TUMBY BAY - Politicians all over the world are on the nose. In some places they rank in popularity below street thieves and lazy public servants.
The most popular politician in Australia is New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
We don’t know who the most popular politician in Papua New Guinea is because nobody conducts surveys.
Right now it might be prime minister James Marape, who is still in his honeymoon period. But it could be Bryan Kramer because of his unflinching habit of doing the right thing and also communicating directly with people on social media.
In places like Australia people tend to select their favourite politician depending on their own right or left wing biases. In PNG it is more likely they would be selected along tribal and clan lines.
It would be interesting to turn the whole question on its head and ask people who is the most unpopular politician. I suspect that would attract a much more enthusiastic response.
But it’s in so-called Western countries that the biggest problems are seen – the US, UK, Australia, Italy, Greece and elsewhere.
So what has caused this malaise about politicians and politics?
There are two things that come to mind. The first is the greed and self-interest of current politicians and the second is the preponderance of clowns that people seem to elect nowadays.
In the latter instance, people like US president Donald Trump stand out. We have yet to see how the new UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, behaves but all indications are that he could be another clown.
Two other types of politician are worth mentioning here. The first is the totally boring and bland type. We’ve currently got one of them as our prime minister in Australia. He’s deliberately cultivating this image, for what purpose we are yet to find out but I suspect it’s not good.
The second is the totally untrustworthy, dishonest and incompetent type. Peter O’Neill probably epitomised this.
This burgeoning trend to ignore politicians and politics might seem benign. The old adage, “don’t vote for them, it just encourages them”, strikes a chord with many people.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
People get up to mischief if they think that no one is watching them. Politicians are no different.
There is another reason why people can ignore what politicians are doing.
This is when a politician proves to be exceptionally good and caring and people feel comfortable to trust them to get on with it.
Unfortunately these politicians are a rarity. Some of our political leaders have started out that way but invariably fail us in the longer term.
In PNG, Peter O’Neill seemed like a breath of fresh air but looked what happened there. As Keith Jackson has pointed out, there are possible cracks starting to appear in the Marape persona too.
In light of all these things there’s no question that we must keep our politicians and political leaders under close watch.
If they are so incredibly bad we must keep a keen eye on them rather than giving up in frustration and trying to ignore them.
Conversely, even if our politicians are good at what they do, is it wise to let them get on with it and trust them to stay that way?
Politicians will always be politicians. If they see that we have become distracted, either through frustration or complacency, won’t they just take advantage of the situation and do things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get away with?
There are some historic precedents for this phenomenon, names like Robert Menzies and Michael Somare come to mind.
Of course, if Australia and PNG each had a national independent commission against corruption, we could rest a bit easier.
But we shouldn’t hold our breath.