Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Economy

Loopholes and lies. The real scandal of Barnaby Joyce …

When principles matter no more – that’s the real scandal, says Simon Longstaff

If there is public scandal in connection with Barnaby Joyce, then it has nothing to do with the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister had an affair with a media adviser who now bears his child. That is a ‘private’ scandal – even though it has damaged a cast of thousands – especially Mr Joyce’s devastated wife and children.

The public scandal arises out of two other quite different things.

First, is the way in which tax-payer funded staffing positions are alleged to have been used for the convenience of Mr Joyce, his lover and the political fortunes of a government that would have suffered electoral misfortune had the public known of Mr Joyce’s affair prior to last year’s New England bye-election. Others are investigating the details around these and other arrangements made to help Mr Joyce manage the consequences of his choices.

Second – and I think by far the worst – has been the scandalous behaviour by the Turnbull ministry in its cynical manipulation of language to distort the plain meaning of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
“No wonder our society feels ashamed of those who serve in politics. That it has come to this is not just a scandal. It is a tragedy.”

In helping Mr Joyce evade responsibility, our government has put yet another nail in the coffin of Ministerial (and personal) responsibility. Our Prime Minister and Cabinet have made it clear – personal obligations extend no further than obeying the strict letter of the law. If there is a loophole, exploit it. If the regulations are silent, then do whatever you feel like. Forget issues of ethics, of integrity, of basic decency. Exercise no judgement. Do not hold yourself personally responsible. Just comply. Just meet the minimum legal standard. Just don’t get caught.

No wonder our society feels ashamed of those who serve in politics. That it has come to this is not just a scandal. It is a tragedy. The practice of politics was originally conceived to be a noble calling, the arena in which a citizen might work to build a good society. How tainted has that ideal become?

Do our political leaders really not understand what their example is doing to the nation? Do they truly have no idea of the corrosive effects of their hypocrisy? They rail against the rest of us for not being accountable for our actions, they hold our feet to the fire. But never, not ever, if it is one of their own… unless, unless there is not a nanometre of wriggle room left to be exploited.

No wonder we have so many laws and regulations in this country. A society led to believe that principles do not matter only has the strict letter of the law to rely upon. So, as life becomes more complicated, as the loopholes and exceptions multiply, so the legislation and regulation expands to fill the ever widening gap. It is unstoppable – because nothing else counts.

That is the lesson taught to us by political leaders from across the ideological spectrum.

That is the public scandal of the Barnaby Joyce affair.

*Simon Longstaff AO is Executive Director of The Ethics Centre, where this article was first published: http://www.ethics.org.au/on-ethics/blog/february-2018/loopholes-lies-the-real-scandal-of-barnaby-joyce

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Russell

    February 28, 2018 at 11:38 am

    Meanwhile, our illustrious leaders wish to embark on a dream of being in the world’s top 10 weapons suppliers to “boost the economy”.

    Where do those weapons end up? In the hands of tyranical Governments to use against their citizens, or those innocents of other countries they illegally invade?

    Will these weapons come back to haunt us when they are used against our own citizens?

    How about we aspire to being in the world’s top ten solar panel exporters and installers? Or the top ten electric car manufacturers? Or the top ten lithium battery suppliers?

    Just ask those who have been put off in all these industries over the last few years.

    How about real jobs that help people and our planet instead of causing misery and hatred?

  2. Kim Peart

    February 26, 2018 at 7:53 am

    To be deputy leader of a government that runs an abusive system may be the root cause of fogged judgement that teeters on the precipice of corruption, and for some, a fall to hell from whence they may never return.

    That system of abuse is seen with refugees, and with the way the poor are dealt a mean hand in this nation with government relying on around 5% unemployment to keep the wheels of growth turning so some people can get a larger share of the national pie, and a few make an absolute killing. Along with big business avoiding tax, and blowing the mining boom, instead of future-proofing the nation, as Norway did.

    So are we living in a society, or an economy?

    Because they could, government sacked Centrelink workers to save money and released a robot system to claw back money, with people forced to prove that they were innocent, if they could, and politicians are still defending this brutal abuse of power. The Centrelink robot is simply the ugly reality of of an abusive government that requires under-employment, unemployment, poverty and homelessness to drive growth.

    Does voting for abuse make Australia a nation of abusers? Anyone who doesn’t like that can stand up, be counted, and demand honesty in governance. A rising tide of voices for truth will deliver politics with principles, and politicians with veracity, if we dare.

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