John Golden

About John Golden

John Golden is a writer specialising in industrial relations and employment law, something he’s done for over 35 years. Now he’s a cynical man of mature years with plenty of axes to grind

A revisionist history of the answers our politicians should have given

We have a problem with the answers our politicians give. They’re invariably incorrect. But, no matter, I’ve fixed it. 



It’s now de rigueur for politicians to avoid answering questions they find embarrassing or that show them in a bad light or expose them as liars. So instead of answering the direct question honestly, they change the question to a different question, one they will answer, or they go off on a tangent that blurs the whole exercise, or they feign insult, or shout “unfair”, or they adopt another tactic rather than just give an honest answer.

My view is that this type of reaction loses them votes and they’d be far better off just saying, “Honestly, here’s the thing…” and then telling it like it is. Their supporters will say, “Right on, you tell ’em”, and their opponents will say, “At least the bastard was honest.”

Here are five examples and under each I’ve suggested an honest answer that the politician in question could have given. You can do this exercise for yourself. It’s quite cathartic.


Shorten struggles to say how Labor would handle asylum seekers

Shorten was obviously keen to come across as a fair-minded humanitarian bloke while not losing votes, but he didn’t have to come across as dodging the question. A suggested honest answer that Bill could have given to the question that was posed on Q&A:

Honestly, you expect me to kick away some critical electoral points by upsetting the majority of Australians who don’t like asylum seekers? I’m walking a fine line here between a genuine morally sounding position and pissing off the ‘Peter Duttonists’ who would drop Labor like a hot potato if we suggested we’d do the humanitarian thing. Fair dinkum, this is not Play School, mate. I’ve got an election coming up.


Kelly O’Dwyer won’t concede the government was wrong on delaying the banking royal commission

O’Dwyer couldn’t bring herself to say that the government was simply treating their mates as you’d expect mates to be treated. A suggested honest answer that she could have given:

Honestly Barrie, why would we want a massive public inquiry into some of our biggest public companies and best friends? We’re trying to give them money by reducing their tax so why on earth would we want to damage their businesses by exposing their dirty tricks? Look, it’s just business, Barrie. There’s always going to be collateral damage if business is to blossom. Now that we’re stuck with the Royal Commission we’ll go ahead with the process because that’s good PR and we’ll try and minimise any damage to Australia’s banks in the long term.


Pauline Hanson refusing to answer questions about possible misuse of party donations on Today Tonight (March 2009)

This is a blast from the past but still relevant today to political donations. Hanson was obviously upset when she was accused of misusing political donations, but she could have just given an honest response. A suggested honest answer that Hanson could have given:

You’re a typical pinko journalist. You’re always trying to hurt and shame real people like me. Why don’t you get out and see what real people like me have to deal with? We have to deal with fraud and corruption on a daily basis. If you don’t play the game you’re out of the game. So yes, maybe some money goes to address my personal needs, but so what? The money people give me is meant to help me get into parliament and stay in parliament and if some of that money is used for personal grooming and the like then that’s what my people want. They don’t want me looking like some badly dressed asylum seeker when I’m representing them in Parliament.


Scott Morrison refuses to say how he’ll vote on gay marriage then later gives honest answer

Scott Morrison appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 in mid-2017 and was grilled by journalist Leigh Sales about the Liberal’s plan to put the issue of marriage equality to a public vote.

She asked him whether he would vote in favour of gay marriage.

“I’ll respect the outcome of the plebiscite,” he said.

Sales continued to press him, asking why he could not answer the question clearly.

“I will use my words, you use yours, and you’re not allowed to put words in my mouth,” he said. “I will respect the outcome of the plebiscite. If it passes then the legislation will pass.”

Sales kept asking why the Treasurer was dodging the question, but Morrison still failed to reveal how he would vote. Then in September 2017 he gave an honest answer to the same question. Note the refreshing difference:

I have also always been upfront and consistent in my views on this issue with my electorate and will continue to do so, consistent with my own beliefs and values. For those who share my view, remember it’s okay to say ‘no’.


Trump refuses to answer reporter’s question on Russia

To finish with, who other than President Donald Trump? When another potentially damning question on Russian involvement in the 2016 US presidential elections was posed, Trump simply attacked the journalist and his organisation, telling him to “shut up”, “don’t be rude” and reverted to the mantra “fake news”. If he gave an honest answer, it might have gone something like this:

Honestly, I have very good friends in Russia, very good friends, hugely good friends and they would have voted for me if they could’ve. Believe me, I’m very popular in Russia, they love me there. But they couldn’t vote so they did the next best thing and swayed your votes in my favour and who could blame them? I’m really smart, I’m like a genius and they appreciate that. Thank you.


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