The Inside Word

It’s time for our leadership to create a vision we can rally around.

Truly great leadership provides guidance, inspiration, and motivation. Great leaders help create vision and rally people around a common cause. When politicians work across party lines to get things done, the community benefits. When the opposite occurs, we all lose, and voters’ faith in our political system lessens a little. When this happens consistently, our ‘democracy’ suffers as does our community. 

Leadership in politics is important and our political discourse is important. People often say that you don’t need any formal qualifications to run for office. That may be true, but we all benefit when politicians are prepared to argue their case and bring the community with them when they do so. Substance is also more important than being right.

Federal politics at the moment is still dominated by the substantive issue of the upcoming referendum on recognition for our First Nations people in the Constitution. Sadly, it has become an issue that, if we aren’t careful, will further erode the community’s faith in our Federal Parliament and its politicians at a time when we need the exact opposite. 

There are so many significant issues that this Government and the many beyond the current political cycle will have to solve, and that requires strong leadership. We need to engage in a contest of ideas to get the best outcomes for current and future generations of Australians. The community craves a level of discourse that is robust, but respectful, can tolerate differences of opinion but, ultimately, agrees on a pathway forward. That’s what Australians want and too often we settle for less.

Great leaders find a way to bring people with them, especially when making the case for change. Henry Kissinger wrote about Lee Kuan Yew, widely recognised as the father of modern Singapore, that his vision “was of a state that would not simply survive but prevail by excelling”. Superior intelligence, discipline, and ingenuity would substitute for resources.” By any measure, Singapore seemed destined for failure or subservience to a more powerful neighbour. The country is by far the smallest in Southeast Asia and was not gifted with many natural resources. Lee Kuan Yewthought otherwise. When Lee took over in 1959, per capita income was about $400 and now, in only about two generations, it exceeds $50,000.

One of the greatest gifts I received in life was from my mother who would say to me as a child, Winston, being born in Australia is like winning the lottery…everyday! She was exactly right. 

We are still that lucky country but what we will need after the 14th of October is leadership, and a belief that we can achieve much more together than we can at loggerheads with one another. Someone will need to stand up and steer the ship and bring Australians back together, provide leadership in spades and argue the case for how we move forward in a way that reignites the value of respect. I look forward to that.

Federal Parliament will not return until after the Referendum in October. This will be a test for our leaders in the Parliament for how to conduct engagement across the Chamber. The second week commencing on Monday the 23rd of October will see Senate Estimates resume.  

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