Politics as disillusionment:­ there has to be a better way

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Photo: CNS

Within hours of the announcement that Greg Hunt would be the new health minister, medical profession leaders asked for more money.

Not only did the medical profession ask for an increase to fees under the medical benefits schedule, its leaders also asked for an increase to funding for public hospitals.

It is unclear how increasing remuneration for doctors is likely to improve health care, particularly given that it will result in increased costs for patients specifically and all taxpayers more generally.

While calls for greater funding of public hospitals are understandable, the ever increasing proportion of taxpayers’ money being allocated to health care is not sustainable in the long term.

Everybody wants lower taxes while claims for increased spending in education, aged care, social welfare and infrastructure to name just a few abound.

It is not surprising that the medical profession is part of a never ending carousel of claimants to public funds that do not exist, but maybe a little rich when considering those medical specialists make millions of dollars each year while asking more and more taxpayers money.

The politicians we elect to sort out these impossible expectations are perpetually playing with a losing hand. No wonder even the most popular among them soon find themselves subjected to criticism and abuse once it is realised that they are incapable of conjuring out of thin air the money that’s needed to satisfy the peak bodies and interest groups that so readily advise them.

Governments who heed their advice will need to find tens of billions more for education, health care, aged care, infrastructure and social welfare while at the same time reducing both corporate and individual income tax.

Clearly, most lobby groups do not expect to achieve all they ask for, but surely there is a better way of managing the competing interests within our society that moves beyond politics and government being a blood sport where everyone, including the electors, lose.

Recent developments around the world suggest that a more collaborative approach to politics and public policy is some way off. It is hard to generate a catchy tweet about the common good, solidarity and human dignity when you are competing with an ‘us and them’ narrative that fosters a lasting sense of grievance and anger.

And yet this is exactly what we need to do. Politicians who talk about reconciling competing interests or who explore in deeper ways the truth about what human dignity really means may not get re-elected, but they would be doing their jobs.

In any event, the current way of operating in politics is obviously not working if polls and election outcomes are anything to go by. So what have they got to lose when so many of them are getting dumped by electors anyway?

Regardless of where people might sit politically, most of us want less political speak and more straight talk when it comes to politics and public policy.  There is a growing cynicism about politics that looks like a boring tennis match were the endless rallies of rehearsed lines leads to nowhere but disillusionment and disengagement.

It is no coincidence that many of the recently elected independent and minor party politicians are clearly not media trained but considered genuine nonetheless. While many people doubt that they have solutions to our complex problems their appearance on the political landscape indicates the limitations of slickly presented politicians parroting pre-prepared lines that few of us believe.

More than anything else, we look for authenticity in all our relationships and parts of our lives.  Perhaps the really smart politicians could start with this question – does what I am about to say sound fake or authentic?