A- A A+

Best of 2012: Fear the politicians of the future

1 Comment
Ellena Savage |  10 January 2013

Angry male silhouette with raised fistIf my short tenure in university politics gave me anything, it is an appreciation for non-politicians. Like Barbara Ramjan and journalist Lindsay Foyle, who both had dealings with young and rabid student politicians 35 years ago, I now have some dirt on the cabinet of the future, and I know who I'm not voting for.

I coedited the student newspaper in the final year of my BA. My coeditors and I came from different political backgrounds, and were elected on a politically unaligned ticket, giving and receiving our electoral preferences to and from various left and centre-left factions.

The tenure itself was hard work; learning to make a magazine from scratch with only a 2002 iMac and the phone number for a printer, while dealing with the strange demands and personalities of the office-bearers. Our pay rate of around $3.40 per hour perhaps was a little low.

Once in the media office, we decided to remain on peaceful terms with all of the other factions in office. We reasoned that it would make for a better working environment, and a better magazine if every student felt they could contribute, regardless of their politics.

We offered a right of reply to anyone who was challenged or insulted by the contents, and invited the relevant student representatives to respond to challenges levelled against their departments within the same edition.

This policy of openness quickly found us completely alienated from every faction we refused to make exceptions for. The rift between politicians and journalists was quickly established.

Nothing terrible happened — I wish I had more battle tales to recount. But then, I am lucky to not have been made a target of some A-type android's personality disorder. In previous years, women had been sexually harassed by opponents, property stolen and sabotaged, and people of all political bents had been smeared.

While everything that happens in the student unions around Australia is completely, mind-blowingly important, campus election weeks are by far the most stressful times in the political calendar. Over the three years I campaigned in elections for myself and others, I witnessed a good many tears spill onto hyper-coloured party T-shirts. Elections are a rollercoaster of betrayals, dodged regulations, and primary-school-grade bullying.

The worst offenders are usually campaigners who sit between the centre and the hard right of politics — those who have a real future in party politics in Australia — and the targets of their bullying are usually on the fringe left — often women and queer men engaged in activism as opposed to career politics.

While there are certainly creeps and bullies on both sides of the political binary, the right, in my experience, does seem to produce the most visible offenders. And they're usually male.

To be staunchly against unionism generally, and simultaneously be involved in a student union with the express desire to disrupt it, well, that's a cry for help. It takes an aggressive kind of personality.

Ramjan's allegations against Abbott didn't surprise me. Actually, I am surprised by the mildness of the alleged harassment. In the real world, shouting and throwing a punch next to someone's head in a rage is a seriously harassing act. But in the strange, tense world of student politics, the honest brutality of the act sounds preferable to the slow and steady harassment and character attacks that sustain student politicians these days.

Abbott is right to point to inexperience and immaturity driving the 'silly' behaviour of student pollies. But we should take note that these bullies are there to cut their teeth for state or federal politics later in their careers. Where they are not held accountable for their indiscretions, their histories follow them into parliament.

Politicians of all ages should be held to higher standards than the rest of us, because the rest of us do not purport to represent collective values and act on such preposterous claims.

Student politicians continue to punch walls in front of each other, plot to smear their peers, and generally create atmospheres of humiliation and harassment for their own political gain. Yes, the smaller the gain, the dirtier the fight. And these people, they are our future. So be afraid. 


Ellena SavageEllena Savage is a Melbourne writer who edits Middlebrow, the arts liftout in The Lifted Brow


 



Comments

Comments should be short, respectful and on topic. Email is requested for identification purposes only.

Word Count: 0 (please limit to 200)

Submitted comments

The Australian hung parliament has certainly been a 'toxic' environment since the last election.
Some policies of major political parties will have even even more 'toxic' consequences.
The United Nations World Health Organisation estimates that over 150 000 people are already dying annually from the effects of climate change, but the major parties are all for ramping up the production of fossil fuels, rather than replacing them with renewables. No wonder the world is heading for a 'toxic' 4 to 6 degree rise in temperature by 2100. Extreme weather events are already the new norm! Are we prepared to let our political leaders join other regressive world leaders in dragging the world community into more extreme weather events?
We are one of the richest countries in the world but the World Millennium Goals are now being compromised, rather than being revised upwards. How 'toxic' for the world's poor!
Refugees coming here on leaky boats are being deported to Nauru, to be left there indefinitely. How 'toxic' for these poor people, and for Australia's international reputation!
The current 'toxic' Jobsearch allowance is putting many poor families below the poverty line.
Let's advocate for reversals of 'toxic' parliamentary behaviour and 'toxic' policies.

George Allen 13 January 2013

Similar articles

Best of 2012: My brush with Israeli militarism

5 Comments
Lyn Bender | 11 January 2013

'Exit Wounds' by John Cantwell, book cover detailAged 18, during a period of great personal confusion, I considered volunteering for the Israeli Army. I had been indoctrinated within a community of holocaust survivors who had latched onto militant Zionism as a means to reclaim Jewish pride and safety. In the early adulthood when the brain is not fully matured, youth is particularly vulnerable to being captivated by idealism. Monday 10 December 


Best of 2012: If Clive Palmer was a High Court judge

1 Comment
Patrick McCabe | 11 January 2013

Clive PalmerImagine Attorney-General Nicola Roxon appoints Palmer as the newest High Court judge. Justice Palmer sets about rewriting the law in radical ways, freeing mining companies from regulation and approving disbanding the Australian Greens. Surely such an appointment could be challenged? Actually, no. Monday 21 May 


Best of 2012: Women chained to the human dairy farm

Catherine Marshall | 10 January 2013

International Women's DayWomen have fought the long, hard fight, marching into battle with a baby tugging on one heel and a man hanging off the other. And while the man has largely loosened his grip, the baby never will. Many women are still forced to submit, if not to patriarchy then certainly to maternal instinct. Thursday 8 March 


Best of 2012: No lowly scapegoats in 'necessary' Royal Commission

14 Comments
Moira Rayner | 08 January 2013

One of the informing moments of my career as a lawyer came from the survivors of a family who disclosed that an authoritarian father had beaten and raped every one of his children — under the very eye of their mother. The Royal Commission isn't about punishing predators. It must find a way to institutionalise the right of every child to be heard. Tuesday 13 November


Best of 2012: Thoughts on democracy from a martial law baby

Fatima Measham | 08 January 2013

Ferdinand MarcosToday marks 40 years since martial law took effect in the Philippines. I was born during this time, part of a generation who grew up not knowing any other president. Given the numerous regressions that have occurred since, it is not surprising many Filipinos look back on the Marcos era with nostalgia. Friday 21 September