modern ms manners: how to argue politely – a note for politicians on question time
Often lamenting the lack of etiquette being advocated in our modern society, one cannot help but notice a whole range of behaviours which fail to show the human race as an evolved and courteous species. Public flatulence, the inability of people to say “please” or “thank you” and the standard mode of address which you receive from that lady in customer service that makes you feel as though you were responsible for running over her cat. All of these things would make you justified in feeling like people actually do not care about one another.
But then, we make excuses for most people. That guy with flatulence probably cannot help his gaseous ways and people probably do not know how to actually say “thank you”, but perhaps if we offered them a text screen then they are sure to write “thanx” and “plz” all the time. And maybe, just maybe, you did once run over a cat that belonged to the girl in customer assistance and whilst I am sure she is doing her best to try and help you, the wound is still too raw. That is why you will not get your refund. Not today and not ever.
However, despite advocating a level of understanding amongst our peers, I do feel justified in holding certain members of society to a higher standard of behavior. Those people who put their hands up to represent others in a purely selfless and respectable way. In this particular instance friends, I am referring to our parliamentarians.
Unless you have had the fortunate circumstance of living under a rock this entire lifetime, you probably have not been able to escape the mainstream media happily clacking on about the scandalous behaviour of parliamentarians. Reading through these headlines, you cannot help but wonder whether some of the members who have been voted in by the public, actually have the emotional capacity to be there, as the similarities with schoolyard bullying are rife.
Take for example this last week. Now, without going in to detail, Craig Thomson has been removed from the Labor Party [the veracity of allegations against Mr Thomson are not addressed here as they are not the focus of this article]. He is now what is referred to as a “cross bencher” which gives him the same status as an independent or minority party member. It is important to remember that he remains a Member of the Parliament and is still the representative of his electorate.
Fast forward to Wednesday, and you will have noticed that a motion was put forward by the Labor Party relating to the Liberal Party. As is the usual course of events, the matter was then put to a vote. Mr Thomson subsequently decided to stand over and vote with the Liberal Party against the motion.
Now usually this sort of process would be considered very boring by most of the general populace and would go unnoticed. However, given the hype surrounding the allegations of Mr Thomson, the Leader of the Opposition Mr Tony Abbott and Mr Christopher Pyne suddenly had such doubts in their vote that they were caused to literally flee parliament. Like actually running.
When asked to explain their actions later on, Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne seemed convinced that Mr Thomson’s choice to continue in his work as a parliamentarian and vote on a motion was actually a publicity stunt, and they decided they did not want to be a part of it.
Now maybe that was true. Maybe Mr Thomson was causing a publicity stunt. I cannot vouch for that. Maybe Mr Thomson has cooties. Who knows? But really, what kind of message are you sending to the members of your electorate when you physically run away from doing what is essentially your job? All because you did not want to be associated with the guy next to you. How very adult!
Discussing this matter with others, the most common reaction I have received revolves around a “what can you expect” attitude which seems to be representative of how a lot of Australians are feeling towards their parliamentarians. This sort of behaviour is not confined to one party or one side of politics. Five minutes of question time and you will wonder why the program is not renamed to “snide comments and remarks time” or “yell all your thoughts time”.
When did this become okay? When did parliamentarians find tactics such as hissing, shouting abuse and generally carrying on like a rabid monkey acceptable, let alone a good method of communicating their electorate’s ideas and opinions? I may have never been an MP, but I have engaged in my fair share of public debate and I can assure you if I committed half of these indecencies, the adjudicators from the Country Women’s Association would have thrown me out of the school hall without so much as a piece of coconut ice to show for it.
The answer is that this behaviour became okay when we, the voters, allowed it to go by without question. Suddenly the shouting politician is no worse that the guy farting on the bus, and we have either started to make excuses for them or attempt to ignore them completely.
So in an effort to regain control of how our country’s leaders behave in parliament, I put forward the following proposals:
- Have parliament run by the Country Women’s Association – those ladies are o.r.g.a.n.i.s.e.d and will not only have everyone’s manners whipped into shape, but then we could also have parliament bake offs!
- Give greater sanction powers to the Speaker of the House – I am envisaging an option to ‘eject’ a member of the House by actually pressing a big red button labeled “EJECT” that would launch said Member up into the air where they can float back down to Capital Hill after they think about what they have done.
- Stop making excuses for other people’s rudeness. Surely we did not run over all of their cats.
(Image credit: 1.)