Whenever anyone mentions local politics, there is an air of resignation and disgust. The culture of parliament in Australia is chaotic and toxic, to say the least. It’s been this way for a while. Kevin Rudd has said that it started after the leadership coup of June 2010, when Julia Gillard replaced him as Labor Party leader. He described current Australian politics as “vicious, toxic and unstable”. And he is right. Politicians routinely sledge each other during Question Time. A strong bullying culture runs rampant. And it’s become clear to the Australian public that politicians only care about one thing – themselves.
“Oppositions now use their position to bring down a government for purely self-interested motives,” Julie Bishop has said. “They will oppose [policies] and vote against them to impose maximum pressure on the government even though it’s in the national interest for that policy to be implemented.”
For politicians, it’s all about winning, not about what is best for the Australian public.
The culture of bullying in Parliament is the norm, according to Bishop. “I have seen and witnessed and experienced some appalling behaviour in Parliament, the kind of behaviour that 20 years ago when I was managing partner of a law firm of 200 employees I would never have accepted”, she said. Clare O’Neil, Labor MP, agreed with her. “There’s a level of aggression, of conflict, of egocentrism that dominates the culture in Parliament House”, she said.
Liberal MP’s Julia Banks and Ann Sudamalis have both chosen not to recontest their seats, citing the bullying culture of politics in their reasoning. “Politics is a place where if you do not have great resilience, the actions of others can impact on your mental health”, Sudamalis said.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has also publicly disclosed the slut-shaming and bullying she experienced at the hands of Liberal Senator David Leyonhjelm. “No woman deserves to be disrespected, harassed and bullied in the workplace, in the street, or in their own homes”, she said. She is suing Leyonhjelm for his comments against her.
“A positive culture is critical, and each one of us has the duty to help foster that both within parties and across the parliament” – Tanya Plibersek, Labor Party MP
Whilst many politicians, including our current Prime Minister, have stated that bullying is not a problem in politics – it’s pretty clear that it is. Politicians are meant to lead our country, they are meant to set an example, and guide our nation toward a positive future. At the moment – they are not doing their job. Their job is to look out for the best interests of the Australian people, not to fight, bully, intimidate or harass their colleagues.
Look at New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Arden. She routinely uses positive, uplifting language, and has described her goal as a politician as building “a kind and equitable nation where children thrive, and success is measured not only by the nation’s GDP but by better lives lived by its people.” Or even Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau. He is known for being a man of the people, frequently hugging global political leaders, and leading Canada with optimism, positivity and kindness. Our politicians could learn a thing or two from them.
The toxic bullying culture of Australian politics needs to be solved. This will only happen when politicians stop looking out for only themselves and start acting in the best interests of Australia.
Politics is just like any other work place – you need to behave with respect, integrity, positivity and kindness.
The way that Australian politics are going will just not fly anymore, enough is enough. Australian Politicians – do better. Be better. And get stuff done for our country already!