Allan Takes Aim Blog

Stanhope to taste life after politics

Posted on: 19 May 2011


First posted to The Chronicle, Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It would be remiss of me not to make mention of Jon Donald Stanhope MLA stepping down as Chief Minister and his resignation as a Member of the Legislative Assembly. (He might be pleased to know that ‘Donald’ means Proud Chieftain in Gallic.)

When he became Chief Minister in 2001, after entering the Assembly in 1998, on a number of occasions during his time as Chief Minister I admired him. However I would be telling a lie if I said I have been one of his greatest fans. I dare say that if he has ever read my columns he might well think the same of me.

But if he has read my columns I hope he read the April 12 column titled ‘Old fashioned pollies needed’ because the old fashioned politicians I was writing about were those who were more principled than pragmatic and more interested in the future than many of those currently representing them. He is one of those old fashioned politicians.

Sadly, too many politicians today only think of the future in how it will affect them, not the people they were elected to represent. They are people for whom politics is not the avenue that leads to the development of the ideal just and democratic society but is an exercise in acquiring power that will bring them personal benefit.   

Although Jon Stanhope is not one the latter, this is not to say I agreed with everything he did. I didn’t, but I feel sure he did what he did was not because he sought power, but because power was what would allow him to put into practice the ideas he thought would bring about the ideal just and democratic society that would allow people to benefit from their talents provided they did so without harm to others.

Many people have tried to form parties that practiced this philosophy only to find out that not enough members of society would give them the necessary support because, unlike other parties, they did not promise to deliver Utopia. Not that society gets Utopia now. Instead, every three years nationally and every four years in Canberra, they get promised a new Utopia. 

Returning to Jon Stanhope: he attended The Australian National University in Canberra and after graduating became a bureaucrat. Like most Canberra bureaucrats he supported Labor. He also joined the Labor Party.

He enjoyed a successful bureaucratic career but eventually politics called and he entered the ACT Legislative Assembly at the election in 1998 as an MLA. He was one of the two cleverest Labor Members (Ted Quinlan was the other) in that Assembly. But when he became leader and Chief Minister in 2001 many looked on him as a compromise but, compromise or not, he remained Chief Minister until his retirement last week. 

But what will he be remembered for in retirement, if remembered at all? No doubt he will be remembered, but not necessarily affectionately, for his public art program. Many will remember him positively for his Human Rights Act of 2004. Some, however, including notable Labor colleagues in different jurisdictions, see do not agree with it. 

Many people, myself included, will remember him for his strong push for full self – government. And while I hope full self – government is granted, I hope it does not lead to euthanasia being made legal  – I’m with Mr Stanhope on this – in the ACT, or the legalisation of same sex marriage.

Others, but not me, might point to his 100 forests arboretum. Unfortunately the forest of sycophants supporting this project has grown quicker than the 100 real forests. Sycophants’ forest apart, it is too early to say if the programs he left behind will be successful. 

The development industry no doubt, will remember him in the future for his contribution to the wealth of so many of its members by giving his name to a suitable new ACT building – not the proposed new Palace of Politics in Civic.

But regardless of my disagreeing with him on many things, I wish him well in his retirement. And a last compliment: I feel sure that whatever he does in the future, principle will be at its core.

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best community news. Published every Tuesday

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1 Response to "Stanhope to taste life after politics"

Hello, just ran into your web site from stumbleupon. It’s not something I would typically read, but I loved your spin on it. Thank you for making a piece worth reading!

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