Op-Ed: Our Vision to Tackle Toxic Politics

Op-Ed: Our Vision to Tackle Toxic Politics

Leanne Minshull’s OpEd published in The Mercury today. With trust in politics at an all time low, The Local Network aims to change our political culture from the bottom up. It’s time to change our political discussion from ‘how do we beat the other team?’ to ‘how can we flourish

Leanne Minshull’s OpEd published in The Mercury today.


Full text below.

With trust in politics at an all time low, The Local Network aims to change our political culture from the bottom up. It’s time to change our political discussion from ‘how do we beat the other team?’ to ‘how can we flourish together?’ This change cannot occur without changing the political party system. Australia needs a new way of working together and Tasmania is the perfect place to start.
Politics at a state and federal level is toxic, unlikely to change regardless of how many inquiries or royal commissions the Prime Minister instigates. It is the culture itself that is rotten and that culture won’t change until everyone in parliament reflects on what they need to do differently rather than saying what others should do.

How many of our elected representatives – male or female, – are asking themselves, what can I do personally to make this culture better? Are our State MPs, many of whom have been in parliament for a decade or more, asking themselves, what can I do to change a system that let a predator operate in our hospitals and youth justice system for years?

There are good people in politics, hopefully many of them are privately doing this self -reflection. Publicly, our politician’s are either, dodging bullets or firing them. And so the game continues, and so nothing changes.
There is a great saying If you can’t change the people around you, change the people around you. Sage advice but problematic for politics. Yes, if our politicians don’t change their behaviour, we can change them at the next election, but who will be waiting in the wings to replace them?

If the next crop of politicians are a product of the existing adversarial party system, not much will change.
In politics you are rewarded for catching the other side out, setting a trap for your opponents to walk in to. It’s exhausting. And that’s before you have to deal with those on your own team who are often the most destructive. It’s no wonder that disengaging from politics is an attractive option, but it means our current political culture will continue.

The Local Network was born of a frustration with existing politics and a deeply held belief that we can and must do better.
For the Local Network , doing better means changing the political system, not just the people. None of us in the Local Network believe that we are any better, wiser or less open to the seduction of power than our current political leaders. So, we wrote a party constitution unlike any other, one that distributes power rather than concentrates it. It also believes in the wisdom of the collective over the individual and that no one mind is better, wiser or faster than a group of minds working on common problems and opportunities.

To be a candidate for The Local Network you need to live in your electorate and be involved with the community in some way. This could be anything from working with the CWA to coaching the local soccer team or volunteering with your fire brigade.
Every elected member in The Local Network will have a conscience vote on every piece of legislation put before them. This means that when you vote for your local representative, they will not be able to say one thing to the electorate and then vote another way in Parliament, saying they needed to ‘toe the party line’.

So what holds our party together? At the heart of The Local Network is a commitment to listening to, and being held accountable by, the community that you live in and are elected by. Elected members are bound to hold two citizens assemblies in their electorate every year. Citizen assemblies work much the same way juries do. Rather than leaving complex decisions to lobbyists, vested interests and experts, citizen assemblies give decision making power to the people affected by those decisions. You can’t have a citizens assembly for every political decision you make, but holding them for divisive and complex issues ensures the best chance of reaching a conclusion that most of the community are comfortable with.

It worked in Ireland when changing abortion laws. It worked in South Australia when deciding whether to put a radioactive waste dump on Aboriginal land. The Netherlands used the system to decide electoral reform. In the coming months, The Local Network will be trialling a citizens assembly on the future of our planning system.

The party will be holding it’s first state conference at the Spring Bay Mill at the end of July. This will not be a Members only, faction fight over policy and pre-selection. It will be an exchange of ideas between members and non-members, an opportunity to exchange our action plans. Two days to listen and learn.

The old dog eat dog politics is done. It’s no longer fit for purpose and it’s time is nearing an end. Our political movement will not be stopped by old stereotypes that paint bad political behaviour as inevitable, striving for something better as naïve, and participatory democracy as impossible. Politics is a human made construct. There is nothing inevitable about it other than at some point, it will change. We want that change to be positive for all of us.