All I want is the truth, just give me some truth

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FRUSTRATION. It’s just not true. Lies, mendaciousness, distortion, misinformation and fake news. So frustrating. No wonder trust in our politicians is at an all-time low. No wonder doubt about the efficacy of our democratic systems is growing.

Michael Moore.

At least, and at last, the ACT is underway with the local Integrity Commission. The appointment of former Federal Court judge Dennis Cowdroy, with support from all members of the Assembly is a great start.

The commission was overwhelmingly supported by candidates at the last ACT election and should have been delivered earlier.

Dealings in land and ensuring decisions are made in the broad community interest rather than in the interest of developers will be the first task. Secondly, the inquiry should examine the role played by political donations when it comes to decision making.

The Federal government also needs an anti-corruption and integrity commission. However, the recent election has also taught us that the mandate needs to include truth. How can ordinary people make informed decisions about voting while being bombarded with lies, misrepresentation, distortion, spin and falsehoods. It might be good for a specific party when campaigning – but it is appalling for our democracy.

Trust in governments has been studied in depth by political scientists. It is a key element for effective governance. Political spin is part and parcel of politics. Putting the best foot forward with an emphasis on the positives is understandable. Simply lying is unacceptable. Even a seven-year-old comprehends the difference. If only some of our political strategists understood the same.

Any dishonesty undermines our political systems and our democracy. It is clear that we need not only an independent anti-corruption and integrity commission, but a commission that also examines truth in politics.

How can we hold politicians and aspiring politicians accountable for such poor behaviour? Perhaps it fits the same pattern as the need for ICACs. When democracy is threatened by this behaviour, it is time for dramatic action to be considered. There are plenty of reasons why a Federal independent commission against corruption should be supported and these reasons have been emphasised throughout the election campaign. Pork barrelling is a favourite term amongst politicians. It softens the concept of corruption. However, it should be called for what it is – dishonest exploitation for political gain.

There will always be a fine line between spin and lies. The Liberals continue to argue that at the last election the Labor Party ran a “Mediscare” campaign. I happen to think that Medicare was being threatened and the Liberals were exposed. However, this is the sort of thing that ought to be examined by a truth, anti-corruption and integrity commission.

The United Australia Party has dealt very lightly with the truth through its blanket marketing campaign. Starting with the notion that it has the power to change taxation to benefit the bush. What nonsense! They are either completely deluded or happy to present the lie that there is some chance they will be in government.

The government has attacked Labor for its proposals to tax pensioners and a raft of other groups in society. This is a serious distortion of the truth, the “fake news” propaganda that is currently being promulgated.

However, it ought not be up to me to draw this conclusion. The truth or otherwise of political propaganda should be considered at arm’s length by an independent body. In this manner there just might be a chance to increase trust in our democratic systems.

Harvard academic, Claire Wardle, identified seven types of disinformation. All lack honesty. The context, the content, misleading, impersonation, fabrication and manipulation are some of these. It would appear that many of our politicians and some of the recent raft of candidates have studied her work in order to extend their level of dishonesty.

The most disturbing part about the outcome of the 2019 election will be that parties can never campaign on policies. John Hewson did it and was routed by Paul Keating. Now we see the same outcome for Bill Shorten. This means Australian politics will, for the foreseeable future, be denigrated to personality, negativity and lies instead of being based on policies. Lesson learnt.

 

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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.

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