is about the tribe.
Should Tony have stopped volunteering and focussed on running the country? Should Scott never go on holidays, and stop eating and talking to people and focus on running the country?
He seems to be doing a pretty good job of that.
Australia faces economic challenges, including high energy prices, global trade tensions and a devastating drought. Yet Australia has maintained its AAA credit rating.
Australia has first current account surplus in 40 years, and the lowest welfare dependency in 30 years.
The budget is in balance for the first time in 11 years. Inherited debt is being paid off. Over four years, this will mean $13.5 billion that no longer needs to be spent on debt interest.
More than 1.4 million new jobs have been created in the last five years. Record amounts are being invested in schools, hospitals, aged care and disability support.
Following the biggest tax cuts in twenty years, household disposable incomes have had the fastest increase in a decade. This means more money can be put into building a strong future, and caring for Australians in need. This includes $4.2 billion in accelerated infrastructure projects, $1.3 billion in increased support for drought relief and 10,000 more home care packages for older Australians.
Is everything perfect? Of course not. I still have major issues with some government policies, including the absurd decision to buy slow, noisy submarines which are not only untested but will be out of date before the first one is delivered. Our defence forces deserve the best equipment we can afford, and for resources to be allocated according to an evidence-based, long term strategic plan.
But it is also important to recognise what is being done well, and to acknowledge that most politicians on all sides are decent, hard-working people, who want to make Australia and the world a better place.