Thursday, 19 August 2010

THE MISTAKEN SEARCH FOR INSPIRATIONAL LEADERSHIP AT ELECTION 2010 - LEADERSHIP BECOMES INSPIRATIONAL THROUGH ITS ACTIONS


This morning in a Facebook conversation, one party - referring to Gillard and Abbott - said as follows:

Can you imagine either or these election-managers being able to inspire the nation to build infrastructure like the Snowy Mountains Scheme or the Sydney Harbour Bridge?

I couldn't help but respond and here is what I said.


I would like to point out that neither of these projects were the inspiration of politicians really.  The first came out of that wonderful entity known as the Department of Post-War Reconstruction which also brought full employment to Australia in the 1950s becaude - in the middle of war - it had brought down the White Paper on Full Employment. .  I would point out that this seminal economic work was produced with a great deal of hope in the middle of World War 11 not long after Australia had surrendered to the Japanese at Singapore and not long after the Japanese had been repelled in New Guinea. 

Admittedly this was on Curtin's orders and the Snowy scheme could be attributed to Chifley.  As for the Sydney Harbour Bridge, we don't remember an inspirational politician but a highly competent engineer, John Job Crew Bradfield for whom the Bradfield Hway leading to the Bridge is named.

If you will do a reread of history, you will find we have never brought to govt (we do not directly elect a PM) a Prime Minister on the basis of inspiration - with one possible exception, Gough Whitlam.

This linkage of the Prime Ministership with inspiration and Australian elections is a bit of a furphy.  Our PMs become inspirational by what they actually do in office.  As for outlining their vision of Australia,  this is not always done at election time or at policy launches. 

For instance, in recent times perhaps the clearest vision for modern Australia came from Paul Keating.  However, this vision was enunciated over time and through some of the greatest occasional speeches ever made by an Australian PM.  And look at how many people still hate and loathe him.

The best rule of thumb is that past behaviour is the only real predictor of future behaviour.  It is through past behaviour that we can gain insights into the character of the person who was elected PM.  For this reason, and because I am originally a Queenslander with a long memory, I always had doubts about Kevin Rudd.  I have doubts about Julia too - but not so many but then I hadn't the opportunity to see what she did as I did with Rudd when he ran Queensland under Wayne Goss. So I support Julia to the hilt - well not quite, almost.  But I don't forget that she is part of the team who gave us The Intervention; who continued taxpayer funding of wealthy private schools; who continues to discuss an inhumane refugee response.

However, she is part of the team who made Keynesian economics respectable again as it was when Nugget Coombs and the Dept of PWR produced the White Paper.  The decisions surrounding the GFC and the Stimulus Package cannot be underrated - and that is what Abbot is trying to do.  Behind Abbott (who Turnbull considers economically illiterate) is the ghose of Milton Friedman and behind Friedman stands the Fascist economist, Hayek.

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