Flat White

No one should be scared to run for public office

23 March 2021

4:00 AM

23 March 2021

4:00 AM

I mean we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.

I am a woman, a mum of three, a wife, daughter and friend. And I am a Liberal voter and party member. I have long been a Liberal voter and party member (close to 20 years a member in fact) and never have I felt so flat about the state of politics. And it’s not just my own party.

I stood for election in 2016 in a safe federal Labor seat that I would never win, Port Adelaide. I stood against the ALP president, Mark Butler. He was quite decent to me; always encouraging of me — to a point always made sure I was acknowledged at events. However, with hindsight, I wonder how much he knew. Did he know that I would go to sleep with my social media platforms buzzing getting personal, graphically sexually explicit, messages? Did he know that I was getting similar abuse at events? Wolfwhistled or the opposite? Even at non-political events — when all I wanted to do was watch my beloved Port Adelaide Magpies and the Power play footy — I copped severe personal abuse. I wasn’t even in a winnable seat > God forbid the abuse others have gotten.

Did Mark need to know? Probably not. Was it his job to stop? No, I was his opponent. But I genuinely don’t think he had any comprehension of what women received until recently. I still don’t think any male parliamentarian does, and I still don’t think that they fully do. But can Mark, and every other male MP, ALP and otherwise, confidently say that he “called it out” when he heard or saw it? Definitely not.

I’m not for a moment suggesting any impropriety or encouragement or endorsement of improper or abusive conduct on Mark Butler’s part. This is everywhere in Australian politics and apparently, it is just something “that’s part of the course” of public life.

But it shouldn’t be.

With almost five years under my belt since that time a lot has changed. I’ve married and had three babies — a three-year-old and 19-month-old twins — and I often get asked if I would run again. Of course I would. I’m a die-hard politics nerd. I’m a believer in our system of government because despite its flaws it is one of the best in the world. I’m still passionate about small government, economic stability, a hand up and not a handout, and helping our communities. But why would I in this environment? It’s become worse, far worse, in those five years, not better.

Anything that is not in the status quo of the general left agenda is shouted down from the rooftops. Nicolle Flint was an advocate for women in a lot of factors. She fought hard to get endometriosis recognised as a national health crisis and millions of dollars for it, fought for support for parents of stillborn babies, but she was never supported or celebrated for her wins. Even this week when she said enough was enough she was torn down by trolls.

Why would you do it to yourself, your family and your loved ones?

The Liberal party, the politicians, candidates and volunteers, get admonished for a lack of women in parliament. A lack of women with young children. But even when Liberal women stand up for women, and in turn the party, they get nothing but the vitriol and fear. Fear for their families and fear for their children, let alone fear for themselves.

No one — Liberal, Labor, Greens or purple people eater — should be scared to run for public office. Ever. Debate policy, debate ideas – but personal elements should not be on the table. An election, in its simplistic form, is a very public job interview. Some of the questions and slurs labelled at candidates would be illegal in that setting.

So why is it ok for the politicians to cop? It shouldn’t be, and it needs to stop. Now. When did we get to a place that we have to say it? Have we slowly but surely creeping to this point?

We need to call it out on others and even our own when we see it. We don’t need to support every person running — it is politics after all — but we shouldn’t live in a society where hate and fear are used to prevent public service by those wanting to try, in their own way, make the communities we live a better place.

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