It’s Unofficially Official: Feeling The Love In Australian Politics

Forgive me WordPress for I have sinned, it has been 41 days since my last post. Suitably repentant, I await your pronouncement.

Just popped back to share the political love.

You may remember, we used to have a female Prime Minister. Now we don’t. She didn’t get voted out by the people, no siree, that would be far too democratic. She got voted out by her party only to be replaced by the guy whom she knifed in a similar leadership spill about 3 years ago. The same guy whose senior party colleagues pronounced that his methods of leadership were unworkable and lead to a paralysis in party and Government decision making. Our first female Prime Minister went out in a blaze of orange haired glory amidst an onslaught of blue tie wearing men, cries of misogyny against our male politicians, most notably the leader of the Opposition and visions of knitting yarn and crocheted kangaroos (for the royal baby of course).

All of this because Australia must hold a federal election this year and the governing party got jittery over its serious slide in the polls. So, in a back to the future move, it reinstalled the campaigner and got rid of the governor.

Are you with me so far?

In short, we have been swamped by politics and received little governance. Democracy in this country has taken a hit.

men in blue tiesWithout a wiener or a sexting in site (our politics are simply not that colourful, especially not after all the male politicians starting wearing blue ties) the question on everyone’s lips is when will the new Prime Minister call the election? This is important because it will be held in Spring. In Spring people start to stir from their winter hibernation and they have wedding vows to exchange, holidays to take, gardens to tend and lives to lead.

Being the good organised governor she was, our former female Prime Minister set the date for 14 September 2013. In an unprecedented move she set this date in February so that the ever dutiful populace could clear their diaries. The new guy wants to keep us guessing.

So we are having an election, we just don’t know when and the Opposition can smell blood in the water.

It’s unofficially official, we are NOT in election campaign mode.

Except no-one told my local candidates, who have suddenly woken from their slumber after two decades of hibernation. I’m feeling so much love, I can’t tell you.

Let me digress with a little background. Australia is divided into 150 electorates. For the purposes of determining which party governs, we each get to vote for our own local member who sits in the lower house. Whichever party has the majority in the lower house governs. Unlike the United States we do not vote directly for our Prime Minister, unless he or she happens to be our local member and is the leader of the party who wins. I live in a safe party seat. The details of which party has reigned supreme doesn’t matter, suffice to say that to lose the seat would have required a swing of between 8-13%, a huge margin in Australian politics. So no attention for us, after all the prize has always remained in the bag. The prize for us being a bald-headed, former high profile rock star local member who only turned up to attend school annual prize giving ceremonies.

Now, however, there’s a real contest here because the popularity of the Government at the hands of our female Prime Minister has suffered greatly. And that’s not because she’s female, rather because of

Do you think they know it's a battle of the polls, not a battle of the poles?

Do you think they know it’s a battle of the polls, not a battle of the poles?

her inability to connect. And suddenly, our Opposition candidate has popped up in the electorate with a physical and media presence. A couple of weeks ago he was standing on a median strip in the middle of a six lane road during morning peak hour waving cheesily to passing motorists. He wasn’t standing at a traffic light, so couldn’t talk to anyone, but just stood there waving. What he was hoping to achieve other than a death wish was anyone’s guess.

Posters have popped up everywhere bearing his image, trucks are driving around on the weekends bearing yet more posters and love letters are coming in the mail.

Better yet, his office is phoning asking us what we think are the three most important issues facing Australia today and asking who will we vote for. A personal call, with a real voice, caring about what we think. Such love, and we have only just begun, well not really, because it’s not official yet.

Ever had one of those friends who only come around when they want something? Especially one in a blue tie? Yeah, me too.

Sort of officially unofficial friendship if you ask me.

Have you ever felt the love from a politician? Do long political campaigns hold your interest? What do you think of blue ties?






Saturday Soapbox: Where Have All Our Leaders Gone?

Warning: This post is a little heavier than my usual fair and is about politics, although it is not political. If you don’t like to read about politics then jump off here.

We live in difficult times. Difficult from the point of view of uncertainty, both in terms of the emergence of a new world order and in economic terms. It is at these times people look to leaders, not so much for the answers to their problems, but for inspiration and motivation to find the answers to their problems.

Firstly, some terminology. In my mind there is a clear distinction between managers and leaders. Managers are responsible for delivering tasks and outcomes, they steer a process. Whilst a manager can also be a leader, managing and leading require different skills and it is rare that you find those skill sets together. There is some overlap at the centre between the skill sets, but at the edges, a leader has to have something more. Further, a leader does not necessarily have to be a good manager, rather he has to have the confidence and intelligence to delegate to good managers.

A leader has to have vision and to be able to articulate and paint that vision in a way that makes it real. A genuine leader:

    • follows when necessary and steps to the front where necessary
    • listens as much as she speaks
    • is a pupil as much as he is a teacher
    • has respect for all people no matter their culture, socio-economic circumstances, physical features or religion
    • behaves graciously
    • has confidence with humility
    • values imput from others.

Coincidentally, the quote on my desk calendar today comes from Mahatma Gandhi, who was a leader:

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind

This quote is particularly apposite to the topic of this post.

Australia’s system of government is modelled on the English Westminster system. The people elect members to the upper and lower houses of parliament as their representatives who debate policy and pass laws. The government is chosen from the party who has the majority of seats in the lower house. Debates are highly adversarial and members often grandstand, call each other names and point score – an eye for an eye. All of this may be tradition and somewhat theatrical, some might even say entertaining, but to me it is lamentable. There are ways of conveying a point of view, graciously and respectfully without personally attacking anyone. The whole show reminds me of a badly behaved kindergarten class where the Speaker kindergarten teacher has lost control. The behaviour is not confined to any one side of politics or any gender.

Just think if we brought this sort of behaviour into the boardroom, nothing would get done. Apart from the fact that everyone would be suing everyone else for defamation, people would be highly distracted by the theatrics and the real task at hand would be forever postponed.

Outside of parliament, our politicians are constantly selling their vision/message to the people. I use the term selling deliberately because the spin is nauseatingly dizzying. Sugar coating is for bakeries, not for government. The populace is not stupid, nor do they need to be patronized. If there is a bitter pill to swallow, I would rather be told straight by someone I respect and who at the same time as delivering the pill delivers the vision for dealing with the affects of that pill.

I believe the dearth of genuine leaders and authentic leadership is responsible for the close call elections and hung parliaments around the world. Australia itself has no clear governing majority party, the Labor government relies on deals with a handful of independents, Greece is returning to the polls after an equivocal election and England is also governed by a coalition government after its 2010 general election.

What example are we setting for our future parliamentarians?

Where has the leadership gone, where are all the leaders hiding? Where are all the authentic men and women with genuine presence, dignity and vision? We need you on all sides of politics, this is a call to arms and there’s not a moment to lose.