Failing the trust and perception test

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The Bronwyn Bishop saga of the past week isn’t really about the helicopter, nor when it comes down to it, is it about the money.

What it really comes down to is a matter of trust and perception.

I’ve often been a defender of politicians and the money they earn. Most (I stress most, not all) have backgrounds or levels of education and experience that could see them earning much more money in the corporate world.

Most also work many more hours than they’re given credit for by society’s stereotypes.
Those stereotypes have always been a politician’s greatest enemy.

We always tend to look at politicians with a certain level of doubt and distrust.

On most occasions, the distrust is actually unwarranted and in fact politicians go to extraordinary lengths to try and build trust within their electorates and portfolios, even if a great number of people are ignorant to those efforts and prefer to tar them all with the same brush.

Unfortunately, every now and again a story comes along that reinforces the stereotypes and the feelings of distrust.

Enter Bronwyn Bishop.

There is simply no possible way that a police officer or a nurse earning $60,000 a year could cop any sort of explanation excusing a $5000 helicopter trip between Melbourne and Geelong for a party fundraiser.

The fact that Ms Bishop spent $32,000 of our money in limousine travel in 2014 fails every possible ‘pub test’.

As Newspoll showed this week, the public is becoming more and more disenchanted with our political leaders.

I have Labor-supporting friends who can’t stand Tony Abbott but in the same breath tell me that Bill Shorten is not the man to be the next Prime Minister of Australia.

I have Liberal-supporting friends who are just happy that Mr Shorten is taking some of the attention away from Mr Abbott, who has not enjoyed his best year politically.

Any ground both parties hope to make up in terms of public perception and support is halted, and in fact thrown backwards, by stories like the one surrounding Ms Bishop.

Trust and perception.

That $5000 helicopter ride has hurt Ms Bishop in both of those categories and the flow-on effect is felt through both political parties.

I’ve got no problem with us paying politicians big money but it’s pretty clear that something needs to be done about the expenses and entitlements that surround their positions.

Perhaps if tighter rules surrounded those expenses, politicians could start to build stronger trust and perception and maybe, just maybe, avoid political bloodbaths like the one Ms Bishop has caused this past week.

– Troy Dodds

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