British
Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said that “politics is like
sausages – you’re better offer not knowing how either is made.” To some
extent, the Latham Diaries validate this remark.

If we
can set aside all the bile, personal vindictiveness and invective of
Latham and the hypocrisy of both sides of politics, I suspect, given
what has already been published and reported, when we get to read the
book there will probably be a lot of genuine criticism of our political
processes and policy debates that will prove worthy of serious
attention.

Given
that Latham has been in the political business for about 20 years and
has established himself as a significant contributor to social and
economic policy debates, I suspect that part of this book will, in
time, be seen as a significant contribution to political debate and
discourse in this country.

The tragedy is that Latham’s
performance as a political “suicide bomber” may distract attention from
what should be a significant public debate. There is, on both sides of
politics, a poisonous and corrosive culture. Not everyone is guilty of
this, but it is a key element that needs to be addressed.
Unfortunately, so many people choose to play the man rather than debate
the policy issue, and often it is just a distraction in an attempt to
hide the fact that they have very little to contribute to substantial
debate.

Another important dimension is that government in
recent years has been very quick to chastise the business community for
lack of transparency and accountability, as well as incompetent
management and poor governance. They should all practice what they
preach. Transparency and accountability in all our political
processes is fundamental to cleaning up our political house, and to
restoring some modicum of respect to our politicians and political
leaders.

Fundamental reform is essential on both sides of
politics. While we can readily condemn Latham’s bile and personal
invective, we all need to know more about the way the political sausage
is made.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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