TUMBY BAY - When did politicians start putting themselves first instead of us?
When did politicians start acting like rock stars and movie stars instead of acting like representatives of the people?
When did political spin take over from political reality?
When did power for its own sake become the endgame of politics?
It’s hard to put a finger on when the transition took place but, for those of us old enough, there are still memories of humble individuals walking the corridors of power in our national capital working assiduously for our benefit instead of the profit of themselves and their business mates.
Was it during the late 1970s when a re-invigorated style of neo-liberalism under leaders like Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan crept quietly through the door extolling the virtues of individualism and competitiveness as opposed to the common good?
These thoughts come to mind as we watch another power play taking place in the Papua New Guinean parliament where raw politics at its most base is happening again.
An unfamiliar observer might be prompted to wonder what great philosophical and ideological differences have prompted this battle for power.
They would be sorely disappointed in the answer.
While the barbs that fly from both camps are daubed with accusations of corruption and incompetence it is apparent to just about everyone that it is just inconsequential and gaudy bilas and gris tok [decoration and spin].
The real game is about who can get a place at the public trough.
If there is a correlation between the rise of neo-liberalism and the behaviour of politicians, Papua New Guineans are at a severe disadvantage.
They have no historical reference point for a time when politics was an honourable profession.
PNG politics was born at the same time that neo-liberalism was upending the way the economic game was played.
We in Australia can compare our current crop of self-serving politicians to those icons of the past like John Curtin, Ben Chifley, Robert Menzies and Gough Whitlam.
Fact is, they hardly stand up well at all.
Who in the past can Papua New Guineans look to for examples of politicians of stature?
Politicians who put their country first and viewed serving their people as the important part of their job.
There were certainly leaders of stature prior to independence but few of them translated into good, long term, post-independence politicians.
Even Michael Somare, once a lowly government radio newsman on a provincial radio station, turned his tenure as prime minister into a cash cow and retired with a net worth estimated at K1.8 billion.
What sort of example was that for his successors?
It is probably his legacy that is again playing out in the PNG parliament right now.
What must be particularly galling for the people is the impoverished context in which these selfish games are conducted.
That old saying about re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic comes to mind.
Or maybe it’s re-arranging the snouts in the trough at the abattoirs.