Journalist says she likes politicians. It must be Christmas!

Annabel Crabb has written a piece on the ABC’s new website, The Drum, admitting that she likes politicians – and then even goes on to say why. Perhaps not surprisingly, I think it is a good piece, although the Christmas spirit of goodwill might have made her a bit more charitable than she needed to be.  It does make some important points though, including about the impacts that the nature of media coverage has on what politicians say and how they behave.

However, I do think her estimate of politicians – “that perhaps one in ten is there purely for reasons of ego, self-aggrandisement or self-enrichment” – is overly generous. In my experience I’d put this closer to one in five (although most of those would be for the first two reasons, not for self-enrichment).

And also , Annabel repeats the common assertion that the New South Wales system of having fixed four year terms between elections is responsible for protecting the current “otherwise unelectable state government” from being removed via an early election. This assertion is common, but it is wrong. Even without fixed terms, there is no way the current NSW government would call an election any earlier than it had to – precisely because it knows it would lose.

I think the NSW situation has highlighted a good argument for states to revert to three year terms (and for Queensland and the federal level to stay at three years), but I can’t see any argument against fixed terms.

However, in the Christmas spirit, I shouldn’t focus on a couple of minor flaws. Although its a constructive and generally positive portayal of politicians is nice, the real worth of the piece comes from its reflections on the downsides of public and media expectations of government and politicians.

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  1. My reason for favouring four-year terms is that I would like to hope that they lengthen the cycle of: frantic work after an election to sort out which promises actually can be kept, which might take 6-12 months, then 12 months of trying (or not trying) to do what can be done in 12 months, because the last 12 months are spent electioneering again.

    We need longer-term vision in this country. For all his faults, Whitlam had vision, even Fraser in his young days had vision, Hawke had some vision, Keating had it in buckets, but his achievements are not recognised, poor bastard, and Howard, oh the opportunities he threw away for short-term ends. Look at our infrastructure now! God, where are our ports, our railways, our research and innovation sites?

  2. Sometimes I think Annabel Crabb is the lovechild of an angel and a pixie. It’s not just the angelic look she has on The Drum website, she can raise a critical point in a manner that deployed by most anyone else would come across as scathing, yet she makes it all so friendly.

    Of course it’s wasted a bit when she says something that’s wrong! :O

  3. Happy New Year to all.
    Togret, I agree. 3 years is really not long enough to actually allow vision and the necessary time to realistically achieve items on the legislative agenda. Britain has 5 years. Is that too long? Perhaps. 4 years?, probably about right. I live in Victoria where the electoral cycle is now fixed for November every four years. I think this was a good move. It totally gets rid of the stupid claytons campaigning that happens before an election is called. Fixed terms remove any uncertainty so that everyone, including voters (shock horror) know where they stand.
    Vision and foresight is something that your 1 in 5 politicians lack Andrew. I actually don’t necessarily disagree with you on the 1 in 5 but I will say that in my estimate maybe 9 out of 10 politicians start out in their careers with high ideals but simply through having to work within the system and make compromises (such as towing party lines) they become jaded and all that’s left for the one in fives is ego and self aggrandisement. Of course some politicians just start out bad.
    Glad you are talking about these issues, as they don’t usually get much of a run.

  4. Philip Travers, I agree.
    It is a travesty, what’s been done to Auntie the last decade.
    As for other comments, idea only works if we can get accountability and transparency back into government. Doesn’t matter how long or short any of them are in, unless firewalls erected to protect dirty deads done dirt cheap, like FOI/CIC are removed and dealing become open again. We thought after the 2007 meltdown that a window of opportunity was opening for civilisation, but all Obama, Rudd and the like have done is make it worse be making it cosmetically acceptable.

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