Time to Exit the Spin Zone

One of the criticisms commonly directed toward politicians is that what they say isn’t what they truly believe. It’s not that politicians don’t ‘do sincerity’ very well; it’s just that the official messages are so workshopped that they often sound like comments from central casting.

This is particularly true of the Labor Party politicians who are very good at using their focus group-researched lines at every opportunity, even though they often bear no relation to the question asked. Personally I think it portrays them as unthinking automatons but one has to admire their discipline, if not their lack of imagination.

I am sure the genesis of the official lines directive is due to the tendency of the media to portray any difference of opinion within a political party as a split or rift. It seems that any variation of official message, no matter how reasonable, is turned into a story of warring factions. I know it creates headlines and sells papers, but the result is most politicians giving a rote response to direct questions.

The internal political desire for conformity is also required by the party faithful. Party members want unity and political opponents use any sense of division as justification as to why only they are fit for office.

However, the politically faithful are relatively few. A far greater number don’t actually care what politicians have to say other than at election time. Perhaps this is because they are so cynical about what they hear their elected representatives usually saying.

Is it any coincidence that those in public life who offer a considered opinion, in straightforward language, seem to attract admirers who aren’t usually engaged in the political process?

I am not referring to the confected and tortured ‘Australianisms’ used by Kevin Rudd in a transparent attempt to sound less boring and nerdy, but the communication skills of Peter Costello, Joe Hockey and Barnaby Joyce, to name a few.

They state their position directly and succinctly, the public actually listen and then decide if they agree or disagree with what they are saying. Sometimes they are ‘off message’ and suffer criticism, but without them and others like them speaking up, our public life would be the poorer.

It is a relatively recent phenomenon that any difference of opinion within a political organisation has become such an important part of the media cycle. Unfortunately, it stops some of those best-equipped to engage more people in the political process from speaking their mind.

Sure, speaking directly is a risk and mistakes are sometimes made, but isn’t it more important for politicians to actually get more people interested in what we have to say rather than just talking amongst ourselves?

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