16 March 2024

Letter from the Editor: Campaign mudslinging needs to go, not become the Political Olympics' latest sport

| Lyndon Keane
Start the conversation

With Queenslanders gearing up to elect new councils this weekend, candidates would do well to remember the communities they are trying to represent are sick of having to wade through mudslinging, rhetoric and finger pointing in the search for authentic political leadership. Photo: Lyndon Keane.

They say death and taxes are the only certainties on this mechanical bull ride called life, but I think it’s fair to add a third inevitability to the list: mudslinging in election campaigns.

It feels like an opportune time to make the addition, given Cape York and Torres Strait voters are now only five days away from casting their vote in the 2024 Queensland local government elections.

If you’ve made a postal vote to have your say in how your new council will look for the next four years, congratulations on avoiding the mudslinging, political spin and unrealistic promises that accompany a trip to the ballot box.

Should you heading to a pre-poll this week, or waiting until Saturday to make your representation selection comforted by the olfactory magnificence that is a democracy sausage sizzling away on a barbecue, you might want to brace yourself and read on.

Actually, with a state election in October and voters set to choose new representation in Canberra sometime in 2025, it’s probably better everyone stays focused, because the bane of the democratic process does not discriminate between the three tiers of government. It’s a bit like a parent saying every child is their favourite in that sense, even when they’re clearly lying through their teeth.

READ ALSO Letter from the Editor: It’s time to put up or hand back for remote service providers

While they will never admit it, you’d be hard pressed to find a candidate of any political persuasion – and I’m also looking at those incumbents already representing loyal and potentially foolhardy constituents – who could say hand-on-heart they have never flung a political mud pie, pointed the finger and blamed the previous council or government, or engaged in a bit of old-fashioned gossiping about their competition. Go on, prove me wrong. I’ll wait.

Since the council candidate lists were announced earlier this year, I’ve been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of myriad calls, texts and comments from candidates, their family members and “unofficial” campaign assistants trying to drum up interest in why they believed Candidate X or Candidate Y was crooked and unfit for public office. You’ll be stunned to read not one allegation was based on anything that could be rationally categorised as fact. People, for the love of whatever omnipotent being plays a central role in your life, something you saw on a Facebook whinge group or heard at the bowls club at 2am on a Saturday doesn’t generally turn out to be a verifiable truth.

For reasons known only to those with a predisposition for elected public service, mudslinging and outlining why your opponents are completely incompetent – or simply corrupt – is now the go-to strategy when it comes to political campaigns.

Unfortunately, for these candidates and their entourages, the reality is that most of your lucid voters are completely fed up with the lies, blaming and total absence of accountability.

READ ALSO OPINION: Why I hate every federal election

An important note to political candidates, whether they be local, state or federal: we are sick of hearing what you think your opponents have done wrong, and why you believe spreading rumour and innuendo makes you deserving of our vote. If you’re reading this and aren’t a candidate, please highlight the last sentence and pass it onto any wannabe political types you feel would benefit from having a gander.

It’s reached the point where we could spiritedly petition the International Olympic Committee to include the political mud toss as an athletic inclusion for the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane.

What we should be driving to celebrate, however, is the value of a campaign based on honesty, unpretentious ambition and a genuine desire to represent your community to make it a better place to live, work and play. I know, I know, there goes a pig across the northern horizon. A jaded and cynical newspaper editor can dream, can’t he?

Media shouldn’t be in the habit of telling readers who needs to get their vote when they number the boxes in a giddy, post-democracy sausage euphoria. But they should be prepared to point out the glaringly obvious in that the acceptance – or ignorance – of the mudslinging status quo has led to the state of not only our own communities and the whole of Cape York and the Torres Strait, but the entire democratic system of government.

If you aren’t happy with what you see, hear or read, it might be time to dodge the mud and scuttlebutt, scream out and make your vote stick on 16 March.

Start the conversation

Cape York Weekly

Subscribe to get the latest edition of Cape York Weekly in your inbox each Monday.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Cape York Weekly's terms and conditions and privacy policy.