Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

So Long, Farewell ...

It's been another one of those weeks where I've spent too much time living politics to actually write about it, but I don't think it's too late to pay a brief tribute to the members of the NSW Parliament to whom we said goodbye on Thursday as the houses rose for the last time before the March election.

It's a Parliament that couldn't end too soon for a thoroughly demoralised Opposition, who spent much of their final two weeks for the year staring at their hands and cringing as their leader managed not only to drag the NSW Government out of a potentially crippling scandal but to drag his own party straight into the mud. Did Thursday mark Peter Debnam's last Question Time as leader? I would bet money on it.

So too would Morris Iemma, who brought an `I'm Backing Barry' badge to the final Question Time, perhaps wringing a pained smile from Deputy Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell. Many had their misgivings about Iemma as he became Premier little more than a year ago - and though his beginning was hesitant, he has become a sharp and effective Question Time performer and an increasingly confident leader.

The Opposition frontbench became such an empty place after its Shadow Ministers lost their pre-selections or retired, one by one that Debnam was forced into a final reshuffle before the year ended. Andrew Humpherson, John Ryan, Peta Seaton (who retired, but reportedly not without pressure), and Andrew Tink, who is likely to be succeeded by the controversial former Deputy DPP Greg Smith. Ryan, an MLC best known for his resemblance to Ned Flanders, decried the process which saw himself and other moderates deposed as a `right-wing cancer'. Amen to that. No pun intended.

Meanwhile, former shadow Minister Steve Pringle will, after sensationally tearing up his Liberal Party membership in Parliament, contest his seat of Hawkesbury as an Independent. Leaving from the Nationals are former Shadow Minister Ian Slack-Smith and long serving Nationals MP Ian Armstrong - who, as far as I can remember, is the only Opposition MP to actually serve as a Minister (correction: I have been alerted that George Souris and Chris Hartcher escaped my mind. While the idea of Chris Hartcher as Shadow Attorney General scares me, the notion of Chris Hartcher as Minister for the Environment is positively petrifying).

The Upper House will not be losing the long-running Democrats MLC Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, despite what you may have read on this blog (we all make mistakes), but it will lose its President, Meredith Burgmann, Jan Burnswood, Unity Party MLC Peter Wong, and, in a crushing blow that I'm sure will devastate you all, former One Nation member David Oldfield. May his oblivion lie the way of ever more cringeworthy reality shows. Actually, I don't care which way his oblivion lies, I just can't wait for it to happen.

Finally to the Government. On the backbench, we're saying goodbye to John Bartlett, John Mills, Paul Crittenden, Marianne Saliba and, controversially, Bryce Gaudry, who lost his pre-selection to local TV host Jodi McKay in an unpopular move that could easily prove a Head Office own-goal. Several former Ministers are also moving on, including Pam Allen and Kim Yeadon. Minister for Tourism, Sport & Recreation and Women Sandra Nori departs after 19 years, as does Bob Debus, after a distinguished career in NSW Parliament (and perhaps, before another in Canberra). The week in which he delivered a powerful speech which may have spelt the political demise of Peter Debnam was also the last for Debus, who as a member for 19 years and a Minister for 16 is the government's longest serving Minister.

I think it's appropriate to quote Debus' valedictory speech in regards to all of the above. I admire anyone who enters public life, regardless of their philosophy, because if there's one thing I dislike more than the philosophy of the Opposition, its those of either persuasion who complain about the way things are yet make no attempt to do anything about it. This will sound a most un-progressive statement, but I'm actually a little sad about the changes to parliamentary protocol which mean that Ministers are no longer described as `Honourable', because I'm one of the few people who think politics is a career worthy of this description.
As I look back on the changes that I have seen in 19 years, I have often had cause for concern about how Parliament and politicians are viewed by the public. The political dramas that are played out in the pages of newspapers, on talkback radio and in the nightly television news highlight the fact that to be a politician these days can often be tantamount to a term of abuse. The importance of civility in public life cannot be overestimated. They say that nostalgia is not what it used to be, but I think that things were somewhat different when I first started here. There seemed to be more time and more mutual respect between members and a broad acknowledgment of differing views. This place has always been robust. For instance, the exchanges between Neville Wran and Leon Punch had to be seen to be believed, but it was different. Politics was less of a profession. More people in politics came from another life, and I cannot say that was a bad thing.

People on the outside contemplating a political career might think about these practices and look at the charges levelled at me in the past week or so and wonder if they should make the effort to enter Parliament. And who could blame them? We are all to blame—politicians, political operators and the media. We make the feeding frenzy what it is. It is the price to pay for reducing modern politics to a cross between a blood sport and an open mike night at the Comedy Store. But the events of the past few days have reminded me that the political process still has the power to redeem, to reveal truths and to deliver justice.

6 Comments:

At 8:03 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corrections:

Rev Hon Dr Gordon Moyes is not leaving.

Chris Hartcher (Lib) was Minister for the Environment.

George Souris (Nat) had a string of Ministerial positions from 1992-95.

 
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