Stanhope / Assailed by shallow, crass and tawdry nonsense

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IT’S not only the ageist taunts of our chief minister that have had me feeling my age just lately. It seems to me that no matter where one looks, whether to local, national or international newspapers, radio or television one is assailed by shallow, crass and often tawdry nonsense.

Jon Stanhope
Jon Stanhope.

It seems to me that public life as reflected through our parliaments and politicians, the media and entertainment, sport and television is increasingly dominated either by people who behave badly or by an unhealthy and voyeuristic interest in those that do. I find it all rather depressing.

For the last month we have all been subjected to the minutiae of Barnaby Joyce’s private life being dragged one excruciating detail after another across the chamber of the House of Representatives. Joyce’s behaviour has certainly been appalling but the holier-than-thou attitude of the Opposition, has also been less than edifying. The joy of Labor members in the face of the pain and trauma of Joyce, his family and partner has been palpable. Excited by the scent of a scalp and mindless of the associated human misery the ALP has nevertheless, I fear, ignored a couple of political truisms.

Firstly, that what goes around will come around. I have no doubt, as apparent calm settles on the Federal Parliament now that Joyce’s disgrace is complete, that there is more than one member of the Labor front bench waiting in trepidation to see who will be the subject of the retribution that bitter members of the Liberal and National Party are almost certainly planning.

Perhaps I am wrong and the ALP is completely unconcerned, confident that the saintly and celibate, indeed monkish disposition of its members will survive any scrutiny or challenge.

The second truism that Labor might have given more weight to is that it is nigh impossible, after getting down into the gutter, to not get covered in slime yourself. This has been a grubby business and no one has come out of it well.

My sense, from the number of people who have shared their dismay with me about the behaviour of our “representatives” is that Joyce’s biggest mistake was, unlike others, that he got caught.

While I admit I am not a fan of reality television and I do, in idle moments, wonder what it says about us I am concerned, with the principle exceptions of SBS and “Four Corners”, that the news and news commentary on Australian television is increasingly being dumbed down to reflect the same populist appeal that has made reality TV so popular. Why for example did “7.30”, in the last week or so, not just join but in fact lead the hysterical attacks on Broncos front-rower Matthew Lodge for daring to play football.

Lodge is a young, 21-year-old man who, at the age of 19 in a drug-induced rage, committed an horrendous assault in the US. He was arrested, detained, tried, found guilty and dealt with according to the law.

He has sought to rehabilitate himself and returned to what he does well and which almost certainly affords him the greatest chance of redemption and a productive and non-criminal life, namely professional football.

However, he has been hounded and humiliated by media across Australia including by “7.30” and the ABC. What he did was abhorrent but he has faced the full force of the rule of law and why the ABC feels it is in the public interest, in addition to that, to humiliate him and to try and have him hounded from his job is beyond me.

And spare me the nonsense it is because he is a “role model”. I have never in my life, and I am a keen, lifelong follower of Rugby League, ever heard of a mother or father saying to a son or daughter: “Hey, Billy, hey, Jane, when you grow up I want you to behave just like you see Rugby League players behave.”

Now if we were talking about cricket players it would, of course, be a completely different story. How our Aussie chests have swelled with pride this last week or two as the Australians in South Africa have taught the world not only how a cricket team of real men wins (with hubris and arrogance) but also how it loses. I will not be the least surprised if the most popular baby name in Australia in 2018 is “Dave”!

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Jon Stanhope
Jon Stanhope was Chief Minister from 2001 to 2011 and represented Ginninderra for the Labor Party from 1998. He is the only Chief Minister to have governed with a majority in the Assembly.

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