The Honourable Andrew Fisher, prime minister on three occasions between 1908 and 1915, was one of the very few politicians who lived up to his honourable title.
To show Fisher’s integrity, his son James recounted an incident in a letter written in 1987:
As an example of his ingrained honesty — surely a rare quality in a politician — I can only relate what my brother used to tell us. It seems that legislation relating to oil rights and contracts was under discussion in the federal parliament … One night arriving home … he found that there was a nice new oil lamp burning in the sitting room. My mother explained that a charming gentleman had called with this as a present for Mr Fisher, with his compliments and left his card … the Something Oil Co. His [Fisher’s] words were “Woman would you ruin me?” His action was to take the burning lamp out and leave it alight in the middle of the street to burn out.’
What Fisher would make of the present clutch of honourable members of state and federal parliament, I hate to think. So many of them seem to be perpetually on the take, with claims for expenses incurred in transporting family members, lovers, pet dogs etc. surfacing in our media on almost a daily basis, not to mention spending thousands of taxpayers dollars on flights to transport themselves to events that can in no way be described as essential parliamentary business.
I guess it is unlikely that many of the honourable members wake up in the morning and think; ‘Am I going to be honourable today?’ But maybe they should. It would certainly be a step on the way to reducing government expenditure.
They could also reflect a while on the wonderful saying ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ whenever they feel they are being hard done by in relation to how much they give to the Australian public and what they receive in return. In the likely event however of self-reflection not having the desired effect, a mechanism should be put in place whereby all MP claims are put through the ‘real world’ test (would employers in general look kindly on a claim for expenses incurred by their employees’ children going on holiday, for example, or chauffeuring their pet dogs).
Before prospective MPs stand for Parliament they are surely aware of what salary they’ll receive – and of the fact the Federal House of Representatives sits for only around 72 days of the year – and if they think that pay and holiday leave are inadequate, then they should seek some other job – not try to scam the system – and leave the field to honourable idealists.
Well enough of dishonourable politicians. Moving on now to a set of dishonourables whose actions have far more tragic consequences. I’ve just seen a news article on two recent ‘honour killings’ in Pakistan – one last Monday where a woman was tortured and then killed by her brother for marrying a man of her own choice, and the other where the mother and brother burned a 16 year old girl to death, again for marrying against her family’s wishes.
Honour killings are by no means confined to Pakistan, but are an almost global shame. The European Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1681 stated that:
“On so-called ‘honour crimes,’ the Parliamentary Assembly notes that the problem, far from diminishing, has worsened, including in Europe. It mainly affects women, who are its most frequent victims, both in Europe and the rest of the world, especially in patriarchal and fundamentalist communities and societies. For this reason, it asked the Council of Europe member states to ‘draw up and put into effect national action plans to combat violence against women, including violence committed in the name of so-called ‘honour,’ if they have not already done so.”
The mindset that murder of family members is in any way honourable is partly responsible for the continuation, and in some countries, the increase in these killings. Maybe changing the terminology in media world-wide from ‘honour killing’ to ‘vindictive murder’ would help to bring about the realisation there is no honour in murdering your daughter or sister because you don’t like their behaviour.
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