You may remember a movie called ‘The Campaign’ with Will Ferrell. It didn’t set the world on fire, but it had its moment in satirising USA politics. One of the main targets was the ‘Karl Rove’ trend to try to take the opponent down on anything remotely that can paint your opponent negatively. In the film, Democratic Congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferell) is contesting the election with Marty Huggins (Zach Galfanakis) on the Republican ticket. In one scene, when the two candidates were doing a debate with each other, Marty Huggins pulls out a picture book with drawing made by Brady when he was in 2nd grade which depicts living in ‘Rainbowland’. Huggings then goes on to state how Brady will force people to live in this ‘land’ where people won’t have freedom of choice.
As satire is a bit heavy-handed, but it does make the point that in American politics it seems that anything in your past can be used as a weapon against you. There have been some events in recent years that make me fear we may go down that path as well. People on the left like me rightly bemoan the fact that this budget is lurching Australia towards an American model, and I think that is right. But we have to be careful that in our angst and anger about this budget, we don’t fall in the trap of ‘Americanising’ our politics. Rupert Murdoch and his News Ltd. acolytes has introduced this with his biased reporting on his papers. The relentless pursuit of what Julia Gillard did as a junior lawyer 20 years ago, the fact that she looked like has a relationship with someone who didn’t turn out what she hoped all which turned out to be irrelevant was a glaring example. The fact that other more respectable media such as Fairfax and the ABC picked up the story shows how pernicious this type of stuff is.
But going back even further, university is a place where many people, finally free from the constraints of high school, teachers, parents etc. test new ideas and experiment. When I was in university I joined a Christian Group, something that I would never even dream to do now. Then I was interested in religion, even did a ‘Philosophy of religion’ subject, but later as I grew older I realised that organised religion was not for me. So imagine if I was a politician now trying to stop the School Chaplain program. Would some journo trawl in my records at university in 1980 and perhaps discover that I was a member of a Christian group and have me accused of being a hypocrite in the media and subsequent social media flurry?
This point was eloquently outlined by Waleed Aly in his article today. He states:
What we’re not being asked to conclude is that someone’s position might change over the course of 27 years. Or that the world might have changed sufficiently in that time to make someone feel a change in position is justified. In short, we’re being asked to hold Hockey to an inhuman standard that demands he adopt one position on all things throughout his life irrespective of circumstance….
The idea that they should be embarrassed to have once thought differently, or that this exposes them as partisan hypocrites, merely exposes our political culture as one of confected warfare, where changes of heart are automatic evidence of dishonesty rather than of reflection. We should instead be demanding that our representatives change their views over time. We should expect them to be open to persuasion. And it follows they should have the freedom to be persuaded without attracting some kind of summary judgment for it.
People change. So Greg Hunt wrote a thesis supporting a ‘pollution tax’ to combat climate change. It doesn’t mean that he is bound to be locked in that position forever. And remember when Bolt was trying to link Gillard to ‘a radical far left group’ that she was a member when she was 22?
Regarding Hockey when I commented about this on twitter the majority of the responses stated that he protested against fees, but benefitted from a ‘free’ uni education, and now penalising students. I understand the anger around this (I have to state that my undergraduate and Master degrees were free – but not my librarian Graduate Diploma, where I paid my HECS) but I think to target what Hockey believed and said in 1987 is a bit fo a phurphy. It is what he’s doing and saying now that is what’s important. And if you really want to pinpoint his hypocrisy then, remember when, in an emotional speech, spoke out against the Gillard’s Asylum Seekers bill. However, he fully supported all the Howard Government actions which included shipping people off to Nauru and locking up children. And now he’s quite happy to send them to Cambodia.
People change ideas and opinion. And we can’t say they have seen the light and are enlightened when they come to our position and they are hypocritical and sneaky when they are not.
Let’s not go the American way where the past of politicians are trawled through.