Ten years ago, it seems politicians had balls. They weren’t afraid to call a kettle black, rather than pander to the locals on an ideal that was unpopular. Unlike today, unpopularity would not merely be swallowed and re-election all but impossible without resorting to cheap financial bribes. Politicians of past generations actually had the charisma and the intellect to convince the masses what was good for them. The term “leader” was an accurate one. A leader knows what’s best for you and makes you agree. A dictator, or a failure, does shit without ever successfully changing your opinion.
Now, the leader has been replaced with … well, indulgers, obsessed with being “on message” like a broken record. What good is a leader who has a minority of backers – when even their own party is teeming with no confidence voters?
The leaders of today seem naught but afraid opinion-poll watching puppets who – during the middle of their term, achieve next to nothing, and only kick into action towards the end, fooling and bribing voters into a false sense of achievement.
Britain’s David Cameron earned my respect a year ago when he gave one of the most hard-hitting speeches in recent UK memory. He told Britain exactly why things were so economically grim, and why the long list of debt-curbing, economy-controlling measures had to be put in place, for their own good. The policies aren’t particularly any different to a lot of other measures being employed across Europe and the world, but the man’s delivery is full of balls. He talks to the people of Britain with a certain amount of arrogance and schooled confidence like a father talks to his children: I know you’re not going to like this, but it’s time to suck it up, you can’t have all the candy in the store, it’s time to grow up and accept what’s good for you. You might hate him for it, but it’s hard to disagree to his face, or even in print.
Compare that to Australia’s current Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is called a liar practically every month on national radio to her face by callers, who sticks to script like she has no voice of her own. When all else fails, pander to the Aussie Battler. Don’t offend, don’t disagree with the people of Australia. Keep telling everyone that the rich mining companies are evil and hoarding all the cash. Deflect blame. Fail to explain policy or long-term goals properly, and ignore controversy like it’s not happening, rather than tackling it head-on.
Now of course every politician panders to the romantic interests of the average voter and tries to avoid upsetting their chances of re-election where they can, but not to this extent. My god. Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott are so pathetic in their constant leaning on buzz phrases like “Aussie battler” and “fair go” I think if I hear them uttered in media one more time I might vomit out seven rainbows. It’s beyond patronising. The truth is, weak governments will be booted out around the world not because the policies they passed were unpopular, or even because they failed to achieve something. They will be booted out because they lack the balls to be authoritative and put public opinion in it’s place. Have a look at Greece’s George Papandreou, a man who lacked the balls to accept the only bail-out package available to the country and instead see-sawed with the idea of opening the acceptance to a referendum. Unbelievable! That’s not leadership, that’s utter weakness! Bullied by your own nation despite knowing what’s good for them.
A real leader is not swayed by public opinion, they win in spite of it. People feel safe with a real leader at the helm. The country is in control. Just look at Margaret Thatcher, not without her long list of controversies, yet a woman with bigger balls than all the Australian and European politicians of the last 5 years combined, and hence, an impressively long time in service.
So how did the once authoritative political class let this happen?
To put my generalised ramblings in perspective, I want to take you back to a political story many of you may be ignorant of: the Australian High Court‘s “Mabo” finding in 1992 and then Prime Minister Paul Keating‘s subsequent political quest to put legislation around the court’s repudiation of native title. The history of Indigenous equality in the country has had few more challenging – turning points – you must understand, that even today, the average White Australian views Aboriginal rights with a ridiculous amount of resentment.
This exchange between the former leader of the nation and a talkback caller on John Laws‘ 2UE morning program in 1993 was stunning, an absolute show stopper:
Caller: Good morning.
John Laws: Okay, the Prime Minister is here.
Caller: Yes, good morning. Just a very broad question, Mr Keating, is: why does your government see the Aboriginal people as a much more equal people than the average white Australian?
Paul Keating: We don’t. We see them as equal.
Caller: Well, you might say that, but all the indications are that you don’t.
Paul Keating: But what’s implied in your question is that you don’t; you think that non-Aboriginal Australians, there ought to be discrimination in their favour against blacks.
Caller: Not… whatsoever. I… I don’t say that at all. But my… myself and every person I talk to – and I’m not racist – but every person I talk to…
Paul Keating: But that’s what they all say, don’t they? They put these questions – they always say, “I’m not racist, but, you know, I don’t believe that Aboriginal Australians ought to have a basis in equality with non-Aboriginal Australians. Well, of course, that’s part of the problem.
Caller: Aren’t they more equal than us at the moment, with the preferences they get?
Paul Keating: More equal? They were… I mean, it’s not for me to be giving you a history lesson – they were largely dispossessed of the land they held.
Caller: There’s a question over that. I think a lot of people will tell you that. You’re telling us one thing…
Paul Keating: Well, if you’re sitting on the title of any block of land in NSW, you can bet an Aboriginal person at some stage was dispossessed of it.
Caller: You know that for sure, do you?
Paul Keating: Of course we know it for sure!
Caller: Yeah, [inaudible].
Paul Keating: You’re challenging the High Court decision, are you? You’re saying the High Court got this all wrong.
Caller: No, I’m not saying that at all! I wouldn’t know who was on the High Court.
Paul Keating: Well, why don’t you sign off, if you don’t know anything about it and you’re not interested. Good bye!
Caller: Yeah, well, that’s your …
Paul Keating: No, I mean, you can’t challenge these things and then say, “I don’t know about them”.
John Laws: Oh well, he’s gone.
Today few politicians dare take a stand against anything to this degree.
Where Paul Keating thought nothing of speaking his mind, Julia Gillard sits in the same studio as Alan Jones, remains toneless in delivery and brushes off insults. Today a politician wouldn’t dare offend any listener, regardless of how uneducated or moronic they be.
The result? Record numbers of people unsatisfied with the quality of any party. When helmed by soft, malleable caricatures who lack boldness and lack a healthy level of arrogance that puts opponents in their place, frankly, these parties will not survive in government. We all know it, deep down.
- Paul Keating: Tony Abbott is the Liberal Party resident nutter (turnleft2013.wordpress.com)
- Mabo – a timeline (abc.net.au)
- Stop Screaming at the TV & Start Being Part of the Solution by Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach (booktopia.com.au)
- Mabo decision sublime, says PM (theage.com.au)
- Mabo decision sublime, says PM (smh.com.au)
- Paul Keating’s Redfern speech (Govt 1101) (trevorcook.typepad.com)
- ‘Buzz off’: Keating irritated by flash bulbs (theage.com.au)
- ‘Buzz off’: Keating irritated by flash bulbs (smh.com.au)
- EMA debacle: more incompetent policy-making from Labor (crikey.com.au)
- Keating pays tribute to former ACTU boss Kelty (smh.com.au)