New Puritanism makes hypocrites

puritanReally? Two candidates one Liberal, one Labor having been pre-selected as candidates will not be going to this election.

Geoff Lake (ALP) verbally abused a wheelchair-bound fellow Monash councillor Kathy Magee during a 2002 council meeting, for which he apologised at the time.

Kevin Baker (Lib) ran a “Mini Mods” car enthusiasts’ website containing offensive material including references to domestic violence, incest and child abuse and has resigned.

Tony Abbott, said there was no doubt Baker had “done the wrong thing, no doubt about that, he absolutely has done the wrong thing. Now, to his credit he has pulled down the site. He has abjectly and I think quite properly apologised.”

Baker later said, “I deeply regret the posts made on my website and decided that it was not appropriate to continue as the party’s candidate. I set up an online forum for Mini Cooper enthusiasts several years ago (THIS BLOGS ADDITIONAL COMMENT ADDED TO QUOTE – which included the offending sub forum with the tag line “general discussion and banter. Talk about anything you want – no censorship, no stress!”) On the site I made comments that were inappropriate, which I deeply regret and for which I apologise unreservedly. In the last few years I have also failed to moderate the site properly.”

So two candidates, Lake a former Local Councillor, and Baker a former Australian apprentice of the year and a director for the health charity Heartkids are not fit for the high office of federal parliamentarian.

What selective nonsense. Neither man is claiming what they did was appropriate, both men have apologised. The adult Australian public, and more specifically each of the electorates in which they were standing are quite capable of evaluating their initial behaviour and subsequent response. From the brief look at their records both of them are contributing members of the community. Different voters will have different views on whether their behaviour will disqualify them and vote accordingly – they will however not be given that option.

Kevin Rudd – “As such I cannot be confident that he has met the standards that I would expect and demand from members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.”

Are we saying we expect our representatives to have never verbally abused anyone? Never told or written a truly offensive or off colour joke? Well yes I would like to think that of our representatives, while recognising that I myself am disqualified on both counts – I think while embarrassing I am not in a very exclusive club.

But what this New Puritianism is actually requiring is far more than this. An incident of verbal abuse, and offensive comments on a blog are merely the specific stumbling points for these two candidates. It is naïve to believe that these are the only two Puritan metrics which will applied. Any unsavoury event/action/participation from your past dragged out disqualifies you from public office. Apology, retraction, public comment that their personal conduct was inappropriate is not enough. These are, in the context of ENTRY to public life, unforgiveable sins. Once in public life, the media in its various forms largely operates a public and private sphere and tends not to publish private embarrassments.

I find it pious and hypocritical that by implication our leaders pretend that they personally can meet this standard. I can be confident that neither Kevin Rudd, nor Tony Abbott, or I suspect any other sitting, or contesting candidate of Federal Parliament has a life history of sufficient purity that if fully exposed to such a puritanical standard would qualify.

Yet there is a complicit silence of parlimentarians and journalists.

Perhaps one of the Mandarin speaking journalists could do a video interview with Rudd on this on the plane when he has not got the meal of his choice?

Or does this puritianism only apply to new candidates.


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