Air Niugini looks at ‘gross negligence’ as cause of Chuuk crash

Governments we deserve, but not governments we need

Scott Morrison and James Marape
Scott Morrison and James Marape - beanie clad and doing the populist footie thing


ADELAIDE – Strangely, while politicians as a class are seriously on the nose across the democratic world, individual politicians appear to remain popular within their own electorates, even if they clearly are not people of the highest moral or ethical character.

The former Australian deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce immediately springs to mind as an example of this.

Papua New Guinea has all too many examples of ethically-compromised politicians who remain very popular in their electorates. It must be the beer and lamb flaps effect at work.

More pragmatically, I put this phenomenon down to the fact that politicians, in their day to day work, spend a lot of time helping ordinary people navigate the labyrinthine byways of the government bureaucracy, thus building a reservoir of goodwill that they can draw upon when elections come around.

This is called "farming the electorate" and a good "farmer" can often survive adverse changes of electoral fortune in a way that defies all expectations.

Thus the current Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, who in the recent federal election ran an outstandingly disciplined but blatantly populist election campaign, triumphed over an opposition saddled with an unpopular leader who could not successfully sell a complex array of mostly sensible and carefully crafted policies.

This points to the ultimate source of the problem, which is the painful fact that many of our fellow citizens have great trouble distinguishing between what is objectively true and what is merely blarney, blatherskite and bullshit.

Theoretically, universal education is supposed to be the antidote to this affliction but, sadly, this is manifestly not the case. Many people apparently survive their years of schooling without ever developing a capacity for effective critical thinking.

They are, as a result, unduly credulous and deeply susceptible to things like the pseudo-science used to justify things like the anti-vaccination movement or a whole range of dietary fads or the consumption of vast quantities of essentially useless vitamins, mineral supplements and so forth.

They are also easily conned when it comes to complex issues like how the economy actually works as distinct from how politicians might explain it.

There is much excellent and alarming research that indicates that there is a startling lack of financial literacy amongst the Australian population. No doubt the situation is similar or worse across the globe.

This collective ignorance and credulity is, I think, the heart of the problem with democratic politics.

It helps explain why a Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin or Recep Erdogan or Boris Johnson or Peter O'Neill can remain in power for so long.

Basically, the voting populations seem unable to grasp that what comes out of their political leaders' mouths often doesn't reflect reality. Very often it merely reflects self-interest or the interests of their powerful backers.

This is especially true where those politicians play to our prejudices and beliefs instead of our intellects.

Paradoxically, these same credulous voters will insist that they neither believe nor trust their political leaders.

I assume that there are several possible psycho-social explanations for what is a bizarre mismatch between this supposed distrust and the resultant observable electoral behaviour but I find it baffling in the extreme.

People are not being honest with themselves, let alone with others. Our capacity for self-deception seems to be infinite.

Anyway, for whatever reasons too many of us keep voting for the same disingenuous, deviousness and dishonesty that we purport to deplore.

Until this changes, we will continue to get the governments we deserve as distinct from those that we actually need.


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Bernard Corden

Dear Phil - Fletcher, Birmingham, Tehan, Abetz, Littleproud, Cormann and the Subiaco fishwife are all the same but, with an equally dreadful opposition, an obedience to the orthodoxy is evident and catabolic casino capitalism prevails.

It will only get worse as beggars with smartphones search for seasonally adjusted discounts on winter tents outside our railway stations.

Philip Fitzpatrick

It will be interesting to watch how Boris Johnson progresses. I'm not quite sure what image of himself he is trying to project and what he hopes will capture the minds of the credulous voters of the United Kingdom.

It is also still a mystery what sort of image James Marape is trying to project.

On the one hand he is trying to establish himself as someone who will not tolerate being leaned on by Australia and on the other as a transparent communicator with a bias against corruption.

I don't think anyone since Michael Somare has managed to manufacture a persona with such wide appeal in PNG and I'm not sure Marape (unlike Bryan Kramer for instance) has the charisma to do it.

One of the most appealing aspects of Michael Somare, at least when he was younger, was that he would actually answer questions put to him. This was very refreshing and quite unusual. He was a bit like Bob Hawke in this respect.

Most politicians are experts in avoiding answering embarrassing questions. They use waffle and deflections to achieve this. Morrison is very good at it but some of his ministers really struggle.

I was watching the Federal Minister of Communications, whose name I immediately forgot, attempting not to answer a question about overly influencing a government committee this morning and was delighted when the astute journalist interviewing him said that his refusal to answer the question obviously indicated that he had in fact done what he was struggling to deny.

Unfortunately I doubt whether the lesson will be learned by the colleagues of this forgettable twit who has just added fuel to the fire of the less credulous public who increasingly dismiss what the political class says.

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