Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Politicians meeting nutters may not be bad

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-11-02

Meetings between politicians and extreme or obnoxious groups, for which politicians of both sides have been criticized, are not necessarily a bad thing.

Whether or not they help or hinder civil society depends on the content and transparency of the discussions, together with the agenda of the politician.

While closed-door discussions, each side currying favor, are rarely, if ever, good for the nation, they can be useful if the politician takes an opportunity to show leadership by highlighting any reasonable objectives of the group, the harm their actions cause, and promoting more moderate behaviour.

Imagine if Bobby Kennedy, champion of civil rights against the Klu Klux Klan during the 1960s, sat down with the KKK.  Such a meeting would not be criticized, as all would assume that Kennedy would have been pursuing his agenda of stamping out the lynchings and terrorism by the extremist group.

If anyone thinks Howard used the opportunity to point out to the Exclusive Brethren that they have been acting against the supposed value we place in the Rule of Law, including Family Law, electoral regulations and money laundering, then they are delusional.

However, would people consider a meeting between John Howard and moderate imams a sign that Howard was compromising any remaining integrity of his office for votes?

Even without immediate publication of transcripts, publishing the names and organizations of those who met the politician, together with release of the transcripts 10 years down the track (long enough to allow any benefits of the meeting to happen, but short enough to cause embarrassment to a living politician and the party – even if the politician retires) would help prevent the sort of dirty deals for electoral advantage that are almost certain to have happened when Liberal Party figures meet with representatives of the Exclusive Brethren.


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