August 23, 2004 | Jeff Wall

The Member for Parramatta’s ‘gamble’ has failed.

THE Member for Parramatta, Ross Cameron, undoubtedly believed his “pre-emptive” strike in outing himself for his infidelity was the best available political option given that the “Sydney Morning Herald” clearly intended to write the story with or without his co-operation.
My initial reaction was that the tactic might work because the voters generally are dis-interested in the philandering of their politicians, though not their sports stars and television favourites.
But that depended heavily on the story “dying”, and on there being no further revelations.
Well, the story has not died, and there have been further revelations that have just about finished off the Member for Parramatta’s undistinguished political career.
We now know that his fling with the “exotic” Canberra solicitor (does that mean she does it on a pile of law books?) occurred only months before his wife gave birth to twins. But we also know there was at least one other affair along the way, one he most conveniently forgot to out himself on.
But the down hill run became a cascade when the MP for Parramatta started making stupid, and highly dubious, public statements, none of which are worthy of repeating here.
Then there was the “leak” that Mr Cameron was considering standing down as Liberal Candidate – a story that the Liberal Party promptly, almost too promptly, denied.
By week’s end, the political career of the Member for Parramatta was just about washed up………….thanks to his own ineptitude as much as anything else.
But there is another factor all politicians, and would be politicians, need to take careful note of.
I have come to the conclusion that the “pre emptive strike” might not be an effective weapon for politicians in a jam to resort to any longer.
The electorate’s cynicism about politicians as a whole is now so substantial that even the public apology, or the “pre emptive strike”, can no longer guarantee redemption in any form.
Recently Mark Latham and Tony Abbott have used the “pre emptive” strike tactic with marginal benefit…….in circumstances less unsavoury than those relating to the Member for Parramatta.
The fact that Mr Cameron is a serial philanderer as well as a serial moraliser has not helped it position. Nor should it. But he is undoubtedly going down the tube because the electorate’s tolerance of its political leaders, or its respect for them, is not what it used to be.
The “support” for Mr Cameron given by John Howard, Tony Abbott, and Brendan Nelson, will count for little in the end.
What began as possibly a good idea – to get in first – has turned into a political disaster, and the polls show it.
Now some will ask why the pre emptive strike no longer works here while it seems to be working in the US.
I suspect the US political environment is somewhat different to ours. Given there is more media probing of the private lives of politicians in the US – and that dates back to Eleanor Roosevelt’s alleged dalliances or even earlier – perhaps the American voter is more immune to revelations of infidelity and more?
But I also suspect the “standing” of politicians in the US remains somewhat higher than it is here. It could hardly be any lower.
There is a lesson to be followed by all politicians in Australia following the downward slide of the Member for Parramatta over the last week or so.
If you are in a jam, and about to be “exposed”, then the pre emptive strike, or even the hand over the heart confession, might actually be counter-productive.
These are not easy times to be in public office full stop.

Posted by Jeff Wall at 11:23 am | Comments Off on The Member for Parramatta’s ‘gamble’ has failed. |
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