Tim Costello reflects on the ambition, betrayal and revenge of Australia's politicians. We are rightly cynical - but should we remain so?

Australians expect their politicians to lie. They expect them to break promises. If it leaves them better off – as with Stage 3 tax cuts for the majority – then the moral offence of a broken promise is passed over.  

People expect politicians to say there is no disunity or division, that they loyally support their leader, when it is totally untrue.  

I said all this to our PM when I had a chance breakfast meeting with him last week in the seat of Dunkley where I live and where he was campaigning.  

And then, every ten or so years, the ABC plays a Father Confessor role and our politicians – as if in a confessional – talk unabashedly about their lies, back-stabbing and broken promises, with a thin moral justification…  

that it wasn’t done for their good (personal ambition) but the good of the nation. For Labor it was The Killing Season; for the Coalition, the recently-released Nemesis.  

It is coldly enthralling to watch our ex-leaders speak of each other as thugs, dangerous, duplicitous, leading a bad government. You have to mentally remind yourself that they were on the same side at the time, telling us they were united.  

My criticism of the left historically has been that they too often ignore discussing moral character, as if moral only means isms like sexism, gender and racism. But watching Nemesis convinced me it is equally true of conservatives. 

No one in Nemesis said: we behaved in destructive ways, I don’t like how I acted then and I am working on my character. No wonder the program’s subtitle promises ‘the inside story of ambition, betrayal and revenge’.  

Given the cynicism of the Australian public, this behaviour will surely only continue. It’s up to us to lift our expectations too.  

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