Australian politicians are setting a bad example for the nation’s youth through their poor behaviour in Parliament, the head of Victoria’s new Commission for Children and Young People has said.
Principal commissioner Bernie Geary linked concern about bullying among young people and the ”dreadful” way federal politicians treated each other.
”I was watching the way our parliamentarians were screaming at each other,” Mr Geary said. ”How the heck can our kids learn to be respectful to each other when at the very top of the tree in Canberra, people treat each other like wild animals?”
Mr Geary, who took up the post at the start of March, said the same principle applied to concern about alcohol abuse by young people and the way alcohol was used by adults.
”The biggest problems in our community around behaviour isn’t young people’s behaviour it’s adult behaviour – and young people model their behaviour on adults,” he said.
”We shouldn’t be standing back and vilifying young people. If we get adult behaviour fixed and proper, children’s behaviour will follow.”
Mr Geary served as Victoria’s child safety commissioner for eight years but his new role comes with increased powers and independence from the government of the day. Mr Geary will be able to initiate his own inquiries and will report to State Parliament.
His criticism of the standards of behaviour of federal MPs reflects growing concern after a particularly bitter period in Federal Parliament, characterised by acrimonious debate and personal attacks.
The National Council of Women of Australia petitioned Federal Parliament last October demanding a more dignified and civilised approach by MPs. ”The increasingly crude, juvenile, disrespectful and overly combative behaviour of many members, degrades parliamentary process, creates an inappropriate behavioural model for our youth and causes ridicule in the eyes of world nations,” the 900-signature petition said.
Mr Geary said he had recently spoken to a young person who had tuned into question time. ”They couldn’t believe that men and women were screaming at each other the way they were,” he said.
Mr Geary said there was no doubt of the impact of the behaviour on young people. ”It all trickles down,” he said. ”If we get the adults right, the kids will follow. Stop picking on the kids, look at yourselves.”
He said that, generally, he did not think behaviour by MPs in the Victorian Parliament was as bad, where he said there seemed to be a ”bit more humour attached to the state mob”.
One of the priorities in his new role would be to improve the way young children in marginal situations were listened to, adding that, at present, ”I don’t think we do that very well”.
”Sometimes our systems override our capacity to listen to children,” he said.
Mr Geary said he also wanted to improve how government departments and community service organisations worked together.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.