Friday 6 October 2017
The National Press Club from time to time can throw up some wonderful moments, and one such moment was the launch of former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans’ memoir on Wednesday. Evans of course was one of the standout ministers – among many – in Bob Hawke’s first ministry.
Political commentary since would suggest that it is universally held up as the finest ministry ever in Australian political history. It was Bob Hawke’s leadership that made it so. He had fine qualities of leadership. Delegation, he was a good listener, and encouraged cabinet debate. Often ministers would complain about the length of time meetings took. It was also the quality of the public service that backed him.
Many astute minds with great intellectual capacity have followed, but none have commanded the admiration of his troops like Hawke.
As I watched he and Evans – who by the way enjoys an international reputation second to none – reminiscing about times long gone when there was a certain respectability about politics, I bemoaned the quality of leadership since the 80s.
If anyone stands out as an example of the decline in political excellence in this country it has to be Tony Abbott. No one has fostered negativity as much as he. No one has shown such an ability to look into the past and long for its impossible return. No one has shown such an inability to grasp and understand the future as Abbott.
An example of this is when on September 14 2010 Malcolm Turnbull returned to the Abbott Ministry as the Communications Minister. In doing so, Abbott ordered Turnbull to “demolish” the Government’s National Broadband Network (NBN).
Yes, it is difficult to believe that an Australian leader could be so much a Luddite as to say that the internet needed to be abolished.
Declaring the NBN would be the “absolute focus” of the political battle of the next 18 months, Mr Abbott said he could think of no better person to “ferociously” hold the Government to account on the issue.
“The Government is going to invest $43 billion worth of hard-earned money in what I believe is going to turn out to be a white elephant on a massive scale … I’ve already described it as school halls on steroids, and we can be certain the NBN will be to this term of government what pink batts and school halls were to the last term of government.”
Given Abbott’s discredited views on other technological policy – like Global Warming – it’s a wonder that anyone listens to him at all. But they do. Even with Marriage Equality where he continues to try to persuade people with his outmoded views.
“When the PM champions innovation is he doing so only for capitalism’s sake?”
He is a man desperately clinging to the past while trying to survive in a present he doesn’t understand, and a future for which he has no comprehension.
In part, one could argue that our now Prime Minister has succeeded in what Abbott instructed him to do. The NBN isn’t what we were promised.
Recently a joint standing committee reported on the progress of the NBN. Victorian Nationals MP Andrew Broad said he had not signed a report criticising the findings of a cross-parliamentary committee on the rollout of the national broadband network as he thought it would be “disingenuous”, because other work had prevented him from taking part in much of the committee’s “listening tour” in which it heard customer complaints.
But Broad now has one of his staff dedicated full-time to resolving issues and dealing with complaints.
“When Telstra used to be government-owned, you had Telstra Countrywide and you had people you could direct people to,” he said. “Now, with NBN, it is sort of faceless.
“You’ve got retailers blaming the service provider and then they get exasperated and they come into our office and you end up having to spend all your time having to sort it out.
“We almost have a person full-time on mobile phone and NBN issues in our electoral office – which is ridiculous – that is not the role of an MP.”
For his contribution of dumbing down of Australian politics, his efforts in trying to recreate the past and his role in destroying out democracy he should be offered a knighthood with a residency from whence he came.
On ya, Bob. Thanks for the memories.
My thought for the day
“For a Ministry with diploma’s from the greatest learning institutions in the world its difficult to imagine how so many brainless buffoons could gather around the same table at the same time and cause so much havoc.”