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Editorial February 12th 2021

Welcome to this week’s editorial, When I was growing up in Papua New Guinea I learnt quickly of consequences. Most of the time the consequences came immediately after and event... and they hurt. I remember being a little bare arsed boy wandering around the village with the other kids and if any of us did anything wrong we were given a stinging slap on the bum and, to ensure it was fair, if anyone in our gang did anything, we all received a whack. As I grew older the hand slap turned to a thong slap which then turned into a belt around the backside, a feather duster and finally a cloth wound jug cord. I learnt early in the piece that parents were the judge and jury and even if you hid out all day in a mango tree you couldn’t get away from “justice”. At school we had the cane. I first encountered it at the age of twelve. It appeared to be a high-school instrument and its metering out was done by our over zealous and very sadistic Maths master. Over the next four years I saw that cane become thicker and then morph into a long steel rule that flailed the fleshy palms of boys and turned girls rumps all manner of shades, from reds through to violets and blues. In hindsight this particular teacher should not have been allowed anywhere near children, but at the time the corporal punishment of children was seen as a way of “encouraging them” to comply. Joyfully that teacher caned the wrong child one day and was deported from the country the next day before very serious, and possibly fatal, family payback ensued. The following years at school saw a softer approach in dealing out consequences for poor behaviour. A system of demerits was introduced that accompanied a variety of detentions. These were seen as minor annoyances by most students leading to a more severe consequence of suspensions and finally expulsion. The pain was gone of the cane but a new pain was introduced. The worst that was threatened of me was to call in my father for a chat. I knew if that happened the ultimate consequence of all would soon follow. The Consequence of Disappointment. My father left school at an early age and had to toil for most of his life in jobs that required strength and hard slog rather than diplomas and degrees. His work was never easy and his hope for me was to do well at school to enable more opportunity. It wasn’t a big ask. He did all he could to help and encourage. But that look of Disappointment always cut to the bone when it was applied. Back then societal punishments were usually handed out as a consequence of going outside of the rules. Back then offenders understood consequences and were generally fearful of them. Break the rules and whack, break the law then gaol. It appeared a little more black and white and everyone stood equal. But more and more we learnt that there is no consistency in consequences. Those who have money or privilege are able to side step consequence and those in power do as they please. The powerful became more so. Recently we have heard much of rorts. Sports rorts and Pork rorts. Day after day we are learning that those we elected to best serve appear to be openly flaunting the rules with little, if any, consequence. The NSW Premier said, of the accusations of wilful pork barrelling, "All governments and all oppositions make commitments to the community in order to curry favour. The term pork barrelling is common parlance. It is not something that I know the community is comfortable with. If that's the accusation made on this occasion .... then I'm happy to accept that commentary. It's not an illegal practice. Unfortunately, it does happen from time to time by every government." Next we hear of pork barrelling at a Federal level with Peter Dutton. Again there will be little, if any, consequence should he be found in violation of the rules. Rarely these days is there an admission or apology. The community have come to expect that there will be no consequences applied. The community have come to expect much less of our leaders. It is the new norm. BY example politicians appear to be able to do and say as they please with impunity. The media, in the hands of the noble, once wielded significant indirect social influence. Once, having the truth exposed in the newspaper was enough of a threat to keep politicians on the straight and narrow. But that threat no longer seems to apply. If they are named and shamed they now decry that the news is Fake or from a leftist, or rightist, editor with an agenda. They also rely on the community, quite rightly so, in being disengaged and having little if any interest in politics. Such disinterest on election day results in votes based on promises at the polling booths or nifty during last minute campaign slogans. There is an audacity building with politicians at all levels as they look at their rule books and discover there are no real consequences should they break them. Any revelation of inappropriate spending or action is water off a ducks back and politicians are learning that if they give themselves a good spray of Teflon then nothing should stick and if it does it will only be for one news cycle before we all see another shiny thing. The threat of the media exposure offers little threat against their self-belief they have that they are now unreachable, nearly God like, and so favoured but those they surround themselves with that they believe their own marketing hype and expect to be re-elected. And at a local level our own councillors have agreed to change the rules to ensure they also go unreported. The community is generally unaware that Codes of Conduct complaints are raised all too often against our Council and Councillors. Mostly it is for breaches of the Local Government Act or failures to comply with Council’s own policies. The Codes of Conduct complaints are raised by community members and sent on to the Office of Local Government, via an investigator, to determine what recourse should be put in place. But we as a community are never to learn of the findings or consequence. That is because they have re-written the rule book that says anyone other than the complainant is never to know the outcome and that the complainant is sworn to secrecy else suffer the consequences of never being told the outcome again. Over the last decade there have been many Codes of Conduct complaints against Council employees and Councillors where they have been found to have breached the rules. But what of the consequences? There is no cane, no steel rule, no thong, no bare-arsed slap, no cloth jug cord, demerit or detention. There is no fine, no public humiliation, and by the rules there is no revelation of their breach or the findings. That might be the very reason our Councillors, and the Council Executive, in general, have become so cocky, so audacious and so blatant in their selective interpretations of the Local Government Act and Council policies as they know full well there are no consequences other than the Beagle editor saying how sorely Disappointed he is in their efforts. Until next lei


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