21 February 2023

Should skeletons in the closet disqualify political candidates?

| Ross Solly
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Terry Campese

Former Canberra Raiders captain Terry Campese (second from left) announcing his candidacy for the seat of Monaro … Photo: Supplied.

Sometimes you have to wonder why anyone would ever want to run for politics.

First, it’s not cheap.

Look what it cost David Pocock and his backers to get him elected. If you’re running as an independent, you better have very deep pockets.

Second, despite the general perception, politicians are not paid very well. Granted, a few will earn more in politics than they would outside the game. And there are some lifetime perks that ease the pain a little. But what seems the biggest hurdle now, for many, is the level of scrutiny applied to you as a candidate.

Yes, that scrutiny has been good at weeding out a few deadbeats and perverts that definitely shouldn’t be gracing any corridors of power anywhere. But the level of scrutiny being applied is also forcing out some candidates who, to be honest, have done very little wrong.

Terry Campese dressed as a police officer at a party

… and as he dressed at a 2022 party, splashed across News Ltd papers.

Terry Campese last week quit as the Labor candidate for Monaro, despite polling well and looking better than an even chance of snatching the seat from the National Party. Unlike some other high-profile downfalls during recent election campaigns, Campese was not forced to jump.

He was just sick of what he considered unfair media attacks.

I have known Terry Campese since his days as a Canberra Raider. Although not close friends, I always thought he was a guy who wanted to give back to his community, a lot like a former teammate of his, Alan Tongue.

He’s had different life experiences, genuinely lives and breathes his electorate, and seems to want to make a difference.

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The media, as is their right, checked out Campese’s background. They found he had visited an old school friend serving a stint in jail for drug dealing and also found a picture of him attending a private party dressed in underwear, a tie and a police hat. The video is online and there’s no doubt behaviour at the party would raise eyebrows at the least.

Campese quit because he said he no longer wanted to drag his community through the media.

“Unfortunately, I have come to realise that, for some, politics is not about representing people but about their own power with a ‘win at all costs’ mentality,” he said.

“Perhaps in the future, things will change and we will see more community members put their hand up to be involved in politics.”

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It’s time we also decided how high we want to set the bar when it comes to scrutiny. Nearly all of us have some skeletons in our cupboards – some jangle and clank a lot louder than others.

But if we are serious about making politics more representative of our community and enticing good people, albeit maybe with a skeleton or two, to run for politics, maybe it’s time we said enough is enough.

It’s not just the media to blame. Political operatives have become very good at trawling through people’s history and making sure ‘friendly’ media can access all the juicy bits.

Maybe Terry Campese wasn’t cut out for politics. But should people who have done good for their community be hounded the way he was?

Original Article published by Ross Solly on Riotact.

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