By Craig Regan
It says something about how Australians view their politicians that nobody seems to believe the reasons Assistant Treasurer and Small Business Minister Mark Arbib gave for resigning from Parliament.
“Spending more time with the family” didn’t cut it. There is an assumption that Arbib is bound for a high-paid lobbying job. He might well be.
Resigning from the Senate at age 40 defies logic because politics has been his life.
The tone of media at his press conference was incredulous and one question sailed close to the wind, legally speaking.
Arbib’s track record as a so-called faceless backroom operative does pre-dispose people to disbelieve him.
But just don’t think it’s a problem restricted to a single political party or individual.
The Australian National University has been researching attitudes towards pollies since 1969. Its Australian Election Study finds that, on average, only four-in-ten voters admitted to trusting politicians over that time.
Asked if government is run for the benefit of the people, only 17 percent responded positively.
In Australia we like to think we have a unique history of disliking authority. We’re a country that cuts down success and elevates a cop-killing, armed robber in a tin suit to the role of national hero.
Distrust in politicians is really a global trend. As media focus on the daily doings of political leaders has increased, the decline in public trust and respect has accelerated.
Richard Nixon was the first US president to clash head-on with the emergent mass media - and lost battles on Vietnam and Watergate.
More recently, a millionaire Prime Minister cavorting with prostitutes and dithering Eurozone leaders taking the world to the edge of financial collapse have reinforced perceptions that politicians take all of us for granted, almost all of the time.
Social media makes people feel they can speak out and drive agenda for change - as we’ve seen in the Middle East. So why do so many people say they feel less empowered?
As for soon to be ex-Senator Arbib’s career path in the weeks ahead: Watch that space.