After a teary Tony Windsor bid farewell to politics, the first question from journalists went to the Labor leadership situation. It’s stifling in Canberra; nothing else can get oxygen.

Windsor might not back Rudd, he said; Bob Katter would, he said; the Greens threatened not to give any leader confidence.

But before we get into that — and sorry, it seems inevitable, tomorrow if not today — it’s worth hearing Windsor’s comments on the state of politics in this country. His “plea for democracy” included:

“I have been saying that the world is run by those that turn up. We’ve got to make sure in this particular Parliament, and there’s some red lights going off in this one, I think we’ve got to make sure that we don’t tamper with democracy and demeanour to such an extent that people lose confidence in it. We do want people to turn up and be involved in the political process. And I think there’s a question mark for all of us, whether it be in the Parliament or in the public or in the media that there’s a certain standard and respect that needs to re-engage. Otherwise we do end up with a move towards a degrading of a very important part of democracy.”

He invoked the name of Nelson Mandela — the miserable standard of Australian politics tarnishes the real fight real heroes have in upholding it. Over the last three years, the New England MP reminded us of that more than anyone else in the 43rd Parliament.

Peter Fray

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