The debate on the 2008/09 budget mercifully ended last Friday.
It probably took the hard-working Legislative Assembly staff all weekend to scrub the mud off the chamber walls that MLAs had slung across the floor at each other.
The political silly season is certainly upon us, even though the next general election is a year away.
Make no mistake; the tenor of the debate was set in Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbett’s budget policy statement delivered right after Governor Stuart Jack’s throne speech. Parts of the policy statement were so politically adversarial, that hardly a word was said about the throne speech during the ensuing debate. Instead, our elected representatives used most of their time – for which the people of this country pay them handsomely – to incessantly bash their political opponents.
This year’s budget debate seemed worse than ever, with seemingly no topic off limits. There were unsubstantiated claims of official corruption and other illegalities; claims of drunkenness; claims of bullying; claims of blasphemy; claims of religious hypocrisy; claims of inappropriate pastimes.
In the end, anyone listening to the proceedings and all the things that were said would probably conclude this country was primarily represented politically by a band of hateful reprobates.
Interestingly, Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush – perhaps sensing the public’s disgust for this type of party politics – ended the Chamber of Commerce Constitution Forum last Thursday with a challenge for all legislators to work together and stop the fighting. He said that if the government stopped, he would stop.
The next day, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts was presented with an interesting choice when he rose to give the last of the elected members’ budget debates. He could have taken Mr. Bush’s challenge and turned the other cheek to everything that had been said about him during the debate, allowing him to rise above his colleagues; or he could have chosen to go the politics-as-usual route. He chose the latter, using three-quarters of his debate time to fling as much mud as he possibly could at his political adversaries.
Perhaps the most ridiculous thing uttered during the budget debate came from George Town MLA Alfonso Wright, who said the PPM cabinet ministers were ‘some of the best statesmen this country has ever seen’. We saw virtually nothing in the way of statesmanship coming from any of the elected members. What we did see were politicians practicing nothing but politics as usual.
The people of this country must demand better.