News yesterday that former Sports Minister, Bridget McKenzie had siphoned $100 million of community sports grants into predominantly marginal electorates prior to the 2019 Federal Election, has incited many.
Thousands have called for the Minister’s resignation with several community sports groups convinced they missed out on necessary funding because the seats in which they reside weren’t viewed as advantageous for the prospective Coalition Government.
But far from resign, the now Minister for Agriculture has instead doubled down, emphatically claiming she did nothing wrong.
“That is absolutely ridiculous,” she said, when asked whether she should consider the calls for her to step down.
“This is a highly successful program that’s delivering real benefits on the ground to community sporting clubs, so that parents and kids can get out there and get active, adopt a healthy lifestyle, rather than actually having to do fundraising.”
Technically, McKenzie is right– she hasn’t broken the rules. But she has done what every Australian loathes from their government: she’s played the game ickily and unfairly. She was underhand. And she undercut numerous, Australian sporting communities in a bid to get a few easy votes.
This is the kind of conduct which turns Australians off politics and leads to persistent, widespread apathy. Is it so much to ask for a government and leaders who have our collective best interests at heart?
Senator McKenzie’s response to this all, has been equally deplorable. We expect mistakes to be made, and at times of high pressure (like before an election) we even expect that corners may be cut, (though we’re not stoked about it).
But for McKenzie to claim that all funding had been distributed within the rules, and to make the even more ridiculous assertion that perhaps “reverse pork-barrelling” had occurred, is indefensible.
Ultimately, all Australians really want is transparency and a willingness to reflect from the people that we’ve appointed to govern us. This is something that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has blatantly missed the mark on recently, in regards to his handling of the nation’s bushfire crisis.
Leaving the country during a national emergency for a holiday in Hawaii is one thing. Not having the capacity to quickly repent for that mistake is another.
Had Morrison returned with his tail between his legs and a genuine apology– free from excuses– Australians would have been forgiving. Instead, he issued a feeble attempt of explanation that included mentions of a “hard year”, “trying his best to juggle responsibilities” and “doing his best to be a committed Dad”.
From there on, he failed to properly connect with the tragedy at hand, or empathise with communities affected in a meaningful way. Mostly because he was too concerned with ensuring his electorate never actually viewed him as human– as a man capable of mistakes.
It’s hard to understand why so many politicians (McKenzie and Morrison two recent examples) believe that not taking accountability for their actions is the approach that will win them any favours with Australians. Time and time again, this is shown not to be the case.
Political leaders are not meant to be infallible. All we really want are good, compassionate, human people, who can admit to their mistakes.