Political parties and individual politicians tout their policies prior to election time. Voters decide who to support depending on what policies are presented. It's a politicians' opportunity to sell themselves, to market themselves, as if they are a product on a supermarket shelf. But unlike products on a shelf, politicians can lie on the outside of the box about what's inside.
There's a culture of lying within politics itself, so telling 'porkies' about their intentions - their policies - and telling 'pants on fire' lies about their opposition has become a standard part of the process. As voters we're used to it - kind of numb to it. But that doesn't mean we like it. And it doesn't mean we have to accept it as the norm. Or admire the people who do it. Or vote for them.
Lying and trust are two concepts that are deeply intertwined. When someone lies to us, we no longer trust them, because it becomes impossible to determine whether we are being manipulated, deceived or set up - impossible to determine whether we're safe, respected or honoured.
How is it possible to have a cohesive nation unless we all agree to the same values and have a government and election process that operates in accordance with those values?
When we are unsure about the integrity of what a person says or does, we can no longer trust them to provide a safe space for us, for our partners, our family and our children. We put ourselves at risk. This is why healthy people intentionally push liars away, and invite people they trust into their lives.
So how does a voter navigate through the minefield of lies that sits between them and the polling booth? How do we determine which politicians we trust to deliver those things that are important for us and our families? Well in my view we need to stop looking at policy - stop looking at the packaging. Instead we need to flip the box over and look for the ingredients panel.
The list of ingredients is the list of values each politician lives by.
Jacinda Arhern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, said after the recent terror attack, "we were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we're an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things; because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those that share our values, a refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack".
The most important part of this statement is "a home for those that share our values, a refuge for those who need it". Arhern makes the point that shared values create a truly cohesive nation. Not religion. Not political ideology. Not policy. Not status, heritage or persuasion. But values.
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, said the country's "extraordinary success is that we have bound together a vast country with a set of shared ideas and beliefs". He didn't mean that only Christians live there. He meant that every Canadian shares the same values.
There's one value that every single person would put on their list of core values for this nation - honesty.
So what values represent Australia and Australians? Some values are easy to list - these might be freedom, fairness, respect and courage, as well as humility, compassion and generosity. Other values might spark debate - like diversity, courtesy and transparency. But there's one value that every single person would put on their list of core values for this nation - honesty.
If a person applies for a visa to come to Australia, either temporarily or permanently, they agree to respect the freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, Parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women and a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good; and value equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background.
So, if these are our shared values, and if honesty is a value that sits at the very core of our nation's identity, then shouldn't this be our guide at election time? Which of our politicians are most committed to these values? Which have a long standing reputation for living by these values? Which have proven that their values "will not and cannot be shaken"?
How is it possible to have a cohesive nation unless we all agree to the same values and have a government and election process that operates in accordance with those values? What do you think? What are your values?
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