OPINION: If we want more 'everyday people' in politics, we need to get comfortable with imperfect pasts.

And we’re off! The NSW Electoral Commission’s deadline has closed for candidates wishing to run in the upcoming March 25 state election. The talent is in the pool, but not without some casualties along the way, some of them less justifiable than others. 

The preselection process is brutal. Before you get endorsed as your Party’s choice for a seat, you’re in an aggressive and ugly internal competition against your own. While your Party colleagues will likely fall in line and support you if you’re the pick, initially, they’re doing everything they can to sabotage your quest, with dirt files compiled and leaked to the media. 

The aim is to go hard enough that you ruin your internal competition’s chances, but not so hard that it damages the Party brand in the election. It’s all very counterintuitive and dumb. 

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And this preselection showdown is just like any other. Internal opponents trawl through 2008 social media posts and photos, and ring around old friends and foes for a crumb of controversy.

Some candidates have been scarred and perhaps damaged but not canceled entirely for innocuous posts on their social media accounts. Yawn.

Here is the thing: whichever side of politics you back, you should want less "career politicians" in the game, because that is the fastest way we can improve the country’s political landscape. And that’s going to mean being a little less reactive and hysterical when fairly average and relatable skeletons come out of the closet. 


Many of our career politicians simply have too much skin in the game. They have been training for these roles since they were teens. So even as hormones were coursing and frontal lobes were developing, they were considering their decisions and actions through the sphere of how they would impact their political future.

For these individuals, every decision they have ever made has been building towards the moment the individual gets into Parliament, gets a portfolio or gets the Prime-Ministership. The problem with that is it makes them bad politicians. There is too much on the line and they naturally begin to compromise on their values to get ahead or stop sticking their neck out to call out things that are unacceptable.

If your entire social network, financial stability and career prospects are based on you climbing the political ladder, at one point or another, you’re likely to make concessions of favours that might seem small initially, but end up leaving you a vastly different politician to the one you imagined you would be. This leaves us civilians with political leaders who are cowards, self-interested or potentially corrupt.

What we need is to get people into the beast who really want to be in politics but whose lives won’t fall in a heap if it doesn’t work out. Then we will see a rapid improvement in the quality of the representatives we have in Parliament. But because these people haven’t been preparing for politics their entire lives, the risk of having past slip-ups become media scandals is greater. 


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One of the biggest barriers to people entering politics is that they’re nervous about things from their past being made public. And I think that’s sad. Of course society and the political industry will have to figure out where to draw the line at a misdemeanour or lapse of judgment and a boo-boo that ends a political career before it starts. Perhaps criminal behaviour is a good start. Ultimately, we will need to be a lot more forgiving, because we’re risking the calibre of individuals we can attract to the game.

One small caveat: not all career politicians are bad. Some can hold the line and stay morally sound and true to themselves. And there have been many brilliant politicians who have come through young political movements. But it’s still important to recognise how political involvement at a young age impacts your behaviour.

In the end, if we want regular, relatable people leading us, we’ll have to accept they have imperfect pasts.

Charlotte Mortlock, Journalist and Founder of Hilma’s Network. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Feature Image: Getty

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