JULIA Gillard once famously said that politics is a “contact sport”. To do this job you need a thick skin and although most of the language and insults would not be acceptable in a workplace, in the world of politics where passions run deep, it’s often considered fair game.
I have certainly received plenty in my time as well as given too, particularly in recent times. I have certainly given as good as I’ve got.
But I think we can all agree we should not be making analogies with Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust. These evil people and events are incomparable.
I am also a supporter of free speech and think that it is an important part of our democratic society not to be censored, and to debate ideas and express differing views.
However, after recent events I believe we have now blurred the lines between what is fair game and what is just not acceptable.
Last week, Victorian Transport Minister Jacinta Allan pulled Sky News off TVs at train station platforms. The Minister justified this decision by stating it was a protest against the network airing an interview with right-wing extremist Blair Cottrell.
Debate has since raged about the appropriateness of this decision – especially after it was revealed footage of the interview was never actually shown on station platforms.
First, let me state unequivocally that I have nothing but disgust and contempt for Blair Cottrell and what he stands for. In my view, if he is to be given exposure on the media, it should be to show him up for what he really is, not to give him a free rein to espouse his hateful views, as was done on the Sky News program.
However, given Sky News apologised profusely and indefinitely suspended the program he appeared on, it seems there was nothing to gain by punishing the network.
Indeed, it seems most likely that the Minister’s decision was based not on the laudable aim of standing up to racism, but on taking advantage of the situation to remove coverage from a network that has been exposing her government’s many flaws and questionable behaviour.
Racism is too serious an issue to be the subject of such rank opportunism.
As sad as this whole episode was, it deteriorated further, into conduct both shocking and unnecessary. In discussions following the Sky News ban, one of my parliamentary colleagues was called a Nazi and a white supremacist for questioning the ban, while the Transport Minister’s censorship decision was likened to conduct by the Nazi Party.
As community leaders and Members of Parliament, we should not be throwing around the word “Nazi” so freely.
Labelling actions such as those above as being equivalent to the Nazis diminishes the true horror of what the Nazis actually did, and in doing so, almost amounts to Holocaust denial.
Nothing can compare to the pain and suffering caused by what Hitler and Nazi Germany did to Jews and other minorities.
Politicians should know better about invoking these references and analogies given we have one of the largest Holocaust survivor communities anywhere in the world.
I know that despite our differences on policies, most of my Liberal and Labor colleagues are good people and would never deliberately use such deeply painful language. It’s up to us all to try harder.
DAVID SOUTHWICK is the State Member for Caulfield.