Parliament_House_Canberra_(281004929)One of the disappointing features of modern politics is that it is almost expected that promises will not be kept.

There is a desperate need for public respect to be restored to our political class.

Their work on our behalf is too important to be traduced.

The Abbott Government looks set to break its promise about no new taxes with the so-called deficit levy.

Financial responsibility is of course vital and our generation must not be leaving a burden for the next.

The small target strategy of political campaigning means that both sides approach elections by trying to be as small a target as possible.

In the last campaign, this meant that the Coalition made promises about reigning in government expenditure with the unrealistic expectation that this could be done without cuts to key areas or tax rises.

With the budget approaching next week, this is exposed.

An election promise that was broken last week with little media fanfare was on overseas aid.

Both Labor and the Coalition have for years been crab-walking away from its Millennium Development Goal promise to raise our overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015.

But before the election, the Coalition promised to raise aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI, although it could not say when it would get there.

Last week it was announced that aid would be de-coupled from GNI and capped at $5 billion.

This means that our generosity to the world’s poor cannot grow as our nation’s prosperity grows. It is a breach of an election promise.

All of us make commitments at times that we need to retract because of changed circumstances sometimes beyond our control.

But this should be accompanied by repentance and humility.

Parliamentarians are trapped by a merciless ‘gotcha’ style of journalism and public discourse which leaves little room for these concepts.

The apathy of most people towards politics also facilitates this unreal discourse.

And when it comes to an issue like aid – designed to help people overseas in extreme poverty – our preoccupation with our own prosperity means a promise like this can be breached with very little political consequence.

Labor’s seemingly unwillingness to pursue the Government on this suggests it is complicit in the decision to scale back our aid promise. It certainly deferred billions of dollars of promised aid in the past two budgets.

Principled public leadership is hard but we must find a way to see it restored in our political culture.

This should be a priority of all involved in public life. The next generation will thank us if we achieve it.