Wednesday, 6 December 2006

It's all the media's fault, according to a new book about politics edited by Michael Hogan and Ken Turner being launched today at the University of Sydney's lovely old Nicholson Museum. The Worldly Art of Politics is a collection of essays written by such individuals as academic Frank Bongiorno, Labor Party historian and commentator Rodney Cavalier, Labor Party speechwriter and author Graham Freudenberg, and former Member for Hawkesbury in the New South Wales Parliament and journalist Kevin Rozzoli.

New South Wales has one of the world's most successful democracies, say the editors. And "Our politicians solve problems by making deals and by compromising,"

"But our fragile democracy threatens to be undermined by the media spotlight on the self-seeking, grubby side of politics, the handful of worst performers. Combined with a reluctance to offer praise when it is due, it's no wonder there is widespread cynicism in the electorate."

This view is timely, coming in the wake of the resignation of Carl Scully from his leadership position as Police minister (after fudging the handling of the report into last year's Cronulla riots) and the sacking of Milton Orkopoulos from parliament (for allegations of child sex). These events are close to us in time and they point to the relentlessness of state politics, and its exacting standards.

Peter Debnam's relaible and irascible sound-bites shot by the television cameras outside parliament are also close to us, and serve to highlight the strictly adversarial nature of politics, which makes every setback an opportunity for the other party to score points. People have short memories, it seems.

This looks like a worthwhile and very intersting book. Hogan is an associate professor in the University of Sydney's Department of Government and International Relations (which is part of the Faculty of Economics and Business). Ken Turner retired in 1988 from the Department of Government at the University of Sydney, where he had taught Australian politics for over 20 years, according to the bio page on the publisher's Web site. He is currently an Honorary Associate.

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