Australia has enjoyed an unprecedented period of prosperity in recent decades, yet despite this there has been a widely reported loss of faith in politics and institutions. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia faces its most significant economic and social challenges in decades. How is politics placed to deal with these challenges and what is the capacity of our key institutions to do so? What are the lessons and warnings from history?
In Challenging Politics, long-time politician Scott Ryan argues that the way we determine issues, the way we practice politics, and what we expect from politicians and government, is in flux. To some, the virtue of compromise has become the sin of sell-out. The louder voices of fringe and single-issue movements attract attention, money and commitment, and apply litmus tests to those who seek to govern. This makes it more difficult for our institutions, and therefore our politics, to function effectively. The long-talked-about collapse of the centre isn’t solely about extreme ideas. It is also about how our expectations of politics and our institutions have changed.
Scott Ryan was elected as a Senator for Victoria at the 2007 federal election and re-elected in 2013 and 2016. He served in the Abbott ministry as parliamentary secretary for education, and in the Turnbull ministries as minister for vocational education, special minister of state, and minister assisting the prime minister for Cabinet. In 2017 he was elected the twenty-fifth President of the Senate, the youngest person to ever hold the position. Prior to entering parliament, Scott was a consultant in the health and insurance sectors and in the pharmaceutical industry, as well as working as a speechwriter and political adviser, a tutor in politics, and serving as a research fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs. He holds a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours from the University of Melbourne. Scott was born in Brisbane in 1973 and raised and educated in Melbourne, where he lives with his wife Helen and two sons.