Response to 'Political Affiliation At The ANU'

Michael Pettersson recently wrote an article for Woroni in which he argued against the accusations of deceit regarding his political affiliation. He said that people should not have to reveal their political connections, as it can make them feel distressed or uncomfortable.

He argued that it isn’t fair on people in politics on campus to be criticised for their political connections.

To my understanding, that is the point of public criticism. He would rather we ignore questionable political behaviour in order to not hurt a student politician’s feelings. If he doesn’t like it, he should step down from politics. His argument suggests he prefers government without checks or balance.

Public oversight of government is a cornerstone of liberal democracy. It is the basis for which we promote the freedom of the press, in order to inform the public about people in positions of power. It is this concept that led to the establishment of ICAC by the NSW Government, which has done great things to clean up government of shady connections.

I understand Pettersson’s position in regards to negative public opinion on people’s political connections. It can be somewhat jarring. However, signing up to a political party doesn’t mean you get a free pass for your beliefs. That is the purpose of honest and open discussions on politics.

It is not dehumanising to criticise deceit. To characterise criticism in this way shows a lack of support for the principles of open government. Michael Pettersson quotes Saul Alinksy, who said “true revolutionaries do not flaunt their radicalism. They cut their hair, put on suits and infiltrate the system from within”. However, being a revolutionary does not give you a free pass to behave questionably. I believe true revolutionaries should be held accountable for the actions and their connections.

Pettersson’s Labor Faction lacks honesty and integrity when it comes to their political connections. They use their positions on campus to help one another out in political campaigns. That is exactly what a party structure is there for, it is an organisation for the advancement of shared political goals. If that goal is merely to take control of student organisations, then that is entirely legitimate. But students have a right to know about these connections. They have a right to be informed about what party people belong to, especially when connections like the ones I have previously described exist. Anything less than that allows the faceless men of political organisations to act dishonestly.

Benjamin Disraeli once said “all power is a trust; that we are accountable for its exercise”. Anyone in a position of power can and will be held accountable for questionable behaviour. When people in positions of power use it to help their friends, they must be held accountable. If they don’t like that, I think they should resign.


Angus Mackie a member of the Liberal Party of Australia but does not speak for the Liberal Party or any other organisation

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