Too late now to say sorry
ONE sign of becoming an adult is acknowledging your mistakes and saying sorry. Not because someone asked you to, but because you recognised your behaviour was hurtful. It shows fortitude. So why can’t politicians say sorry?
Michaelia Cash is not alone in her pig-stubborn refusal to apologise for threatening to name women in Bill Shorten’s office who she said had been the subject of “rumours”.
Cash, who wouldn’t utter the s-word, said only: “If anyone has been offended, I withdraw.” Sources say Cash also used “back channels” to contact Shorten’s office and explain her actions. But Cash and her colleagues fail to grasp that voters need to hear those words “I am sorry” before they are willing to forgive. And not all apologies are equal.
Labor’s Kim Carr joined Cash in the race for the most qualified apology of the week. The Labor senator suggested Liberal James Paterson would have been part of the Hitler Youth movement during a rowdy committee hearing.
Carr also gave a qualified apology for saying Patterson looked like a Hitler Youth member.
“If you took offence, I withdraw it,” Carr said. The Labor senator later apologised by proxy, but only after he was criticised in the media.
Just like Greens MP Adam Bandt, who belatedly and halfheartedly apologised to Liberal Senator Jim Molan for calling him a war criminal. He even promised to make a donation to a veterans’ organisation as an expression of his “sincerity over this issue”. How sincere.
Politicians thrive in an environment where both sides claim to have a monopoly on being right. They forget that an apology can be a sign of empathy and respect and worry about exposing their flaws. Only when all options are exhausted do they cave.
At Parliament House there are a handful of places to get coffee — some better than others. Each morning pollies, staffers, journalists and lobbyists jostle towards the front of the queue to place their order before their next meeting. Sometimes a wayward elbow lands in someone’s side or there is confusion about who is next in line. “Sorry”, you hear, regardless of who is at fault.
We all offer up those trivial little admissions of wrongdoing each day, but sincere apologies for genuine misdeeds will always be rare in Canberra.