My grandson recently asked me what politics is “really about”.

I had to think for a moment because it is changing and many politicians have a misplaced view of this.

Barnaby Joyce and his partner were recently paid $150,000 for an interview with the 7 Network and Jacqui Lambie did an interview about her journey to find a partner.

There is a cloud over politics in this country.

The media is always interested in the personal lives of MPs and Joyce and Lambie consented to be interviewed but I don’t think their stories served the public good, rather they undermined the seriousness of our political system and how the community views the daily work of politicians.

It was salacious journalism aimed at undermining the already dim reputation of politicians and that is fine.

Politicians can take it on the chin and they deserve it at the moment.

You could argue politics looks like a soap opera of late.

Politicians need to serve their community first and themselves second.

We won’t do that with $150,000 interviews or stories about how politicians struggle with dating. One could be forgiven for thinking all politicians are trying to make a quick buck from the media or trying to advance their personal lives.

It is scary that we live in a time where facts are overlooked in favour of spin.

Facts are being replaced by created false realities to serve self-interest. This has been happening in the US for decades and it is starting to bleed into Australian politics.

Donald Trump is President because of this and Barack Obama was before him.

Obama sold a message of hope based on a new America that could change culturally and politically after the GFC and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During that time health reform did occur and Obama created an America that was more culturally progressive, but it stopped there. Many Americans felt short-changed by Obama’s Yes We Can message and reforms.

Trump sold a message of America’s decline in the world economically and militarily and that it could only be remedied by a billionaire CEO who could hire and fire people at will, including Congress.

Hillary Clinton and her Washington establishment love affair never had a chance.

Thankfully, this creation of false realities over facts has not reached a tipping point in Australia. But politicians are still out of favour with the community due to political debates far removed from the daily lives of Aussies.

There is time to save politicians from going down this self-interest path and it starts with bringing the conversation back to the mainstream.

Politicians need to talk about record low wage growth, job security, fairer taxation, youth unemployment, the housing crisis, cost of living, elective surgery wait times, TAFE, home care packages, penalty rates, climate change, corporate greed.

If the community does not feel heard, politicians have failed.

When politicians talk about a referendum to amend section 44 of the Constitution, offshore processing, changing the date of Australia Day, and Israeli and Palestinian relations, the community stops listening.

Regardless of the legitimacy of these issues, all of them are so far removed from people’s lives they just do not deserve the time.

Politicians can hold these elitist political debates in the confines of their parties.

So what did I say to my grandson?

I told him politics is simple. It is about listening, priorities and making life better for people.

This article was originally published in The Mercury on Friday 20 July 2018.