When I was in high school, I learned about propaganda and I remember wondering how people could be so blind to what was "really going on" that they could be so badly taken in. But now, as an adult, seeing the propaganda of our own age, I can't help but wonder what future generations will think of us when they study our lives in their history lessons.
The 2021 Australia Talks National Survey revealed that 89 per cent of us believe that "most politicians in Australia will lie if they feel the truth will hurt them politically." Furthermore, recent years in the Australian political landscape have shown us that when they lie, they aren't held accountable. Not really. And we know it, with only 22 per cent of us believing that pollies are held to account for their actions.
To make matters worse, it is actually legal to lie in political advertising. It seems that a politician can literally say anything they want to win your vote and not suffer any consequences for their actions.
Think about that for a minute.
It is legal in this country, for a political candidate or sitting member to tell you lies in their advertising, essentially defrauding you to give them your vote. There is no accountability. No responsibility. No regulation. Just tell them what they want to hear and then do what you want when you win.
Last year, Zali Steggall, Independent member for Warringah, introduced a Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Stop the Lies) bill, but it lapsed at dissolution on April 11 of this year. Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed that politicians' accountability comes every three years at the poll booth, but if it's legal to lie and spread disinformation in political advertising, it seems that Mr Morrison's idea of integrity accountability is one that must be susceptible to corruption in itself.
Member for Indi Dr Helen Haines, has been a strong advocate for an independent anti-corruption commission, introducing the Australian Federal Integrity Commission bill in 2020, which was blocked in parliament. Mr Morrison likened Dr Haines' proposed commission to a Kangaroo Court, reflecting the "sort of show" the NSW ICAC delivered in its "most shameful attacks on the former premier of New South Wales." But, one could argue that an ICAC incapable of investigating corruption at the highest echelons of its jurisdiction, exposing its findings to the people the government serves, would be more like a Kangaroo Court than one that errs on the side of investigating evidenced allegations.
Far from risking "public autocracy", having our country's leadership under the microscope seeks to ensure that those in power do so with integrity and in best interests of the country. What we have now is an oligarchical corporatocracy, where money is power and we all know that power corrupts and absolute - unchecked - power corrupts absolutely.
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The government's draft legislation for an integrity commission - something that was part of its 2019 campaign promises - has never been introduced into parliament for debate. The government's proposed commission will not conduct public hearings or even release reports into alleged corruption by public servants and politicians, and contains a narrow definition of corruption that has been criticised by experts. Mr Morrison claimed "it is there to be supported. It is out policy" intimating that debate was unwelcome and amendments were off the cards.
After all, why would we want an incorruptible anti-corruption commission?
I cannot help but wonder what my children's children will read in their history books about our time and how they will judge us for letting it happen. For being seemingly blind to the propaganda machine that shapes our dialogue and the media representations that are tainted by undue influence.
Having the facts is vital to having an informed vote. If we cannot trust what we are told by our leaders; if we see them cheating and scheming without accountability; then frankly, a Commonwealth Integrity Commission that holds them responsible should be the number one issue on our own voting agenda. For without trust, there is no healthcare, no jobs, no economy, no international relations.
Without trust, we have nothing.
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