We expect more from pre-schoolers than politicians

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It's become a truism that politicians cannot be trusted (Image by Dan Jensen).

During the week our Government essentially swiped aside the #RightToKnow campaign, making out like it was the media just having a bit of a tantrum about press freedom.

It was the latest piece of evidence of our Government's behaviour and disrespect for Australians — which we shouldn't cop.

Journalists can’t fact check statements while standing at press conferences. Some statements they can never verify under the guise of spurious “national security” concerns or the inability to even get a freedom of information inquiry (FOI) responded to which is a whole other issue.

On the odd occasion when a journalist will respond to people who are paying attention about a politician's lie, you will invariably get a response similar to the below by Peter van Onselen, as to "intent".

If it is not about "intent", it will be something along the lines of “well, you have to take the Minister at his word”.

You know what? We have been lied to and misled so many times in recent years, this justification doesn't stand anymore.

It is very odd how the same standard a journalist applies to an investigation – using more than one source and undertaking verification – does not apply to members of our Government. Sadly, they have proven many times in the past they do not deserve the respect of “being taken at their word”.

Yet, for some reason, our "elected representatives", who are charged with making important decisions on our behalf and being paid a lot for it, are allowed to get away with lying, something you would never allow a pre-schooler to do.

Then we get the half-truths, weasel words and just plain sneaky language that obfuscates or finds a loophole that means the politician did not "strictly lie". 

Again, if we suspected we were being played by a pre-schooler with this sort of language, they would still be in trouble. How often have you heard a parent say something similar to “you know what I meant”?

Back in the day, when my daughter was in pre-school, she would want to go down the street to play at a friend's house and hated waiting for one of us to walk her down. One afternoon, we turned around and she was gone. You can imagine our terror. Because of her kicking up a stink about waiting, phoning down to a friend's place was our first port of call. She was there and in a lot of trouble. We had specifically told her she could not walk down there on her own as she could not cross the road by herself.

Being smart, she came back with, “well, you said I could not cross the road on my own, so I didn’t, I walked the way around the cul de sac, so I never crossed the road”. Therefore, she was indignant about getting in trouble when she had not disobeyed us — she never crossed the road.

Strictly speaking, she was correct. Of course, she was still in big trouble and she knew it.

Because, when it comes to expectations, a parent doesn’t cop weasel words, loopholes or spin. It's pretty cut and dried. 

Yet, for some reason, we don’t hold our politicians to the same level of expectation we place on a pre-schooler.

From old mate, Arthur Sinodinos and his ICAC woes, with all his “I don’t recall” answers to Angus Taylor and all his gates — #Watergate, #Grassgate, #Mategate (I think we now have a #Clovergate, but if not, we will have soon).

The Government will no doubt say “but Labor, Labor, Labor!” Imagine, as a responsible adult, how you would feel if every time you hit your pre-schooler up to explain themselves they said “but Johnny did” or “but Johnny said”. The response would be, “I don’t care about what Johnny says or does, I am looking at you!”

Consider this, would:

  • you accept your kid just flat out refusing to answer your questions;
  • you accept your kid running away when you ask them a question;
  • you accept your kid using weasel words to try to get out of trouble;
  • you accept your kid obfuscating when questioned;
  • a pre-school teacher or parent accept the sort of behaviour we see in Question Time with yelling, bullying, lies screamed at top volume in the playground; and
  • you cop your kid always blaming other kids for stuff that goes wrong?

You wouldn’t.

There was a time when supposedly forgetting to declare a Paddington Bear at customs lost you your job as a minister. Ministerial responsibility and standards did exist, can you believe?

It seems to be we hold our pre-schoolers to a higher standard of behaviour than we do those running our nation. Shame we can’t put the Parliament into a time-out to have a good hard look at themselves.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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