Institutional respect

In the past week or so, it was announced that last December a jury of his peers had found George Pell guilty of a number of heinous crimes against children. While Pell is (at the time of writing) planning to appeal the conviction, at this stage the facts are that after a trial where the jury could not agree, a subsequent trial jury unanimously found him guilty. For legal reasons, the announcement of the conviction was delayed for a period of time.

Like it or not, the only people to hear all the evidence were Pell, the prosecution and defence legal teams, the judge and the jury. Yet, Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine have written opinion pieces for News Limited papers suggesting the conviction was wrong, comparing the decision to that of the Lindy Chamberlain trial decades ago and claiming the accusations were implausible. While Bolt, Devine and the rest of us have the right to our opinion on Pell’s actions and guilt, we weren’t in the court for the full presentation of evidence and at the end of the day, so we have no option other than to respect that our representatives (AKA the jury) that did hear all the evidence made the right decision after weighing up the alternatives.

And that’s the real issue here — respect.

It’s the same with sport. Whatever the punishment meted out to former Australian Cricket Captain Steve Smith and his Deputy Dave Warner for their role in the ball tampering incident early in 2018, there is a distinct lack of respect for the traditions and history of Australian Cricket on display when something that is clearly against the rules is contemplated by the very people that are supposed to protect the rules, history and traditions of the game. It’s also very unlikely that past football legends such as Ron Barassi or Artie Beetson would have had the lack of respect for themselves or their respective football code to consume illegal drugs during their playing careers, let alone protest that they had done nothing wrong when the evidence of the wrongdoing was leaked to the public as some current day ‘legends’ have done.

We have witnessed a similar failure of trust in politics as well over the past 20 or so years. Menzies was not liked by all, but he was respected by most. During the 70s and 80s, scandals were few and far between and yes, as reported in this The Daily Telegraph report in 2012, the Gillard Government had some doozeys! However the lack of respect for the traditions of Parliament shown by Prime Minister Howard with his ‘core’ and non-core’ promises, use of people for political ends as demonstrated with the refugees picked up by the MV Tampa in 1991 (conveniently just prior to an election Howard was fighting with racist overtones) as well as his careful manipulation of those around him to ensure that he wasn’t challenged, started us on the slippery slope. By carefully rooting out all those with alternative viewpoints and promoting the sycophants, Howard is the person who ensured that the Liberal Party of today encourages people like Abbott and Morrison to continue in politics, while trashing the reputation of the Liberal Party as being economically conservative but socially liberal.

Not that the ALP is immune from criticism here. Current Opposition Leader Shorten was up to his neck in the political games last time the ALP held the keys to the Prime Minister’s suite on Capital Hill. Howard and all Prime Ministers since have destroyed the trust in the institutions of governance across Australia, by only respecting the traditions of the office when it suits them and playing political games. Those that have organised and mounted campaigns to overthrow sitting Prime Ministers such as Dutton and Roberts also share the blame. No wonder you frequently hear people disparaging both sides of politics as being out of touch, in it for themselves or just not understanding what is really required. Luckily we don’t have the ‘right to bear arms’.

All however is not lost. There is an election due in the first half of this year. Regardless of who is elected, one of the first orders of business must be the re-establishment of compliance with the history and conventions of not only 118 years of Australian Federal Government history, but the prior history of the UK Parliament. Rather than accepting the behaviours shown by Ministers such as Roberts, Cash, Dutton, Cormann, Wilson and former Minister and current Ambassador Hockey as Morrison and his immediate predecessors have done, Ministers should be sacked for offences as trivial as those by Mick Young, (sent to the backbench because his wife brought in an undeclared Paddington Bear in to the country) or Michael MacKellar (who claimed a colour TV was black and white to avoid customs scrutiny).

Shorten claims he has learned the lessons of the past — Morrison’s behaviour seems to suggest he hasn’t. Whoever wins the election will never please the entire population of Australia. Showing respect for the role of leading the country and involving the country in a discussion on why the government can’t please all 25 million of us immediately will go a long way towards restoring respect in the institution of government (and who knows may even ensure longevity of the person in the position).

What do you think?

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Gerry

12/03/2019

I just hope that it's not too much to ask for that our elected representatives view the truth as sacrosanct and that the future leader, Prime Minister Shorten summarily sack ANY of the government's appointees when the truth is denied or hidden.  I suppose that means if you don't want to tell the truth, resign immediately.

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