Anyone for cordial?

Sunday 24 March 2013 5:17 PM

Dave Greenslade’s vignette (Letters, 25/3) of the wartime cordiality between Menzies and Curtin might well be a piece of space fiction, beside the governmental processes that assault our senses in today’s Australia. Thinking of the past decade generally, and the past week most graphically, it’s hard to believe there ever was or ever could be a time when a Westminster parliamentary process could be vigorous without spite. The dream of, in Tony Abbott’s own words, ‘a kinder and gentler polity’ died with the hung parliament still in nappies. What has followed has been a season of surely unprecedented and almost unrestrained vituperativeness and character assassination. It has played out between parliamentary opponents and within the government, gleefully fuelled by a more than merely complicit media. And therein lies perhaps the greatest challenge to the function of our democracy. As the media regulation debate has highlighted, we won’t readily trust our politicians to scrutinise the media. Yet conversely we've come to doubt the media’s capacity to report truth before peddling opinion or trashing images. How it might happen is hard to conceive. But the rehabilitation of the democratic process in the eyes of the next generation urgently requires some form of multilateral compact between politicians, media and the public. We must commit mutually to ending the culture of dirt units, celebrity gossip, personal invective and character smears. Preferably before it’s too late.