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Independents, passion and towing the Party line

August 27, 2010

Whilst watching the National Press Club press conference the other day featuring independent MPs Bob Katter, Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Greens MP Adam Brandt, I was struck by how fresh it was to hear unrehearsed, unscripted, impassioned opinion from politicians, something which has been long absent from our screens as the big parties’ campaign strategists have all but neutered the public face of their spokespeople.

In their endless battle to win your vote, modern politicians have become bland, endlessly repeating bite-sized slogans such as “Moving forward”, “Stop the boats”, and “Stand up Australia”, none of which convey any meaning whatsoever, and serve only to rally the party-faithful like a war-cry to the troops.

Contrast this with the passion of Bob Katter, a man who seems to live and breathe his electorate’s issues, or indeed any of these intriguing men, and the blandness of the major party MPs is magnified, making you wonder whether they stand for anything, other than gaining the right to govern.

Inspired by the NPC presser, it occurred to me that we should encourage our representatives to say what they think, to discuss their personal feelings on issues, even if these feelings or opinions aren’t in tune with the official party line. In order for this to occur, we would need to accept that when it comes time to vote, they should support the official party policy, regardless of their opinion, because that’s what being in a team is all about – sticking together for the common goal.

I would much rather know how my representative really feels about issues, because otherwise one truly is voting only for the Party, not the individual. It is enough to know that they feel strongly about addressing climate change, for instance, even if their party officially does not – at least then I know they will pursue that issue within the Party-room discussions, working from within to effect the change that is important to them.

Why has society, and the media particularly, attached such a stigma to not “towing the Party line”? Why are candidates and MPs admonished for speaking out of turn, as the media trumpets “derision and instability in the ranks” whenever they actually state an opinion publicly? It is absurd that they’re forced to become mass-produced sock-puppets, spewing forth these silly slogans as though they’re not intelligent, passionate people who should inspire us, and probably would if their gags were removed.

I support Party discipline on the Parliament floor – we need it for stable Government. But for goodness-sake, let’s give these people some credit and let them speak their minds – who knows, Australia might even actually put someone in charge, instead of delivering a vote of no confidence as we appear to have done.

In the meantime I say thank-you to these independent MP’s – you truly inspire me, even if I disagree with some of your views.

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