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Did you know that politicians lie?

Apparently they say things to the public that aren’t necessarily true in order to garner support. Sometimes they even espouse opinions that are not their own to make you vote for them. It appears that they can also exaggerate events and tell fabricated stories to get the public onside…

I’m not sure why people are suddenly so indignant about such revelations.

Julia Gillard doesn’t support gay marriage because she was brought up with traditional values.

Obama closed Guantanamo Bay within twelve months of coming to office and brought all detainees to trial.

John Howard protected us from those evil boat people who threw their children overboard.

George Bush liberated Iraq and saved the world from weapons of mass destruction.

Hilary Clinton ran for cover under the fire of bullets when she landed in Bosnia.

Her husband did not have sexual relations with that woman.

Of course with the benefit of hindsight (or as in the first example, common sense) we know that this is all a load of bs. According to the bible, the Atheist Gillard lives ‘in sin’ with her unmarried partner. Obama has been in office for almost a full term and there are currently more than a hundred prisoners still in Guantanamo. The rickety ship full of asylum seekers was falling apart and no one likes to stay on a rapidly sinking boat. We now know that the Republican Party was aware the likelihood of Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction was minimal. Video footage shows Clinton strolling off her jet in Bosnia in 1996, and her husband left his DNA on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress.

Ultimately politicians make statements based on increasing their popularity; because it’s popularity that gets them elected. But what is popular is not always right. That’s why we have the separation of powers; to provide balance and hold them to account, that’s why we need the media; the fourth arm of democracy- to let them know they’re being watched.

With time, the outrage of some of the Australian public over Gillard’s back flip on the carbon tax is likely to be filed away in history along with the above examples. In the short term however it appears that we will have to tolerate a desperate Tony Abbott’s fear mongering while he does everything that he can to terrify the Australian people they won’t be able to afford their fruit and veg.

As Gillard herself has repeatedly stated, had the 2010 election resulted in a majority parliament, we probably wouldn’t have a carbon tax. As much as most of us want to cringe at her excuses, the point is a valid one. There is no way she or anyone in the government could have foreseen the current make up of parliament when she stated her intention not to have a carbon tax. While we will probably never know entirely what her intentions were, there is little reason to doubt that had she won over more of the electorate, we would not be having this debate now.

When examined in this light, the prime minister going back on her word pales in comparison to some of the falsehoods told by leaders in recent Australian and global history. Indeed, John Howard’s GST was a much greater deliberate deception of the public.

I don’t know what was going through Julia Gillard’s head when she said there wouldn’t be a carbon tax. I don’t know if she deliberately misled the Australian people or if she really has been cornered into a situation where the choice is to ‘do nothing’ or make a seemingly unpopular decision to ‘take action’. I do know that after a few weeks of the carbon tax, Australia is still one of the wealthiest, most economically stable countries in the world. We have a low unemployment rate, and people generally rate their happiness levels higher than the rest of the world. I also have a fair amount of faith that none of this is likely to change anytime soon. Which makes Tony Abbott’s carrying on even more ridiculous. His cries that Gillard would not have won the election had people known about the carbon tax leads me to ask; does he think people prefer a man who is on the record as acknowledging that he can’t be taken on his word?

What I do know is that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that political figures often skew the truth for their own purposes, because they’ve been doing it for as long as we can remember, even if many of us choose to selectively forget.