Is politics the last 'don't ask, don't tell' area for business?



This week on ABC's Mediawatch, our nation's mirror on the often questionable practices of our news agencies, host Paul Barry made a startling announcement.

In response to criticism from Government and mainstream media that the ABC were a bunch of left-leaning greenies with a clear political agenda, he revealed that he'd voted Liberal at the last election.

There was an audible gasp from Nimbin to Daylesford, and twitter went into a metaphysical meltdown (not a literal one, no wires or machines were burned at all. Why do people say 'I literally crapped myself' when literally, they did not, I hope? Anyway, I digress).

Outraged comment mainly came from Labor and Greens voters who'd felt betrayed, whilst quietly I'm sure the foundation of belief of many Right-wingers and big L Liberals was shaken.

A couple of weeks ago in my lounge room while I gave my wife a foot rub, Will McAvoy called the Tea Party the American Taliban on national television meaning that Jim Harper got kicked off the Mitt Romney campaign bus and much uproar ensued.

Of course, Jeff Daniels wasn't Literally (boom boom) in my lounge room, but he was starring in the exceptional political drama The Newsroom.

The hurt from the Republican Tea Party was felt more keenly, because Will too is a self confessed Republican voter.

It got me thinking. Do we reveal our political leanings in business? Is it a career killer? And when did Australia get to be so vehement in our attraction and opposition to various parties?

In the case of Paul Barry, he highlighted - as recently did Jon Faine - that the ABC is designed to be equally annoying to all major political parties, and to ask the most difficult possible questions at the most inconvenient times.

Political leaning plays no role in how they seek to uncover the truth, and Paul Barry now becomes an excellent example. In business, I wonder if major organisations or small business self-declared for a particular party if it would affect their chances of doing business with others.

I can think of Lindsay Fox – a staunch Labor supporter – as one example. I can’t see BHP refusing to have Linfox carry their goods – can you?

And yet we are afraid to reveal our political leanings, except of course on Facebook, Twitter, and in those famous dinner conversations where ‘if I were Prime Minister I’d save the world by…’

I don’t think clients will stop using me if I tell them who I vote for. Unique to Australia, and distinct from America, we can separate the person – or the business – from politics, and also often I think we just want to enjoy our beers and shrimps on the barbie rather than talk politics anyway.

Perhaps if we do reveal our leanings, it needs to be in the kind of way that Paul Barry has done – in a way that surprises but informs our colleague, client or candidate, without the vehemence or ra-ra’s that we associate with an American style declaration.

So who cares? Tell, or don’t tell. We aren’t going to split our nation down the middle into red and blue. Wanna tell me who you vote for? Fine. Want me to tell you? Gimme a call. I just might. 

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