Last week Aidan McLindon and Rob Messenger quit the Liberal National Party (LNP), and have decided to stay in the Queensland parliament as independents. I don’t know the people involved, and I don’t know the background, so I’m not going to comment on that.
But one thing that did catch my attention was Aidan’s “seven principles” of government. In summary, his “philosophy” is that the government should help people and do good stuff. Amazingly, those fluffy buzz-words were actually reported with a straight face. I think Aidan missed a few, so I thought I’d help him out…
1. The government should be really really really good
2. More rainbows, cute kittens and shiny things
3. We should all hold hands and sing kum-ba-ya
4. Everybody gets a free pony
5. Protect everybody and everything
6. The government will abolish sadness
7. Working families; working families; working families
Sometimes the quality of politician discussion in Australia gets so low you only have the choice to laugh or cry.
It is the easiest thing in the world to grandstand with political populism and mouth empty banalities. This works with some voters, as has been shown previously by Pauline Hanson. But the truth is that good policy requires a hell of a lot more than good intentions. Good policy requires an understanding of the long-term and indirect consequences of different options. Sometimes the “obvious” solution will be right; but sometimes it will be dangerously wrong.
We do not choose a doctor or lawyer based solely on whether they have “good intentions” but also on whether they know what they are doing. We should hold politicians to the same standard.
I fear that some politicians (such as Kevin Rudd) concentrate too much on looking good and not enough on policy analysis. If this becomes dominant, it will lead to a generation of smooth-talking empty suits who are good at chasing opinion polls and focus groups, but steadily undermine the strength of our country.
None of this is to say that Aidan or Rob are “empty suits”. I don’t know enough about them to make a judgement. But to progress political discussion in this country, we need to move past “seven catchy slogans”, and instead face up to some of the difficult political challenges like the ageing population and continued government over-spending.