On this page of the Saturday Paper you find an article by Barry Jones about the death of political debate. He says: “When I was first elected to the house of representatives in 1977, there were outstanding debates. Often between members of parliament who were without much formal education, but who shared three things: life experience, much of it very tough; a prodigious reading ability; and an understanding of a counterargument and how to rebut it.”
He says, that it was a time when parliament did not represent a cross-section of Australia.
And then he goes on: “But they were times dominated by “conviction politics”. We live now in the era of “retail politics”, where ministers don’t ask, “Is it right?” but “Will it sell?” There is policy paralysis. A significant failure of nerve by those who purport to be leaders, largely because they have little or no grasp of how to frame a debate.”
He mentions that the last serious debate in parliament on the republic was in 1998, on human rights in 2001, on the environment in 2009.
Then he argues that neither major party will debate a fresh approach to the issue of how we treat refugees and asylum seekers – leaving it to independents or the Greens to initiate action, as with the medivac vote, possible only due to the lack of a government majority in both houses.
And so on . . . .
Following now is the last bit of this essay by Barry Jones, and to my mind it is a warning:
“Policy, belief, courage and vision are essential elements in ensuring Australia’s future and its role as global citizen. All these depend on our mastery of evidence and our capacity to define and debate. Without this, Australia will remain lost in a dark alley.”
Who is Barry Jones? You can look it up here: