At the time, I began to yammer on about politics, what I was up to, schemes that were in place. It demonstrated what I thought, at the time, was an impressive level of insider knowledge that would wow my friends.
One of them, who had been my best mate for about six years, looked up at me and said: “Wow mate. You’re a bit of a hack, aren’t you?”
I got a bit of a jolt out of that. Part of me felt a bit of pride. Part of my felt a bit taken aback that I had changed so much.
It’s a funny thing, being a political hack. You’re caught up in a fast paced world of machinations and games, your relationships (mostly, not always) balanced upon the finely tuned deals and factional alignments you are a part of.
Take a position from someone, and you’ll quickly go from being firm friends to sworn enemies. Make the wrong comment somewhere, and a staunch ally can become a nemesis overnight.
Of course, this leads me to my point: there is nothing impressive about political hacks.
For the most part, they lead a pretty similar life. Involvement in staffing, move into private sector (read: job in government relations or something similar), move back into the party, go into Parliament. Numerous examples of our current crop of MPs have gone down this path.
The appalling thing is this: looking at the people who are now joining our political ranks, what have we got? People with limited life experience, confined to the mad little world of politics. Parties promote these people as they have the time and commitment to contribute to the party, to play the game and to get what they need.
It is a dangerous precedent. Both Liberals and Labor have a fast-emerging system of entrenched factionalism as a result. Good people are missing out on parliamentary seats. And more and more, we are seeing evidence of what these political hacks think of the democratic system: something that is their plaything.
Look at, for example, the expenses scandals in the UK and Eddie Obeid over here.
But the current system rewards that.
There’s nothing impressive about a political hack. They play the game, preferring to hang in an isolated bubble rather than fight it out in the big bad world. And at the end of the day, we all know where their breeding ground is: Universities like Sydney.
So please, if you have a friend who is a hack, do what my friends did. Tell them, it’s time to take a look at yourself. Because when you do that, you’re doing them a favour.