From Integrated Questions

Could Australian Politics Be A Little Biased?

John over at Australian Politics – a blog, posted about today’s announcement of the new Australian Hospital Nursing Schools scheme by Prime Minister John Howard and Health Minister Tony Abbott.

I will avoid discussion of John’s take on the nursing schools, though I will say that I am, in theory at least, a supporter of the Government’s proposal. I was a partner (admittedly the junior partner) in a community nursing business for two years and involved in the administration for well over a year prior to that. Though not a nurse myself, I was privilege to a lot of conversations over this time about what makes a good nurse and how nurses should be trained.
Every nurse who worked for us bar one was trained before the current university system was in place. And every nurse that I remember speaking to, both within and outside the business, thought that the in-hospital training system was far superior to the current university system. Certainly, my experience was that the hospital-trained nurses were superior in skill. It is important to note that that may be a function of their (often far) greater experience after training (due to an obvious age discrepancy). I must admit to a strong level of bias and little objective consideration of the topic and will thus avoid any formal consideration of the topic.

The focus of this post, however, is not the scheme announced by Mr Howard and Mr Abbott today. It is, what I believe to be, the shocking misrepresentation of Mr Howard.

Read the press release.
Now, does Mr Howard sound like he is taking all the credit for himself, or does he sound like he attributes it to “the Government” which he routinely refers to as “we”. Is ‘we’ a term commonly used to describe a single person? Or, is it a term commonly used to refer to a collection of people, such as, perhaps, a team?

How do your views correlate with John’s take?

Traditionally I have enjoyed John’s well-reasoned, well-written, and justly balanced posts. Today I was disappointed. I fail to see how Mr Howard “pointedly talks about ‘I'”. I think that the copious use of ‘we’ is evidence that he was speaking of a team. Mr Howard does make significant usage of the ‘I’, when discussing personal anecdotal evidence to support the policy, when discussing his personal opinion of the policy. Does membership of a team preclude a personal opinion? Why would we expect our elected representatives not to hold personal opinions? Indeed, should we not both expect and demand that they not only hold personal opinions, but cleave strongly to their personal principles and beliefs?

It is ludicrous to think that someone who obtained Mr Howard’s position would be anything but a team-player. Furthermore, I must ask, why is it that Mr Howard must talk of the ‘team’? Why should he be compelled to suddenly, specifically and overtly, discuss the team that has been in existence for, supposedly, his entire prime ministership?

In a second post, John has further attacked Mr Howard along these lines. I have yet to have the chance to read the other sources John has drawn from – partly because he has neglected to provide any link to them and I am thus trawling for them on my lonesome… I will update this post as I gain the opportunity to read through these speeches.

For those who would choose now to label me a Liberal and Howard-supporter: I intend to vote for Kate Ellis in the House of Representatives at the forthcoming election. Ms Ellis is the current Labor Member for Adelaide and a thoroughly decent and capable person (whom I was fortunate enough to meet at the Youth Parliament Mentorship Dinner back in July). Her Liberal opponent is Tracy Marsh, whose basic platform seems to be “I am a good mother and I’ll do what Mr Howard tells me to” – not exactly a strong position. At this stage I intend to preference the Liberals over the ALP in the Upper House.

As previous posts demonstrate I have a tendency to support the Liberal’s positions more frequently than I support the ALP. Thus, I must wonder if it is merely my personal prejudices and biases that form my opinion that Mr Howard did in fact refer to the team. I must ask, would someone without biases, or with biases against Mr Howard see it otherwise?

Please, leave a comment and let me know how you feel the nursing press release reads. Do you think that Mr Howard was explicitly referring to himself? If not, do you think it is fair to assume that he was implicitly doing so (and, effectively, using the royal ‘we’)? If you do think he was implicitly doing so, why do you think so?

2 thoughts on “Could Australian Politics Be A Little Biased?

  1. “It is ludicrous to think that someone who obtained Mr Howard’s position would be anything but a team-player.”Hardly. Ludicrous is a little too dismissive, don’t you think? People are perfectly capable of rising to high office through *pretending* to be a team player, or any other qualities required to achieve their goals. Alternatively, people who are good at getting others to follow their lead may also rise to high ranks whilst rarely having to behave as a “team player”Note that I’m not arguing John Howard had/has any of the above listed qualities, merely that to rule out so condemningly him being anything other than a team player is a little harsh :)On to the original press release/address:My opionon here is that Howard is using the “We” of the Federal Government, rather than his personal team of ministers/advisors/etc (and hence largely in the abstract)Tellingly, then:”But this is an extra stream, it in no way is designed to undermine the existing university system and could I just point out to you that since 2005 my Government has provided support for 3,700 additional nursing training places at universities and that’s going to grow to 10,000 by the year 2012″Given the above and Howard’s rumoured tendency to be very much in charge of federal liberal (as opposed to being a figurehead or chairperson), the address carefully avoids directly taking credit whilst giving the distinct impression (to me) that it was Howard’s brainchild (and as we all know, impressions are the reader/listeners problem)To be honest, it was a good move in general, but we’ll never know now if a Labor govt in Howard’s place wouldn’t have done the same thing. Health’s always a bit of an iffy issue for politicians (of all persuasions) – they can tend to lack long-term vision but be very reactionary on it to public opinion.


  2. No, I don’t think that ludicrous is too disimissive. If the complaints were that Mr Howard does not involve his team enough then I would agree. If the complaint was that his team didnot involve the right people then I would agree. It is ludicrous to assume that Mr Howard tries to run the Government by himself. He has appointed Ministers. He lets them manage their portfolios.I almost said take responsibility for their portfolio, but Ministerial-responsibility is all but dead, isn’t it?As for your comments on the press release, those I largely agree with. I had contemplated the idea that it was effectively the royal ‘we’. I am not convinced that it was, I certainly am not convinced that the interpretation presented by Australian Politics – a blog, is reaching a little further than it reasonably can.Of course, as demonstrated, much the same can be said of my interpretation.Daniel.


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