“Trust me, I’m a politician”

Australians are always pleasantly surprised when our politicians keep their promises. This happens occasionally, but not as often as it should.

Today our Prime Minister announced with a fanfare that she was going to break one of the promises which brought her to power in the 2010 election. She had promised Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie that her government would implement real and effective reform of the poker machine industry. Now the political landscape has changed, so she has announced that she will not keep that promise, and Wilkie has withdrawn his support from the government. No-one should be surprised at this – it is what our politicians do. But is is sad. It will ensure a larger war chest of funds for the ALP in the next election, but those funds will be at the expense of considerable misery for many Australian families.

Strangely, no prominent ALP figures have spoken publicly about the need for Australian politicians to make promises which they later decide not to keep. Liberal party politicians have been much more honest about this, with former Prime Minister John Howard admitting frankly after the 1996 election that politicians make ‘core’ promises (which they intend to keep) and ‘non’core’ promises (which they don’t), and current Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s surprisingly honest admission that not everything he says should be taken as ‘gospel truth’.

No-one in Australia would want the manifestly corrupt US system of government to be imposed on us here, but surely we can somehow find a better way that this? I believe that the only answer is for us to elect more independent and minor party members of parliament. Whether they are from the right, left or centre, they will ensure that our political leaders are held accountable, and not surrounded by sycophants who will agree with whatever they say or do, not matter how corrupt or dishonest it may be.

Electing independents and minor party members of parliament to the house of representatives and the senate will give us the opportunity to have greater scrutiny of the political decision making process. It will be ugly, and the apparatchiks and rusted-on supporters of the major parties will hate it, but it give us a more accountable than what we have now. And maybe, just maybe, it will give us politicians who keep their promises slightly more often than we have now.

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