Gallop Walks

The resignation of Geoff Gallop yesterday, praised by former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett today as his "greatest act of public service" was a class act. Watching the press conference last night, I was impressed by his candour, and it set me thinking about the other political men who’ve battled depression in the past decade – Greg Barns, Jeff Kennett, Nick Sherry, the late Greg Wilton, Andrew Bartlett, John Brogden. Either our politicians are more open in discussing depression (I’ll call this "the Kennett thesis"), or Australian politics is actually more depression-inducing than politics in other countries (the Latham thesis).

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9 Responses to Gallop Walks

  1. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Lets try the Davidson hypothesis: Gallop is well placed to retire and deal with his depression because he, unlike most other Australians, can immediately access his super (unfunded, for life etc. etc.) Non-politician Australians would have to keep working and muddle on.

  2. Sacha Blumen says:

    Sinc, I think that his super would be very well funded!

  3. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Unfunded is a technical term – but yes. Unless state pollies have a difference super system to federal types, his super is funded from ongoing tax revenue.

  4. Andrew Leigh says:

    Sinc, it’s true that Australian politicians’ retirement is well-funded, but I’m sceptical that this explains (a) why more Aussie politicians seem to be declaring themselves clinically depressed than in other countries; nor (b) why the numbers have risen in the last decade, an era during which the overall suicide rate has fallen.

  5. Sinclair Davidson says:

    I suspect you’re quite correct. I’m just the more general point that he can afford to quit his job and spend time recovering. Also, I’m wondering if the “I have depression” is the new “want to spend time with my family” excuse.

  6. Pingback: The Bartlett Diaries

  7. “why the numbers have risen in the last decade, an era during which the overall suicide rate has fallen.” Perhaps it has fallen because more people are taking non-lethal action to alleviate their problems. Of course, as Sinclair points out, few people have the luxury of not working – but drugs, therapy, and the passage of time can bring significant improvement to most people. (And I am not convinced that not working helps anyway – in the depression I have witnessed excessive time to dwell on problems makes things worse unless the job was the cause of the depression in the first place.)

    You could probably add Paul Keating to that list, on the evidence of the Watson book.

  8. Sacha Blumen says:

    Politicians are in the rare category of being able to retire after a relatively few number of years and be able to live on the super. While everyone else is in a different category, I don’t begrudge him this.

  9. It’s always fair enough to have a go at the unfair nature of politcian’s superannuation, although I think every state and federally have now brought it basically into line with most schemes, so once the existing crop work their way through the system it should be confined to history. However, I doubt that’s Gallop’s motivation – if he was only interested in the easy way out (or in money) he could have (a) just hung around and coasted for a while, or (b) resigned but said it was due to ‘family reasons’ or something similar. However, it would certainly be a plus to him, and help with his recovery that he won’t have to worry about having to earn a crust for his family or the possibility of having to survive long-term on sickness allowance (he’d be unlikely to get Disability Pension under the government’s new tighter rules).

    I doubt anyone knows whether the number of MPs with depression have risen in recent times or not – there has probably been (some) increase in the willingness to discuss/disclose this, but this would apply with the general community as well, and there is also greater awareness now so it would have gone more undiagnosed in the past.

    Having said that, people such as John Curtin and Winston Churchill experienced severe depression, and I imagine people in lower positions did also but it would not have been publicised or recorded for history. I know there have been suicides of serving politicians in the past and there may well have been suicide attempts as well which would have been less likely to be made public, or just coyly noted as ‘a sudden illness’. People do also tend to forget these things over time (anything in the pre-internet age that is beyond the reach of Google is much more readily buried beneath the dust of the past).

    Having said all that, I imagine the larger and more immediate nature of media scrutiny and the more presidential style nature of the approach to politics makes the pressures larger than they were in the past (although it’s hard to think of anything more pressured than being the PM during World War II when the Japanese were believed to be bearing down on us).

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