“I hold myself in contempt!” shouted Jim Carrey, in the 1997 film Liar Liar, in which he found himself cursed to tell the truth after a lifetime of hiding behind evasion, half-truths and outright porkies.
A sequel could well feature our very own Julia Gillard. After all, she clearly holds her own word in complete contempt, having repeatedly shown a talent for blithely abandoning previous promises and commitments.
Sussex Street’s fondness for breaking election commitments, wasting time and resources on ‘trials’ and the like simply to postpone a difficult problem, trashing expensive projects at whim and generally treating politician’s promises as flexible or even expendable now appears to be the blueprint for Labor in Canberra.
The rot set in with NSW Premier Bob Carr. “It is an iron-clad guarantee. I'll sign it in blood if you want," he said, pledging to halve hospital waiting lists within twelve months or resign. He also promised to scrap motorway tolls in two Liberal-held western Sydney seats - which resulted in him securing government by one seat. (Sound familiar?) Of course, waiting lists went up, not down, there was no bloody resignation, and the tolls remained firmly in place. Over the following decade, Carr and his increasingly brazen minders discovered they could promise pretty much whatever they felt like – trains, hospitals, highways, buses - without any intention of delivering. It took NSW voters sixteen years to wake up to the concept of ‘spin.’
Those same minders now sit on Gillard’s front bench, so it’s hardly surprising that the idea of honouring your word doesn’t carry much weight with this government. The Gillard-Swan promise to never introduce a carbon tax was not only broken, but “justified” with further obfuscation and hair-splitting semantics. “Yes, I did say that but circumstances have changed,” Gillard said, before adding: “What my vision was, was to be elected as prime minister and to introduce an emissions trading scheme, which is not a carbon tax.” Oh, so that’s alright then.
Peter Garrett, although he now claims he was only joking, famously (and accurately) showed his own contempt for the Howard-lite Kevin07 pre-election commitments: "Once we get in we'll just change it all."
Penny Wong has been quick to play word games around the latest broken promise. "This is a Prime Minister who can be trusted to get the job done," she said – neatly twisting the meaning of ‘trust.’ And from Stephen Conroy, showing the degree to which he holds logic and straight talking in contempt: "It's a minority government – it’s not about promising something we couldn't keep.” Um, but wasn’t it the promise that created the minority government?
Even members of her own party obviously hold Gillard’s word in contempt, with the ugly boast by Craig Thomson that the broken pokies promise is a victory for the backroom deals of NSW Labor MP’s.
With such disregard for honouring your word, at the end of the day it’s pretty clear that it is the voters whom Labor actually hold in contempt.