I don’t know about you, but I really can’t stand the divisiveness that we see in politics and the media these days.
Every day it’s he said/she said, this party vs that party, left vs right, black vs white, right vs wrong.
At first it’s infuriating (and a lot of people get swept up in the anger of it), but after a while it becomes debilitating, and I can totally understand why so many people become apathetic to politics or political issues.
We have this two-party system and, let’s be honest, they’re not really that different from one another… I mean we’ve got the choice between an upper-middle-class-white-guy named Scotty or an upper-middle-class-white-guy named Albo...
But even worse is that rather than have an assembly of independent representatives working collaboratively to achieve outcomes for the collective, we have this duopoly with so much power that the only way people can get elected in the first place is to align themselves with a party; to 'pick a side'. And that party has its decisions made from a few at the very top, influenced by lobbyists and businesses with vested interests, so it's NO WONDER people lose faith in the political system!
My guest today is a retiring politician; he is retiring as the Mayor of Byron Shire Council this week on the 30th of April and (perhaps because he's retiring) he speaks freely and openly about the ego of party politics. He shares stories from his career and he shares his perspective on how we can approach the same issues that we ALL face by stepping back and seeing the bigger picture of us as a collective humanity.
He opens up (from the get-go) about his personal life and his experience watching his wife go through cancer, and he shares how his views and approaches to controversial issues have changed over the years to be one of cooperation, of trying to achieve the desired outcome regardless of his identity or whether his ‘tribe’ liked him.
I can tell you that the Byron community (or Byron Bubble as it is often referred to) can be ruthless sometimes, and he has certainly had his fair share of criticism from both the right (for being a greenie), and even more so from the left (for not being green enough!).
He himself will tell you how he went from being an environmental activist on the front lines at blockades to, as he calls it, 'putting on a suit and getting a haircut' to join the political realm.
So like any politician he has been a lightning rod for people’s opinions at times, but one thing I can’t fault is that he has gotten up day after day for over a decade, he’s faced criticism, he’s faced disasters, community issues, and god forbid the never ending commentary around potholes (which I did promise him I wouldn’t bring up), but he’s approached each day with vigour, he’s spoken his mind, and he’s served to the best that he can, even whilst facing personal crises.
Please enjoy this conversation with the outgoing Mayor of the Byron Shire Council, Simon Richardson