Politics ban has made the show political

Life is full of unexpected consequences. So many times, we take a course of action designed to achieve one thing but which results in something entirely different.

Such is the case with the Nowra Show Society’s decision to ban political parties from setting up stalls at the show.

That decision was made in 2016 – a federal and local government election year – with the intention of making for a more family oriented atmosphere. Unfortunately, it was poorly executed, with the local Labor Party only informed of the decision late in the piece and having already paid the fee.

And with the show routinely stacked with politicians – local and federal MPs as well as councillors – the perception has grown that it was a move designed to isolate one side of politics. There’s also the fact key show people are also members of the local Liberal Party.

This year, that perception was fuelled by the visit of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He dropped in to open a new kitchen in the pavilion that was substantially funded by the NSW government, members of which were miffed he’d stolen their thunder, presumably at the invitation of Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis.

Meanwhile, set up outside the main gate was a group of Labor Party protesters. If the intention was to take politics out of the show, the result was quite the opposite.

It was the same last year. The Labor Party simply set up across the road and was much more visible than it would have been if allowed into the show.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to banish politics from an agricultural show. But until you keep all politicians away, it’s never going to work. No matter what their connection to the show, pollies will always be using their appearances as opportunities for soft campaigning, whether they’re waving a red, green or blue flag.

It would probably be simpler to let the various parties go ahead and set up their stalls inside the show. It would give the show society a little more revenue and remove the suspicion the ban was politically motivated.

In a democracy, the reality is that political parties will vie for the attention of voters. Any attempt to marginalise or exclude them will only make them louder. And so it is with the attempt to ban politics from the show. The stalls may be gone but the show itself has become politicised. 

That’s an unhelpful, unexpected consequence.