LYING LIARS WHO LIE: Politicians peeing in the well of trust will leave sour after-taste

Land_Of_Make_BelieveMelbourne’s Lord Mayoralty is not the biggest job in Australian politics but nor is it entirely ceremonial. The municipality is small, based principally around Melbourne’s rectangular Central Business District but collects enormous revenues and makes big decisions about Australia’s second biggest city.

Its Lord Mayor is not such a bad bloke, a bon vivant teacher who became an elite private school-master and then a politician who was cursed by being the right man at the wrong time. A mainstream Liberal who got knifed by lefty Liberal Ted Baillieu, who essentially fell into office by being the wrong man in the right place at the right time. Robert Doyle is much more representative of Liberal members and supporters across Victoria than Red Ted Baillieu will ever be.

Doyle would have made a great Premier. Baillieu looks like being hopefully slightly above average.

But Doyle’s announcement yesterday that cars will now be permanently denied access to Swanston Street, which has been an unpleasant hybrid of mall and tram/taxi thoroughfare (and will probably always remain that way for as long as trams run along it) made us think long and hard about the nature of politicians and its practitioners.

Because Doyle was elected on a range of delightfully non-specific, unmemorable promises with two exceptions. One was a pledge not to spend ratepayers’ money on overseas junkets. That took him several months to dishonour as he ponied up for business class flights to that beautiful Russian city of St Petersburg.

Another he was very explicit about was that he would end the restrictions on cars driving on Swanston Street and return it to its former role as a key thoroughfare through Melbourne. Probably not a good idea but there was and is a constituency for it, even though it is strongly opposed by enviro-faddish Council officers who have spent many tens of millions of dollars trying to improve the streetscape and make it more of a pedestrian mall in keeping with theories and white papers distributed around enviro-focused council officer conferences usually held in five-star resorts.

Whether Doyle got wise, demonstrated courageous leadership or just plain lied depends on your point of view. But it’s not a good look and he seems to think he’ll get away with it without consequence, even making his new Swanston Street policy a centrepiece of his re-election strategy. Chutzpah might perhaps be his slogan.

On the other side of politics, Prime Minister Gillard sought re-election, at least partly on the basis that she would not introduce a carbon tax. She said so quite explicitly in the face of a Coalition scare campaign saying she would introduce one.

She broke her promise, quite blatantly by introducing a carbon tax ahead of a cap-and-trade system of permits which will tax and limit carbon emissions generating the Commonwealth many billions in tax revenue.

Victoria’s Premier Ted Baillieu – Doyle’s nemesis – was himself elected on the basis he would – just like that – fix the problems.

How nice.

But his government shows no sign of fixing anything.

Trains still run late. Still no decision on Myki. No change to the supposedly disastrous desal plant. Kids still go unprotected and abused. Young Sudanese take to each with machetes and chains after beauty pageants.

And the government’s somnolent activity seems principally about inventing a budget black-hole that presumably could never have really existed while Victoria retained its AAA credit rating as it had in NSW.

Another impressive example was Victorian Transport Minister Terry Mulder who last week broke a promise-to-breach land-speed record when he went down to a city train station to announce the momentous decision that pet-owners would henceforth be able to bring their little loved ones on-board country trains. In an effort worthy of a Yes, Minister episode, the press release done, the photo op organised with cute puppy, journos and photographers all summoned with the only problem being that no-one had bothered to tell those running Victorian country trains, V-Line, that a change of policy had occurred. Because there were many OH&S and industrial and customer safety issues to think about, V-Line management put up a little declaration of its own on its website essentially telling the public to hold back on plans to take their Siamese cat or Doberman on an outing to Mildura while they worked out the details or perhaps tried to talk Mulder out of it.

An embarrassing and lazy effort from the chap meant to be an alternate leader should Baillieu be run over by a late-running bus one afternoon. When Liberal ministers complain about not having enough staff, this is why the Premier’s office should probably listen up and put their Red Ted veto pen for factional disloyalty down.

It did show – in gory detail – how crude and ill-considered can be the formulation of government policy. Hollow Men was not fiction.

It really is enough to make one a little cynical.

A good friend of ours is one of those Gold Coast conservative-inclined business blokes who – a bit like Donald Trump or John Laws (love them as we do) – thunder on about politicians being a bunch of liars, crooks and frauds who can make promises about what they’re going to do and then can casually disregard such commitments and do whatever they want.

I’ve never really taken those kinds of rants very seriously. Politicians make huge sacrifices and take big personal risks to serve after all. While VEXNEWS can be rough on some individual practitioners, we’d rather honour the class of people who get stuck in rather than jeer along with the critics, spectators and whiners.

After a couple of beers, the other night, my Gold Coast spiv-mate observed that if he did the same thing as politicians, put out a prospectus with lies or promises he was willing to break, that he’d end up in jail for offending various provisions of Corporations Law.

And while his exposition had elements of the tribal whinge and gross generalisation, stripping back the hyperbole, thinking about those examples above, he really does have a point.

In another time, I was one of those people who helped dream up campaign commitments, in council elections, union ballots, student union polls, you name it. There’s not a crazy policy idea I can’t dream up with a keyboard, some caffeine and a looming deadline. I usually tried to limit the brain-waves to things that I thought would make the world better and be eminently deliverable.

But as in business, ideas are cheap, promises easy, execution is everything, It’s easy to arrange a photo op with a cute puppy, another thing entirely to negotiate with many different annoying stakeholders real solutions,  making controversial change in a way that mitigates risk and maximises support. Consensus-building and arriving at common-sense outcomes isn’t easy.

We see in the recent examples of the Prime Minister, Victoria’s Premier, his Transport minister and Melbourne’s Lord Mayor that across all parties, in all levels of government there is a remarkably and unacceptably relaxed attitude to honouring commitments in public life.

It’s got to be right at the heart of why politicians, while some of the best and brightest and nobly motivated people in any walk of life, are held in lower regard than used car dealers, crooks and even real estate agents.

If they don’t take their commitments seriously, we will not take them seriously. If they are casually willing to junk promises or to say whatever they need to say to win elections and then do whatever they want to do once they have won, then not only will the community’s regard for politicians continued to be undermined, it will continue to do much to disturb faith in democracy itself. It’s ironic that some of them might be able to do what freedoms’ enemies in Soviet, Nazi or al-Qaeda form have never come close to achieving.

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “LYING LIARS WHO LIE: Politicians peeing in the well of trust will leave sour after-taste

  1. Anonymous

    The Pets on V/Line story shouldn’t have been an issue- Mulder did tell V/Line- by two accounts it was either a month before the announcement, or days before- either way the union doesn’t like it, and the union gets what it likes- just look at the recent Metro delayed trains story.

    For V/Line to blatantly disregard the orders of the Minister demonstrates that upheaval is needed and needed now…the announcement was simply to revert to the existing position of allowing pets, no need for all this bureaucratic nonsense!

  2. Fatty Doyle

    Lindy I’m feeling a little bit sad can you please massage my niggling organ?

  3. Anon

    “Doyle would have made a great Premier. Baillieu looks like being hopefully slightly above average”…..

    Whatever the merits of Doyle v Baillieu, either towers over such awful duds as Brumby and Bracks.

  4. Anon

    Rick Garotti is a Rat

  5. Bollocks

    Melbourne CBD is already paralysed. Closing Swanston Street altogether will bring city traffic to its knees. Despite what you say Andrew, Mr Doyle is far from being the sharpest tool in the shed.

    In fact, many people just think he is a tool.

  6. Obese Jamie's Wife

    Jamie promised he would stop having eating competitions and dumb policy competitions with his manbag Joe Hockey. He didn’t tell the truth and now he and fat Joe are swapping suits and underwear. They are both liars.

  7. ethnic branchstacker

    Robert has a very high opinion of himself. And that’s all that matters!

  8. another Victorian victim

    Fail you is a lousy premier – missing in action most of the time. About to slash the budget to fit in some of their outlandish promises. Give us a break. There should be victim of crime compensation for what the libs are going to do to the Victorian taxpayer.

  9. Anon

    Can young labor take this Rick the rat fight elsewhere?
    We do not know or care who this guy is.

  10. Broken promises

    Given that many policies and promises are result of focus groups (dumb pollies still think these small samples matter) and poorly considered we would all be worse off if the libs implemented all their promises.

  11. The Player

    Another Doyle promie was to fix up the old hotel on the corner of Bourke & Spencer…..still there

  12. The Truth

    Governments ARE corporations in Australia today so can be held to account like your spiv mate up in Queensland. It’s just nobody is bothering to do so because the courts have also been corporatised and do the bidding of the state disregarding justice, equity and the law.

  13. heinrich

    Doyle presents himself as an ‘ideas’ man with a new energy and approach. That worked for a while but he’s a salesman who slags off the opposition then can’t deliver himself. He’s worn very, very thin.

  14. I didn’t spend much time in the CBD when I was back in Melbourne last Christmas. It just wasn’t very interesting.
    Top end of Bourke St still has Pellegrini’s, but even the bookstores seem old and tired now.

  15. Ben

    Ted Baillieu – just another annoying Geelong College boy turned nanny state operator? He chops and changes his mind too much, for sure. But his desire to be loved by the elite media concerns some deeply.

  16. Anonymous

    Lets get this straight. The cars out of Swanston St thing is not news. The final decision was made 18 months ago, complete with a media fanfare. Maybe The Age was asleep that day. The fat sleazy alcoholic lord mayor – apparently starving for publicity due to nothing actually happening at the Town Hall for several months – has decided to reannounce it and The Age, being devoid of brains has taken the bait. Doyle is simply full of shit. If he were to stand up and say “I’m just a fat greedy twat slurping from the public trough and spewing runny turd while looking down the blouses of models”, now that I would believe.

  17. Mundlimup

    Politicians seldom call a spade a spade … but they’re always willing to take a dig at the opposition.

  18. Analysis of the 2008 Municipal elections shows that Doyle was only elected on the back of the donkey vote. Had he secured a less favourable position on the ballot paper he most likely would have lost out to Peter McMullin (no great loss)

    The fact remains that the City of Melbourne is insular and way too small. Melbourne needs a “Greater City of Melbourne” that encompases a broader inner city region (The state seats of Albert Park, Melbourne, Prahran and Richmond)

    The greatest threat to democracy and a balanced environmentally and economically responsible city policy is the administration. The likes of Rob Adams and others who really drive policy, They are oblivious to reality and have a no expense spared attitude. Doyle is not in control the bureaucrats are..

    Doyle is nothing more then a dumb puppet with a much yonger girl friend.

    Thank god he was not elected Premier. He would have achieved nothing in the role either.

  19. Adrian Jackson

    Melb City (01 May 11) I dont think the “donkey vote” is what it is cracked up to be. At attendance elections the HTV card is more influencial as 50% of voters are sheep and just follow them regardless. Like ALP voters in NSW for the past 16 years.

    Postal vote elections voters have more time to think at home before casting their vote too.

    I think all council elections should be postal voting with a candidate statement and photo of all ward candidates.

    That works for my rental flat in Stonnington and my bush block in Ballarat but in Port Phillip where I live medieval attendance voting is still used. I voter early to avoid the crowds on election Saturday

  20. Ben

    To Melb City: Be careful you might lose your job. But feel free to send all your salacious Fatty Doyle photos to me after work. Andrew is busy right now. I’ll also accept all your ready-for shredding papers too (wink, wink).

  21. Giuseppe De Simone

    Obama is dead. God will judge him.

  22. Giuseppe De Simone

    It was a typo. I meant Osama who probably has done less damage to the USA than Obama.

    I haven’t seen the birth certificate for myself. It could be a forgery.

  23. Anonymous

    Well I hope none of the shop owners want truckies or couriers to deliver anything to them.

  24. Ben

    Giuseppe De Simone: I think you’re commenting on the wrong post? Anyway, if you have any compromising Fatty Doyle photos, feel free to email them to me. The Herald Sun is also busy this week.

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