I am not a politician. Nor am I some political junkie who can't get enough of what's happening on the political spectrum. Despite this, I am interested enough at this point, during a Federal Election in Australian politics, to clear the air on some matters.
See, when it comes to politicians and our opinions of them, we seem to be comfortable with leaving our brains at the door and our hearts at the kitchen sink.
Let me give you 'Five things no one ever says about politicians.'
'Politicians are not 'pathological liars.'
I've met a few of these politicians over the years. I have heard quite a few political interviews. Politicians are good at dodging difficult questions, but to say they are outright liars is a simplistic generalisation that fails to understand the complexities of the role they are in.
If two ministers in a government have a vigorous behind-the-scenes debate about a particular policy, and then are cornered by a reporter wanting them to disclose what they spoke about, what could they do? If they skip around the question it's not because they are intentionally seeking to lie and misrepresent the situation, but rather to avoid revealing the content of their discussion.
I'm not necessarily wanting to back politicians to the hilt, but I just don't see clear evidence that they are purposefully and meaningfully lying while doing their jobs.
'Politicians can and do have compassion.'
Alright, I have just crossed the line for some political enthusiasts out there. I understand that. Despite this, I am sick and tired of the constant vitriol about the character of politicians. Many do have compassion.
We may not agree with their policy platform, but the constant barrage against the character of political figures in the purposeful pursuit of 'dirt' undermines the effectiveness of democracy.
I am not saying character does not matter. Far from it—I am saying that some politicians have a far greater depth of character than what we care to acknowledge.
'Politicians work hard for their wages.'
We dislike a political figure and guess what we do? We argue that they are overpaid and that they don't work hard enough.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has had this criticism, 'He spoke about change and transformation, but what has he actually changed?' It is like people were expecting some sort of radical shift of Australian society when we went from Abbott to Turnbull. They were sorely disappointed. There may be many reasons for this.
The argument that politicians are paid too much and don't work hard enough is simplistic and naïve. I have never met a political figure of any political persuasion who does not work very long hours and earn an amount of money worth complaining about.
'Politicians are passionate about good policy.'
They are not 'just as bad as each other.' Let me take a different angle: Politicians are individuals passionate about their local communities and very often are absolutely committed to passing policies that they believe are right.
Now, that doesn't mean their policies are right, but there are many politicians wanting to make a difference. The broad stroke comment, 'they are just as bad as each other' is unhelpful, and again, simplistic.
Having a rigorous debate about the worth of one's policies and the subsequent impact upon the economy, the workforce, the education sector, the environment, etc. is a debate worth having. That's the debate we should have.
Usually the former comment is made when one is unwilling to think through the implications of the policies before them. While some politicians are better at what they do than others, there are politicians speaking passionately about good policy. Believe it or not.
'We should pray for our government and political leaders.'
This is where we need to focus some of our energy. Unfortunately people of faith can neglect prayer and get caught up in endless arguments about same-sex marriage, how to stimulate the economy, funding for education, and who has a moral, ethical policy around asylum seekers and climate change.
I think we need these debates—no doubt about that. And I do believe Christians need to put their voice forward. However, insightful, intellectual debate can quite often descend into useless name-calling and abuse, and serves no purpose. We must be wise about how we conduct ourselves.
Instead of whinging about political leaders, pray God will bless them and uphold them in difficult political environments.
I am not a politician. I am also not a political junkie.
I'm just concerned about the discourse surrounding politics in Australia today.
Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of Business and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith.
Peter Brookshaw's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/peter-brookshaw.html