There’s an old adage which says that politics is “show business for ugly people”; the idea being that if you’re not attractive or talented enough to make it on the big screen, you can still find vapid adulation in politics.
In 2021, it seems that adage has more meaning than ever as many politicians revel in the adoration which has come during the COVID period through daily press conferences with “celebrity” Chief Health Officers, rolling up sleeves for vaccination photos and mingling with mediocre celebrities.
Much of the modern political class is terrified of deviating from the established orthodoxy. Many appear more concerned about their own image than the debate. This is hardly a new development, just one that has been exacerbated by the COVID period.
COVID hysteria has exposed Australia’s political class and revealed their disconnect from the people they were elected to serve. In a Western liberal democracy, the government is the servant of the people, not the master. Many seem to have forgotten that we used to refer to politicians and government officials as “public servants,” in accordance with the idea that “the greatest among you shall be your servant.”
Other nations are watching Australia with concern. They have observed lockdowns, mandatory vaccination policies, mask mandates, segregation based on vaccination status, border closures separating families, military patrolling the streets of Sydney, and protestors assaulted by police in Melbourne. They cite Australia as an example of what happens when liberty is taken for granted and the bureaucracy is given exorbitant levels of power.
While this is taking place, our leaders busy themselves with photo opportunities alongside C-grade celebrities stopping only to inform us of their confectionary preferences (here in South Australia a politician isn’t worth the carbon they are printed on unless he or she pledges allegiance to locally manufactured “Fru Chocs” and then hits social media with those overtures).
It’s no secret that as our political class has become more “progressive”, politics has become progressively dumbed down. Gone are the days of robust policy debate. Today’s politicians repeat empty platitudes about trusting the experts and appear terrified of provoking the woke Twitter mob.
There is little deviation from the woke orthodoxy that is poisoning our discourse. Modern politicians rarely take hard-hitting questions from tough-minded journalists, instead fielding soft questions about case numbers and COVID procedures.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party continues to flex its muscles. They are not concerned about using the politically correct gender pronouns, creating safe spaces, or teaching kids to hate their country. They are strengthening their military to prepare for future conflicts.
China has even banned “sissy men” from their TV shows (their words). Meanwhile, our political class is afraid to call out the stupidity of wokeness, with some states making it illegal to question LGBT ideology because doing so would be “harmful.”
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that our enemies must be looking on with delight while Australia tears itself apart. As the old proverb goes, “Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake.” Our political class has become more authoritarian and, at the same time, developed weaker backbones.
Politics demands principled, tough-minded men and women of strong moral fibre whose priority is to serve their constituents, not control them. Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis, has refused to seize the opportunity COVID presents to destroy freedoms, opting instead to take sensible measures to protect the vulnerable, such as funding alternative treatments for those who have chosen not to take a COVID vaccine. Rather than allow punishment for people who refuse to be coerced, Governor De Santis has navigated the situation in Florida realistically and managed to preserve his constituents’ freedoms. He has not sought to become a celebrity; he has gotten on with the job he was elected to do.
Australia’s political class needs to stop pandering and focus on the hard-hitting decisions which confront us. Politics will always be one part theatre, but Australian politicians need to understand that their job isn’t to sacrifice sensible policy at the altar of public adulation.
Alex Antic is a Liberal Senator for South Australia.
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