You can't discuss an idea with an ideologue

Recently I watched an episode of Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery where she ‘delivered’ Gillian Triggs back to her high school and university while discussing various elements of Triggs’ life. Towards the end of the program, Zemiro invited Triggs to read some of the commentary made about Triggs in her role as Human Rights Commissioner from 2012 until 2017.

The commentary read out by Triggs was from Tim Blair, Andrew Bolt, Peter Dutton and Eric Abetz — all of which are embedded at the right wing of the political spectrum. All the comment was critical of Triggs, who was wisely shielded from most of the commentary during her term as Commissioner by her husband.

I was watching the show with a young adult who will be voting at the next federal election. At the end of the show, the question was asked by the young adult if the commentary was accurate. The answer was ‘yes and no’.

During the TV show, Triggs stated that she is a lawyer, so when given the role of Human Rights Commissioner, task number one was to read the statutes and legislation around the position and the role of the Human Rights Commission. Once read and understood, facts were assessed against the legislation and action taken. Triggs’ charitable response to the comments she (willingly) read was that clearly those that wrote the comments didn’t understand the role of the Commission because they probably haven’t read the legislation. However Bolt, Blair and the others quoted probably believed their commentary was accurate.

The problem with ideology is that at times you can’t see the forest for the trees. Nowhere in the comments aired was a detailed description of the apparent fault in the legislation the Human Rights Commission operates under or a discussion on how the particular conservative commentator would rectify the issue. The perceived failures in the legislation or the way it was implemented were not explored, because it is far easier to fan the flames of displeasure with the person. In short, they were shooting the messenger, so using the test of reasonableness, the commentary wasn’t accurate.

Ideology gives you ‘permission’ to disregard any other point of view except your own and that of your fellow travellers. As demonstrated over the years in Australian politics, both sides of the political spectrum have implemented worthy advances to our lifestyles. John Howard and Tim Fischer’s Coalition Government implemented gun reform after the mass murder of 35 people (and an additional 23 were injured) in Tasmania in 1996.

Medibank, the universal health insurance system was launched by the Whitlam ALP Government in 1975 and relaunched as Medicare by the Hawke ALP Government after an attempted dismantling of the system by the Fraser/Anthony Coalition Government in the period between 1975 and 1983.

And if your ideology can’t find any counterpoint to the discussion promoted by those who have an alternate view, you have a go at the messenger as Bolt, Blair and others did to Triggs during her term as Commissioner and the IPA recently did to the ABC. According to research paid for by the IPA,
about a third of Australians don’t agree with the ABC, don’t trust the ABC, with some of the information that it has.
Regardless of simple mathematics suggesting that about two thirds of Australia either has no opinion or do trust the ABC, the IPA uses this research (which is questionable statistically) to justify their claim the $1.1 billion-a-year national broadcaster [should] be privatised; which suits their public agenda. The IPA also doesn’t seem to be too concerned by up to 80% of Australians being ‘worried’ about climate change (according to a survey by The Australia Institute). Maybe the positions they take are not based solely on the public good — but ideology.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of shooting the messenger. Politicians are past masters of the art. How many times in the past month have you heard Federal Ministers deflect questions on their competence or how their government is performing with a detailed commentary on what Labor are alleged to have done or promised such as Morrison attempted to do when being interviewed in early March by Leigh Sales on ABCTVs 7.30?

The honest reality is that Labor haven’t been in government since 2013 — therefore whatever policy or process they may have implemented if they had been elected is frankly irrelevant to the current situation. Secondly, we will never know if Labor would have implemented the policy if they had won, as they may have either not gained the necessary support or they might have actually listened to advice which counselled for a different course of action. Third, it seems the current government will not accept, let alone take ownership of the problems it has either caused itself or inherited from events internationally.

Certainly, the ALP also gives commentary on the actions and personalities of the Coalition Government. Frequently, the commentary also contains elements of shooting the messenger which is unnecessary, however ineptness or maladministration needs to be identified and publicised (as the Coalition should be doing if the ALP is in power).

The ideology problem is certainly not only political — there are people around who would never travel with a particular airline, listen to certain genres of music or watch a particular sporting event. And the majority of them will act as adults and not physically or mentally harm those who do use the disliked products. The ideologues are the victims here — the ‘hated’ genre of music most certainly will have some who do have the ability to craft some special melodies or lyrics that deserve everyone’s attention.

It doesn’t work that way in politics. Decrying those that have a different viewpoint solely for having a different viewpoint is not only disadvantaging themselves but the rest of us. No one is 100% right all the time, neither is the introduction of a good idea the sole preserve of any one particular ideology. If politicians are decrying others in the political sphere over ideology rather than the legislation they are employed to implement or maladministration, you have to ask is there actually anything wrong with the idea or policy.

The next time you hear a politician or a commentator make the argument that a certain situation is all the fault of a person or group on ‘other side’, ask yourself if the speaker has a point or if they are just so ideologically tied to a position, they can’t see the forest for the trees.

What do you think?

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Today 19/03/2020 is Ad astra's NINETIETH BIRTHDAY! 


This site, hosted by Ad astra since 2008, has for me been key to political commentary since I first found it in 2010, with Ad's regular articles leading so many passionate earnest contributors in the early days, and the amazing, diligent, gracious @LynLinking showing the way to vast vistas of the burgeoning political landscape thitherto beyond my ken. I learnt more about real politics here in those first few years than I did from studying "Politics" at Uni, and felt more included and involved here than from my lifetime since adolescence of the Australian Labor Party, of which I remain forever a member even while my big brother Gordon was Member for Kingston during the Hawke-Keating years. I couldn't wait to read the lead article and to try to keep abreast of Lynnie's links. Such passion and vigilance from so many, and writing comments myself seemed so easy!   

How times have changed, though, since those heady hopeful days of Kevin Rudd and our beloved *J*U*L*I*A*!  By the treachery of one of Adelaide's own, Rupert Murdoch, by the perfidy of the hyper-rich, by the chicanery of the Institute of "Public" Affairs, we are now saddled with a ruling gang of entitled thieves and liars .. and it feels we've lost our way. And now words don't come easy, I can't cockily crow VENCEREMOS! any more because ..

No. I am not going to dwell on those changes today. I just want to say how enriched I have been by my association with Dr Wes Fabb there I've said it and all those whose points of view he has encouraged and hosted. Look back over the huge wealth of contemporary history and commentary in the Archives here, and wonder at the wisdom and effort and education he has engendered.  

Thank you Wes, and all those who have helped you.

Thanks Alex, whom I have never met. And especially Marion, whom I have. XXX.

Ad astra you are a genuine living treasure.

Do stay that way, and inshallah, I will see you here on 19/03/2030 to rejoice in your 100th.



Ad Astra


Talk Turkey aka Bruce

Yesterday was indeed my 90th Birthday, a busy day filled with good wishes and visits from family, so much so that I did not once go to my blog site. So it was not until just now that I read your touching tribute to my contribution to contemporary political dialogue.

Thank you so much for your kind, complimentary remarks. From someone as versed in politics as you are, they are the acme of praise.

You have been a most loyal follower of TPS over many years, a regular commentator, always astute, always helpful.

You acknowledge Lyn's magnificent contribution via 'Lyn's Links' over many, many years. She still contributes to political dialogue every day via Twitter.

You acknowledge too the contribution of our webmaster, Alex (Web Monkey) who keeps this, the most sophisticated of political blog sites, which he created, running and up-to-date.

Behind the scenes our longstanding colleague Bacchus codes many of the published articles and arranges the sequence of posting. His input and his guiding hand are invaluable. Another colleague, 2353NM, a prodigious contributor, continues to write brilliant pieces that attract scores of five-star ratings. Already, the current piece has 25, 5 star ratings.

As always, our spouses support us year after year as we pursue our perpetual interest in politics.

TPS has always been a collaborative endeavour, which is one of the reasons it has survived for over ten years.

My it continue to be a source of useful information in this time of political turbulence.



Congratulations old fellow, a metal horse, from a youngster who was in awe of your words when I thought you were a war baby to discover you were a depression baby makes you amazing. 

Ad Astra



Thank you for your kind remarks.

Yes, I was depression baby. It was when I was living in Nambour in Queensland as a child that I first saw unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and hopelessness. Unemployed men came to our door asking for money to buy food. But after seeing the money she gave them being spent at the pub, my mother decided huge nourishing sandwiches, which they hungrily devoured, were more appropriate. 

Those times made lasting impressions. They formed my ideas about inequality and the burden it imposed on society, so eloquently expressed in Joseph Stiglitz' The Price of Inequality. Much of what I have written reflects the attitudes I formed during these troubled years.

My initial career choice was to build homes for homeless men, but somehow I ended up doing medicine - a most satisfying career that provided many opportunities to support those in need.

It is sad to still see inequality as one of the major burdens that afflicts our society. Little seems to change; only the dateline. Progressive parties see the curse of inequality; others see it too often as a natural phenomenon which needs no attention.

This blog site will continue though to draw attention to inequality in all its forms. Some may listen.

I have two politicians and add 17 clowns and 14 chimpanzees; how many clowns are there?