Politician or Diplomat?

With both the federal election and the Mardi Gras election both being played out over the same weekend, I cannot help but draw some comparisons.

Both had essentially two “sides” which members or citizens could vote. Then of course independents also played their roles and in both cases were elected into pivotal positions.

What I cannot continue to ignore is the tactics that come into play during both these campaigns.

My physical mailbox was filled with literature claiming that one team was better than the other, that certain “promises” would be upheld and futures assured if certain outcomes were reached. In the case of the Mardi Gras election this literature came flooding through our email boxes and facebook pages.

But what I realised mid way through my “campaign” to be re-elected was that although we all mean well, we were actually doing considerable damage to our organisation, and on the other side to our country.

I never put my hand up to be a politician. I never put my hand up to volunteer my time and be personally attacked for it. If I wanted that type of game I would have run for a seat in the senate. We all know that elections are won on the basis of proxies, preferences and advertising.

The people running in these elections may have the best intentions at heart, but dirt dug is rarely clean. It’s the perception that the other side can place that can do the most damage, true or otherwise.

Both elections last week were far from clean.

In my candidate speech at the AGM I expressed my distaste for certain tactics displayed during this election. Forum posts left un-moderated in our community press and on our community bulletin boards helped either sides cases in the art of perception – true or otherwise. Authors of these posts left unknown and damage done.

Little could be done in a world where social media is overtaking ethics in printed journalism, and integrity of process. I think the job of journalist is now is a minefield.

I played my own part in this election. I used the Members Database provided to candidates to push my message to people I knew and some selected people I didn’t. Other candidates used the entire database to send out dramatic messages encouraging support for change.

Whether a candidate sent out 1 email or 5000, to people known to us or otherwise, the outcome was the same. With the exception of a couple of candidates who did not use the register at all, we are all at fault – not legally, as both the corporations act and the constitution allows this, but ethically.

We all contributed to a groundswell movement of emails that flooded our members inboxes, and in some cases our sponsors inboxes.

For the week proceeding the AGM I personally stopped campaigning. I knew some others were campaigning on my behalf and I allowed those people to continue only to people personally known to them, as any politician would.

However something did not sit right for me. The innocent parties in this election were our members, our staff, and our community. We all claim to love the beast that is Mardi Gras, yet we were causing real damage to our brand.

I questioned my involvement in the organisation over the politics being played, and my reasons for being on the board, and after considerable thought at the last Board meeting prior to the AGM, I wrote a paper with my co-director Josh, which would be the start of a process of protecting our organisation from these election tactics and the results of the past month.

This process starts with our members register – an object required by the corporations act, and the information to which it contains. It costs very little to send out bulk emails to our membership, but considerably more to put a stamp on an envelope. To this end we are currently investigating the legal ramifications of removing email addresses from this register. The electoral commission does not have our personal email addresses on file for candidates so why should Mardi Gras?

The decision I came to late last week was that if I wanted to do something about the way the election has played out this year, I needed to stay on the board and work towards a better outcome. My other objectives have not changed. I believe the strategic plan we have just released and is now in place is solid, measurable and innovative. I believe the changes that we have made over the past 12 months are warranted and needed. And I believe that the tasks left remaining are critical for the organisation.

This will be my last year on the board – I also made that commitment at the weekend. This year, more than ever, I am going to make sure it counts. Thank you to everyone who supported me this year in the election. The support received was simply overwhelming in the end, and I look forward to working with the newly elected team. I hope that this year, more than ever, and regardless of the role I play, I will do everyone proud and inspire further change to the benefit of the organisation which we all love.

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About mgsteph

Mardi Gras Blog
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One Response to Politician or Diplomat?

  1. Terri says:

    Once again you inspire me with your words of humility and also due to your lack of campaigning. i know you have the Communities best interests at heart and it takes a while (certainly longer than an election cycle) to bring to life the fruits of your labour. I wish you and the Board all the best in the next year and if you require any assistance, once again, you know who to call and it aint Ghostbusters!

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