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Politics is a profession and it should be of grave concern that there is no real means by which politicians are disciplined for telling fibs in the public domain as other professionals might be.

In fact, politicians seem to think of spinning their way out of trouble as a thing to be rewarded, rather than viewing it as an egregious sin as other professionals would.

Consider various professions and what happens if they fail to keep themselves nice.

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Tax agents, for example, are obliged to be truthful under law and ethical standards. A misstep that causes a cost to clients or brings discredit to a profession can see an agent disciplined.

An incident that is serious enough can have them barred from the profession for life.

Auditors that fail to perform their duties competently may find themselves the subject of enforcement action or have their registration to audit under the law removed.

Doctors and lawyers have similar kinds of rules that result in them being struck off if they breach professional ethics.

An individual that discusses confidential issues outside a corporate environment may well find themselves on the next bus to a Centrelink office because they breached an important condition of their employment contract.

Where does the disciplinary regime exist for the political class?

Public shaming through the media is not a disciplinary regime. It is essential in a democracy that the media is able to hold a government to account, but that in its own right is insufficient.

Punishment at the ballot box is the ultimate sanction, but there is no guarantee that a particular electorate will remove a popular local member even if there are questions hanging over specific issues. They might want to keep the devil they know rather than let the other mob in.

Is there any real disciplinary regime for politicians or are people forced to wait for their political parties to take matters into their own hands?

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Crikey is an independent Australian-owned and run outfit. It doesn’t enjoy the vast resources of the country’s main media organisations. We take seriously our responsibility to bear witness.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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