It might seem a bit brutal, but it worked. Just like mother birds push their chicks out of the nest and horses nudge their foals onto their feet at birth, there really is something to the old theory of sink or swim.
But it seems much of today’s public don’t agree or at least don’t have the generosity to acknowledge that they do. Sadly, in the hours following yesterday’s resignation of WA’s Attorney General and Treasurer, I heard on talkback and read on news websites the same old tired rhetoric about the depth of talent in our parliamentary backbenches.
Rik Oshea’s post on the ABC’s Facebook page was indicative of many:
“My view? Staggering indifference. Had he stayed we'd still have a serious lack of depth problem. John Tonkin & maybe Sir Charles Court were probably our last real statesmen, not sure we have any great legislators at present.”This is sad partly because it shows the level of cynicism the public maintain toward our Parliament but mostly because it is just so ill-informed.
The truth is it is very, very hard for anyone other than the Premier, Leader of the Opposition and Ministers of controversial portfolios (like Police) to get enough public airtime to be recognisable, let alone fairly judged on their abilities. Thirty minute press conferences are condensed down to a 7 or 8 second “grab” on TV news, newspaper column space has to compete with ever encroaching advertising to pay their bills and there is simply no way talkback radio can give any time to anyone other than the Premier and his direct nemesis.
The ugliest part of this truth is the vast majority of us would prefer to see a pretty blonde girl talking about the weather than watch an unscripted 3 minute address from any one of our political representatives. And because of that, it’s deeply unfair and often wildly inaccurate when people who have never met or even heard more than a 7 second grab from any of our Members of Parliament to judge their talent or lack of.
I know I won’t change many minds with this post, but I think it’s a very important point to make.
Journalists and their editors are often blamed for not providing the public with more opportunities to get to know their representatives in their own words - without truncation. But the fact is, like politicians, one way or another journalists get paid by the public and would therefore alter their content accordingly if there was a stronger demand for more open access to our MP’s.
That perpetual conundrum aside, of greatest disappointment to me as someone who knows there are many competent, hard working people who are invisible only because they are confined to the shadows of their respective Leaders, is that rare opportunities to shine a light on them aren’t being embraced.
I’ve made it very clear before that I respect Colin Barnett for his intellect and historical knowledge of all things politics, but his incompetence as a leader never ceases to amaze me. Yesterday, when a lazy journalist rolled out the cliché that he doesn’t have much choice in choosing a replacement for Christian Porter, he cited Ministers Constable, Hames and Buswell as evidence to the contrary. It is telling and deeply disappointing that Mr Barnett’s first and immediate reaction wasn’t to jump on the chance to talk about how he has too many competent backbenchers to choose from.
As I said above, there are a number of others in the shadows – on both sides - waiting patiently for their time to shine. Like my good old Dad, I have faith that many of them will quickly become strong swimmers if they are ever thrown in the deep end.
With regard to the Premier’s next move, I would love to see him undertake a bold reshuffle that sees 3 or even 4 backbenchers thrown in, but unfortunately I think his aversion to risk will see only one new face and a bit of a rearrangement of the deck chairs.
I hope some day soon our political leaders take the time to realise that blaming the media for missing opportunities is a moot point when so many massive ones float past them, the people we pay to set the agenda, apparently without even being noticed.