The Age - The most admirable people in our parliaments

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is increasingly unpopular and distrusted because he is seen to lack the courage of his convictions, and be driven by a base lust for power. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is perennially unpopular and distrusted because he is seen to have no convictions, and be driven by a lust for power.

Politics the world over is being roiled by seething discontent about inequality, unfairness and the apparent and unseemly readiness of lawmakers to subjugate public interest to party, personal and vested interests. But it would be unreasonable to decry the political class en masse, or to lose all faith in the political process.

Elections are decided by undecided voters – the 2 per cent or so who are swinging voters.

There are lots of admirable people in our parliaments. This is about three of them: people who exhibit altruism, integrity and authenticity, who embrace evidence-based policy rather than ideology, and who have convictions and the courage to battle for them respectfully.

Fiona Patten, a member of the Victorian upper house, is founder and leader of the Reason Party, formerly the Australian Sex Party. She has been a calm, courteous advocate for a range of policies based on evidence, and is a champion of individual rights. She has raised community awareness about a number of fundamental issues.

She was instrumental in two recent groundbreaking changes – the trial of a safe injecting space for adult heroin users, and meticulous legislation to permit physician-assisted dying under strictly regulated circumstances. Her policy platform draws on evidence and is sensible and decent. It is designed, above all, to protect individual freedom and human rights.

Voters are rightly royally pissed off with the status quo. In Penny Wong and Warren Entsch they can, though, find some succour that the mainstream parties are not totally bereft. And in Fiona Patten, they can support a lawmaker motivated by public interest above party power.


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  • Alice Hardinge
    Amazing work. Truly inspiring!