On political apologies: A modest proposal
Laura Tingle, as usual, is absolutely right that the people of Australia deserve an almost endless string of apologies for the litany of failures in policy and government that have taken place since this government took office. Since before then, really. Definitely since the end of the Hawke/Keating era.
And that’s partly the problem. Scott Morrison and his fellow cabinet ministers’ abject failure to take responsibility for anything terrible that has happened under their watch is nothing new.
Morrison has just taken things to an extra, extra-ordinary length. Because that’s the kind of man he is — the kind who will take a low bar, and lower it even further, down into the mud. That’s where he feels most comfortable — that’s the kind of politics he likes.
It’s clear that this problem isn’t just an individual one though — it’s systemic. That’s why I am proposing that we introduce a new convention — a cultural change to how accountability is accepted here in Australia.
We’ve just seen a complete lack of culpability, of arrogance, from politicians of all stripes, for far too long. There’s a simple answer to that — make the assholes grovel in front of a camera and beg for our forgiveness live on national television (and of course simulcast on social media).
To err is human, to show genuine remorse for your failures is divine.
The Japanese know this well. That’s why in Japan, when public figures stuff up badly they are expected to make a public apology for their failures. And I don’t mean posting a notes app apology on Instagram. I mean a grim, ashen-faced, public performance of the important human emotion of remorse, complete with bowing and sometimes even yelling and crying (!) followed by a verbal apology and then an actual consequence of some kind — such as loss of one’s position of privilege — at least for a time.
Among the numerous Japanese innovations that we could do well to emulate, grovelling, televised public apologies from humiliated politicians is right up there with the shinkansen, onsen and heated toilet seats.
While watching disgraced former Premiers sweat under cross-examination in front of IBAC also has its pleasures, there is something much nicer about someone actually owning their mistake and saying those two words — “I’m sorry”.
Anything, anything at all, would be better than Scott Morrison’s complete refusal to acknowledge his numerous, significant and catastrophic failures as both a leader and a human being, since he took office.