Political tactics have always relied on exaggeration, either in the form of political promises soon to be broken and blamed on someone else, or in relation to the importance of various issues. And we accept that, because while it may well be the worst thing about democracy, I don’t think many would argue for an honest, upfront, military dictatorship. In fact, somehow the lies provide some sort of comfort – our politicians may be walking cliches of dishonesty, but at least we know that and control our expectations accordingly.

Now however, politics seems to have taken a turn for the worse. In Europe, various fringe groups, including right and left-wing extremists are – under the guise of credibility through well presented mouthpieces – digging up old rhetoric, placing the blame for wrongs committed and dreams unrealised firmly at the feet of various races and nationalities. This has, for the most part, been dealt with by the people, who have been breaking voter turnout records and putting hatred as a political tactic back where it belongs – in the past.

Meanwhile in Australia, Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, has been dusting off of very old chestnut regarding refugees –

“They won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English. These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that. For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it so there would be huge cost and there’s no sense in sugar-coating that, that’s the scenario.”

Now, this isn’t a denunciation of immigration policy, the argument about open and closed borders, who to let in and out and then who should stay, are talking points for people far more educated than me. This, is the condemning of using hatred of race, religion, or sexual preference as a tool to infuriate the masses and gain political points. Dutton’s comments are not only horrifying in their racist connotations, they’re also not based on any evidence. The Minister and his staff have access to the records of all successful and unsuccessful immigration and refugee applications into the country. However, aside from incomplete or ad hoc analysis, there is nothing to either back up Dutton’s claim, or to disprove it.

This is an example, being repeated in the US by Donald Trump, of politicians using ‘non-facts’ to mislead the public and distract from other issues. Politicians do not have an obligation, bizarrely, to back up anything they say with statistical data or evidence. But it’s up to the people to do more than simply nod or shake their head. Too many have been quick, rather than asking more questions about the validity of Dutton’s claim, to jump on the anti-immigration or pro-immigration bandwagons.

Perhaps it’s time to stop the politicians from leading the political conversation and distracting us from other issues we may consider to be important. Perhaps we should be less outraged by these intentional plans to control our emotional attention and focus on choosing the best candidate and party for us as individuals. Your vote is the very cornerstone of your rights as a citizen in a democratic country, it’s worth a lot more than being manipulated into hatred or passionate fervour.