THE best kind of politicians are the ones who don’t really want to be politicians, but they really want to get something done.
It is perhaps one of the great failings of modern politics that very few of the people have any kind of vision or aspiration beyond just being elected.
There's just a week to go until the NSW people vote to choose who will represent and govern them.
In the meantime, pre-polling has begun and I went over to Inverell on Thursday to hand out 'how to vote' information for my brother, who is contesting the NSW seat of Northern Tablelands.
In the past I have voted by postal vote - there was never any concern about facing the throng of people trying to influence my political choice, so I watched with some interest the body language and response of the voters as they encountered the eager political hawkers.
On slow parts of the day with only the odd voter about it was a bit like watching seagulls land on a chip.
One thing that strikes me in this context is the disdain people profess towards politics generally. I am intrigued by this attitude, because politics doesn’t just happen at elections: it is everywhere, all of the time.
People often deride politicians, but the reality is that we are all political. Politics occurs is in every aspect of our lives where we interact with other people.
My wife is involved with the management of junior soccer and local pony club. These two organisations are pretty well run by people generally getting on with the practicalities, but every now and then politics gets in the way.
I won’t start on the dysfunction of politics in farm advocacy.
The Concise English Dictionary provides a definition of politics as “the complex of relations between human beings in society or within an organisation”. In turn the same dictionary offers a definition of political as “concerned with the relationships of power within an organisation rather than matters of practicality or principle”.
Personally I have always been very concerned about politics of power. It is dominated by people who manipulate circumstances for their own gratification, and so I have a strong personal prejudice against people who profess to want to be politicians. These people are prepared to be expedient and say what people want to hear, with no real regard.
I have far less of an issue with people who say they want to be a politician followed with how that would help them achieve something. Alas, too often I just hear how people want to be something as opposed to wanting to do something.
Last month we were treated to another stellar political performance as the federal Liberal Party debated whether or not to spill the leadership. Almost to a (wo)man the discussion was about whether or not the Liberal Party would be able to form government at the next election under Mr Abbott’s leadership.
I did not hear one person talk about their vision for the country or the implication of the spill motion in the national interest. The issue was dominated by discussions of wanting to be something rather than wanting to get things done.
Our political landscape is dominated by people who seem to think their greatest political achievement and legacy is limited to the height of the office they hold. It is true also that the major parties define success in terms of being in government as opposed to opposition. The truth for both individual and parties is that the office that is held is only the licence to operate. Success is and must be determined by what you do with it as opposed to how long you hold it.
In terms of local decisions about who to vote for, I have a far simpler ethos around picking a candidate. I want to know why they are running and what they might have done with their life so far that would have shaped their vision and commitment to a better future.
Sadly, I see too many career politicians in the mix. Young men and to a lesser extent young women, who have chosen a career path that is all about becoming a politician. Often they learn their craft by being a staffer for an older politician, and so learn how to manipulate the system to achieve their own ambition. They are often slick and polished operators, but too often they have no depth or real life experience and for safety they attach themselves to major parties like limpets.
I am not naïve and I know many people are disillusioned with politics, but at some point real people - people with vision and commitment - will need to get back on the old political horse and take control of the country again. Our kids’ futures depend on it.
Needless to say, I am not likely to vote for the 29-year-old career politician, regardless of what colour shirt he or she wears.