I ran for public office once…..and nearly got in. It was 2008 and I had a crack at the Legislative Assembly as an independent.
I ran because I believed that I could make a positive difference to the place that I live. I believed that I was capable of playing a positive role in the running of this city.
I didn’t miss out by much, but I still failed to win a seat. I ran 5th on primary in a 5 seat electorate but got savagely out preferenced.
And in retrospect since then I’d have to admit that on a number of occasions, I’ve been quietly thankful that I didn’t get in.
Well because it’s a mongrel of a job…for so many reasons.
Public scrutiny seems to be the biggest downside. Savage public scrutiny. When most Australians make a mistake at work their boss and their close work colleagues know about it, but nobody else does. They may get admonished in their immediate work area, but they’re not likely to find themselves ridiculed on the front page of the paper, or to find their Facebook stream littered with hurtful memes.
Bronwyn Bishop has clearly misjudged public opinion on MP’s entitlement but does anyone deserve public humiliation at the level that we’ve witnessed in the last week ? There seems to be a perception that Senators and MP’s as a consequence of their position aren’t quite human. They become a little like national pinatas for all to have a good whack out until the lollies come out. As a talk radio announcer, I have to admit to having a few whacks myself. There are occasions during which I’m a big part of the lynch mob.
Now….we don’t know that Don Randall’s job contributed in any way to his death, but his sudden passing has started a conversation about the pressures of public office.
Stephanie Peatling had a thought provoking piece on the Fairfax platforms today.
She quoted Qld Federal MP Graham Perrett who spoke of his perfect holiday from Parliamentary work. This vacation involved nothing more than sitting on his couch in track pants and not shaving for a week. For Perrett the constant pressure of just turning up every day all day, the travel, the scrutiny and lack of contact with family and friends wears him down.
I spoke to local federal MPs Gai Brodtman and Zed Seselja about it this morning. Zed suggested that ‘as far as the scrutiny goes, you know what you’re in for when you put your hand up for the job.’
Decades of talk radio has taught me that most Australians don’t value the work that elected members do. Politicians are seen as lazy, overpaid and self important. The generalisation is somewhat unkind.