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June 30, 2016

Federal election: Voting amidst the political pantomime

CityMag editor Farrin Foster on why a less-than-ideal political system doesn't have to mean a selfish society.

  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Picture: Jonathan van der Knaap

I worked in politics for a short time.  

I worked with a good team, alongside a genuine MP who was truly concerned about how their decisions affected those they represented.

When I joined the parliamentary office I had been a journalist for more than five years. I had covered politics and was cynical about the difference between what was said in public and what happened in the fluorescent-lit, slightly daggy corridors of power.

Even so, I was entirely unprepared for the reality of the political environment. In meetings, people said the opposite of what they meant without batting an eyelid. In Parliament, the most important questions persistently went unanswered. Instead of seeing the virtues in a system designed to serve the public, people actively sought out loopholes and manipulated the system to serve themselves.

If we’re selfish, our politicians can be too.


Even though I worked with one of the rare good ones, I couldn’t hack the rest of it. I left.

Now, when election time comes around – as it will this weekend, I approach the polling booth with confusion. The only thing I learnt by being (only just barely) an insider was that critical thinking and reading between the lines still reveals little of what is actually happening. My experience left me disempowered.

But for all my drama, the truth is that democracy is a force larger than those who operate within it.

Democracy works if we do our best to make it work. If we as voters are better than those few who misuse their power, if we decide to cast our vote by thinking about what is best for us all, not just best for ourselves, then we can get the kind of results that fulfil the potential of our system.

If we’re selfish, our politicians can be too. But if we act like a society, then that’s what we’ll create.

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