I've always been a politics junkie. As a teenager I avidly read the papers and watched the news, providing a running commentary on the politics of the day to whoever would listen (even if that was just the dog). I can't imagine not subscribing to a daily newspaper. For someone like me the greatest godsend of the internet has been the gift of access to more online news than I could ever read.
At least that was the case. Not any more.
A couple of weeks ago I declared that I will no longer read about politics, listen to political interviews or watch the television news. I'm unsubscribing from Crikey, turning off Q&A and listening to more music.
Why? Because it has got to the point that tuning into politics makes me physically tense. At times it makes me so angry I feel like ... like ... Damn it!
Today's political leaders are treating their audience – we voters – with complete contempt. Being true to your values no longer matters. Nor does saying what you really think. Don't be authentic – it's too risky.
We know the prime minister doesn't believe in marriage equality because he's said so in the past. But he won't explicitly say so now. Instead, he avoids confronting the issue with the excuse that the government is "focusing its attention on the economy and on keeping Australian's safe", as if the whole of the government can't work on three things at once.
He has said he believes the arguments supporting man-made climate change are "complete crap" and his actions continue to support that belief, most recently his attacks on financial support for wind farms. But he will no longer explicitly say he doesn't believe in climate change because he knows that would be politically unpalatable.
As a member of the Liberal party, Abbott supposedly has fundamental beliefs in small government and freedom of speech. Yet one wannabe terrorist makes a few dumb comments on Q&A and suddenly the government wants to interfere in the management of the program while simultaneously banning its own members from appearing on it.
The hypocrisy is mind blowing.
Then there are the opposition, whose values are supposedly built on being progressive and humanitarian, but who don't have the courage to oppose the inhumanity of Australia's outrageous treatment of refugees. Worse, they continue to adopt policies very similar to the government's. Along the same lines they pay lip service to ongoing attacks on our democratic freedoms in the name of security.
Again, they seem to think that saying what they think is too risky politically, so it's better to say very little at all while tacitly supporting government measures.
They should be ashamed of themselves.
With one exception, government and opposition ministers and spokespeople never say anything – anything – other than to tow their 'party line' of the day. We might as well have robots running the place.
The prime minister won't say what he really things because he knows if he did he would be out on his ear. The first budget was a shot over the bows on this count, and it very nearly hit his ship. The opposition leader won't say what he really things because he believes that if he does he will become unelectable.
Neither – and this is the point – neither is willing to support what they really believe by building an argument for it. Neither believes the electorate is smart enough to absorb more than a few words at a time – three in the case of the prime minister.
As someone who spends my days helping others to create convincing sets of words, the shallowness of all this drives me barmy.
Politics has become a great big yawn. No wonder less than half of 18 to 29 year olds see democracy as preferable to another form of government. Less than half!
Yes, the media have to take some of the blame for this situation. Much of the mainstream media – in particular the Murdoch-owned media – are masters of treating the population as dimwits. But I don't believe this excuses the politicians.
Prime ministers of the past have been able to build cases for their actions by making compelling speeches, using coherent arguments and speaking from the heart. Think Fraser on the 'boat people' of the Vietnam war; Keating on financial deregulation; Howard on the introduction of the GST; Rudd on the need for a carbon price (before he chickened out).
Barack Obama continues to do this from the other side of the Pacific, despite the odds being against him. The frantic pace of the modern news cycle is no excuse for not building your case.
If a movie animation can treat its audience as intelligent human beings, surely the leader of a country should be able to.
It's time our leaders started treating us as grown ups.
As usual, if you have any questions or comments, please add a comment below or contact me.