The starting point for aspiring politicians should be a willingness to treat all Australians with respect.
Regardless of people’s wealth, race, gender, religion or sexuality, they deserve equal regard from their elected representatives.
That includes single mothers.
That’s why it is so disappointing that the One Nation Party has launched yet another attack on single mothers for cheap political gain.
This week it emerged that a One Nation candidate in the WA election, David Archibald, wrote an essay in Quadrant in 2015 in which he said single mothers had made “a lifestyle choice’’ and that they were “too lazy to attract and hold a mate’’.
He went on to denigrate the children of single mothers, saying they were causing an increase in the number of people who were “lazy and ugly’’.
One would have thought that a leader of a serious political party would have responded to these comments by distancing the party from a man who should be a former candidate.
But when One Nation founder Pauline Hanson was challenged on these comments, she doubled down by tweeting: “To all the fat lazy politicians & fat lazy journalists in the fat lazy media playing fat lazy, PC, identity politics – the answer is no”.
Ms Hanson and Mr Archibald ought to learn to respect their fellow Australians.
There’s something very wrong about an Australia in which politicians seek election to represent the community by vilifying its most vulnerable citizens.
All Australians are worthy of respect.
Whatever the circumstances in which women become single mothers, they are fellow Australians who are raising the next generation of Australians.
They deserve support.
Yet to some politicians, single mothers are political cannon fodder who can be disrespected as a means of seeking media attention and encouraging intolerance and division.
Many single mothers work, juggling their need to provide an income with the difficulty of raising children alone. That’s not easy.
Others combine parenting with study to increase their chances of finding work. That’s not easy either.
Other single mothers are not in a position to work.
As people are now aware as a result of Karen Middleton’s biography on myself published a few months ago, I was raised by a single mother.
My mother Maryanne was an invalid pensioner who suffered from chronic rheumatoid arthritis which prevented her from working.
She took my father’s name and I believed until I was a teenager that she had been widowed prior to my birth.
Such was the stigma attached to having a child out of wedlock five decades ago that I held this view until my mother explained the circumstances when I was a teenager.
I subsequently met my father for the first time in December, 2009, just five years before he passed away.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for my late mother for raising me on her own.
In 2016, we can do much better than political candidates like Mr Archibald promoting stereotypes and denigrating single mums, and for that matter, single fathers.
Sole parents often do it tough. They deserve better.
As for their children, I have served as Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the House of Representatives and a senior minister.
One of the things that Australians are proud of in our nation is that no matter how humble people’s origins, they have access to opportunity.
For much of his upbringing, Malcolm Turnbull was raised by his single father.
The Prime Minister is rightly proud of his Dad.
In 2017, there is no shortage of issues over which politicians can engage and disagree.
But if we can’t even agree to defend the dignity of our fellow Australians, we are in a sad state indeed.
This piece was first published in Mamamia on Thursday, 2 February 2017: http://bit.ly/2kv6OrV
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.