Bad behaviour' in the house and beyond: Australian representative assemblies

Publication Date



Activities that remain uncriticized when practised by members of the general population are often regarded as ‘bad behaviour’ in the case of politicians. This article delineates the types of ‘bad behaviour’ identified and criticized by both the general population and the media in Australia. The article discusses examples from recent Australian political history, also demonstrating continuities with past parliamentary experiences and public attitudes. It particularly details the public and media uproar about parliamentary pay rises. In the words of one member of Australia's Commonwealth parliament: ‘I don't think the public would be happy unless we were doing our work pro bono, quite frankly’ (ABC Online, 2007). The article argues that trends in the media have intensified popular criticism of politicians, but that such views are not new and may be deeply rooted in history. This continuing phenomenon may have serious implications for popular perceptions of politicians and the political process, but it may also be the inevitable result of public scepticism about parliament and governing institutions. Ultimately, however, the criticisms are less about what politicians do than what people believe they do.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Access Rights

ERA Access