The Trust Issue

Apparently, the biggest single issue that “ordinary Australians” have with Julia Gillard is that she has “lied” about introducing a carbon tax, breaking an election promise. It goes without saying that Gillard is far from the first PM to have broken a election promise, let alone one about tax; the difference is this time, her opponent hangs on to that and doesn’t let go of a line until it proves to have wormed its way into the psyche of the average voter.

Why is it though that adaptability is derided as an unworthy notion in politics? If there’s one thing you learn from politics, it’s deal making – the art of compromising in order to achieve outcomes. As we saw after the election last year, obstinate refusal to participate in a process of negotiation tends to leave you with no seat at the table – and this carbon tax is the result of that very same process of negotiation that won the ALP a face-saving second term. The “lie” became one because of the result that the electorate handed to the parties, and achieving a pragmatic result ought to be accepted as better than partisan bickering along idealistic lines that achieves nothing.

The same goes for American politics: a refusal to engage on the issue and work out a compromise that achieves something simply leaves the government floundering, ineffectual and showing the frailty of the system. Being able to think beyond your own self-interest is the mark of a mature adult, not sticking to a position in the face of evidence and reason.

I despair at the inability to accept compromise or a change of position in our political leaders. Why do we expect them to be so unreasonable? The violence and vehemence that fills what passes for political debate is not a sign of an healthy democracy where open conversations occur.


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