Reason for optimism

By Fiona Patten – Leader of the Reason Party

Hello. It is said a week can be a long time in politics. Well, it’s been a month since my first regular column in Hyperlocal’s fleet of newspapers. A long month. An important month. A month that showed politics at its best. And at its worst. 

But I’m fundamentally optimistic! 

We’re heading for the festive season, after a second year of global catastrophe. While the relief at the end of 2020 was driven more by hope and the calendar, it is rational to crest 2022 expecting ongoing liberty now that vaccination has given us herd immunity. 

The killer pandemic has been turned into a manageable epidemic by strong medical and community solidarity. 

SHOCK! HORROR! GOOD NEWS! 

The media tends to give us a distorted view of the world, simply as a function of news being unordinary. 

The truth is most people get up each day and are kind and decent to themselves and others.  

The truth is, most politicians are motivated, by public interest and community service. 

But it is also true that politics has been sullied by abuse and fearmongering, by misinformation and incitation, by cynicism. 

This, of course, is about the dangerous manipulation of people with decent concerns about pandemic legislation. 

Politicians have been doing it on the very steps of Parliament. They have been inciting and legitimising conspiracy theorists and other extremists, creating a dangerous and volatile subversion of democracy. 

IT’S NOT OKAY. 

No doubt many of these protesters believed they were championing democracy. 

The evident truth is that they were a mob manipulated by people prepared to lie and potentially incite mortal violence.

This is not okay. The cowardly abuse a number of us have received – the death threats, the rape threats, the sniper threats, the vile denigration, threats to our families – is not okay. 

As I write this, confusion reigns. The legislation was thought likely to pass, with my support.

But the return to the chamber after months of petulant, anti-democratic absence by a former minister dumped in disgrace by the ALP for misuse of taxpayers’ money and bullying allegations has complicated the whole thing. It appears Adem Somyurek is cynically exploiting an opening for vexation and payback. 

My colleagues and I on the crossbench have done all we can, at this stage, to deliver Victorians pandemic-specific legislation that ensures transparency and accountability not present in any other jurisdiction in the nation and potentially the Commonwealth. 

BACK TO THE GOOD NEWS 

The Legislative Council – in effect, the state Senate – passed my motion to elevate loneliness, a massive silent killer, to a government ministerial level to help coordinate efforts to save thousands of lives and billions of scarce tax dollars. 

An epidemic of loneliness, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is causing as many preventable deaths as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 

This was hardly a radical motion. 

It emulates the conservative UK Government, which set up such a ministry several years ago. Japan, also a conservative population, has done likewise. Others will follow because it makes sense to progressives and conservatives alike. 

Contentment is driven by three fundamental things; empathy, gratefulness and living in the present, rather than lamenting the past and/or feeling unduly unsettled about the future. 

The antidote to debilitating loneliness is connection with people and communities. 

AND FINALLY …

Young people in state care were pretty much tossed out of the system, often ending up homeless or in the justice system, at 18. That was ridiculous, which is why I put up a Bill to change this and extend care to 21, and I am very pleased the government has adopted it. Imagine telling your children to leave at 18. We have managed to lift the age to 21 and are working on providing support beyond that. 

May your festivities be lovely, and may 2022 bring some relief to us all •

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