Every so often a show comes along that breaks the mould. Excuse the cooking related pun but that is exactly what the show Kitchen Cabinet, hosted by Annabel Crabb and aired on ABC2 actually does. It takes your regular political interview and turns it on its head. It moves the political discourse away from the rough and tumble of our institutions and places it in the home’s, temporary or otherwise, of some of our political players. Far from just bringing out some of the personal stories of our politicians, the show, with its second season about to start, exposes the ingredients of the party politics cake.
Kitchen Cabinet will return to television screens next Wednesday, October 10th and promises to unearth some more individual truths from our politicians which will shed an important light on just how varied opinions can be within any given political party. There will of course be some who do not reveal as much or anything compared to other guests on the show, but for the most part individual thought processes will be discovered.
Failing that, the show will be responsible again for unearthing or at least bringing to a wider audience, stories about our politicians, their lives, what makes them tick as people. This has a lot to do with the relaxed location, the home or the flat or house in Canberra. What emerges, even from our media savvy politicians is at the very least is a much more relaxed and at ease communication style closer to a dinner chat than a political interview, when in reality it is still a political discussion.
What the broader viewing public often fail to see with our politicians is that behind party politics, which relies on falling into line behind a party-room decision, there are individuals, putting forward slightly different points of view.
Those views are of course discussed and debated, sometimes at length, behind closed doors, occasionally spilling out into public view through leaks from MP’s or journalists in the right place at the right time. Occasionally, individual views will spout forth out of the mouths of politicians directly in the media spotlight in public- think Barnaby Joyce as a most prescient example.
But for the most part, our politicians stick to “party discipline” and don’t reveal their position or at least won’t put a name to it, instead being referred to as ‘a disgruntled MP’ or ‘an inside source’.
From the advertisements for the show, we can already see that Bronwyn Bishop, long-time Liberal Party MP reveals she would not have brought in the controversial WorkChoices. What other stories of individual argument will we discover through the work of Annabel Crabb? Barnaby Joyce we know too, will also be a guest on the show and surely the serial “freelancer” will not disappoint.
In a way these candid discussions also show the lengths that politicians will go to, what they will put up with in order to wield political power for as long as possible. Politicians will, almost without fault, accept party decisions. That is just as much about accepting and maintaining political power as it is about accepting the collective decision of a political machine that has discussed and debated an issue in an exhaustive manner.
Of course, save for the likes of Barnaby Joyce, we will not see frank and open discussions about current policy debates and that’s to be expected as the collective need for unity trumps almost all other views.
However, we can learn what individual members of parliament might think about a policy issue from the historical tidbits they offer up. We can reasonably, but not always accurately do so by linking a previous policy stance to an ideology and then extrapolate that to present issues. However, that can be blurred by the increasingly common practice of populism which has been known to overtake ideological linkages in recent years.
Kitchen Cabinet is certainly different and through that uniqueness will be illuminating as we seek to understand the politics of our nation and our individual parliamentary representatives. It might also help us to realise that just like us, surprisingly, our politicians are human.