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Leadership and popularity

[Terry Mills has defended his fracking flip-flop, saying he doesn’t believe the ‘pipe dream’ will improve the Territory’s finances. Picture: Katrina Bridgeford]

My knowledge of Australian political history is somewhat limited because I was not born here and have only ever lived in the Northern Territory.

Some PMs and Premiers stand out more than others – not always for good reasons – but there are only two for whom I have a significant level of respect.

One is Don Dunstan, a former SA Premier, and the other is Gough Whitlam and the same reason for my choice applies to both – they were leaders who introduced policies which were needed and provided that leadership in a moral framework.

I will explain the importance of this later.

The two major parties in the NT have been the CLP and the ALP, and we also have a Greens Party.

Following a devastating loss at the last polls, the CLP has shrunk, but several former members have formed breakaway minor parties, one of which is led by a former CLP Chief Minister, Terry Mills.

Some weeks ago, on a Wednesday, when I was doing my Greta Thunberg stint outside NT Parliament house, Terry stopped by to discuss fracking with me, and insisted that, since contracts had been signed for fracking to proceed, the NT would expose themselves to sovereign risk if those contracts were cancelled.

Ignoring the fact that ‘sovereign risk’ is possibly an inappropriate term, the main issue was that he regarded the NT Government as being committed to continue fracking.

Then an opinion poll showed that a significant proportion of the NT voters are opposed to fracking, so he publicly reversed his support for continuing – to howls of ‘political expediency’!

As it was being reported, he actually came out to to where I was again sitting in front of Parliament House, to talk to me, and ensure that I knew that he had changed his policy!

I was dubious that he had made the change for reasons related to the need for action on climate change, which, for me is the only issue of current importance for government apart from COVID-19!

Then he did some homework, and was reported as having changed his mind, because continuing with fracking for CSG would not be economically viable as the price of gas is falling.

In actual fact, I believe the real story in the NT is much more complicated and convoluted, but, anyway, today (8/07/20) being Wednesday (again!) he took time to come out to talk to me this afternoon.

(I am not sure why Terry Mills uses me as a sounding board. I am not an important person. My opinions are not totaIly unknown, as I regularly write letters to the NT News, many of which they publish – largely, on their part, to stir up controversy (good for business) – and there are many fairly abusive responses from those much further right in their politics which clearly identify me!)

His position now is that a majority of the people in the NT do not want fracking, so he is changing his policy in order to offer the NT voters what they want!

I sometimes wonder whether too much reality TV (which I never watch but hear about!) has engendered this emphasis on pursuing popularity.

A few generations back, parents of teenagers were prepared to be unpopular, with a view to ensuring that their children were appropriately protected from the many risks arising from immature decisions.

Reality TV encourages people to vote actors out of the drama, popularity being the only criterion.

But in government, what we need more than anything else is transparent leadership, based on ensuring that policies provide us with what we need to be healthy, in all senses, as a nation.

Because a policy is supported by a majority does not guarantee that it is good policy, so trying to be popular is a dangerous game, IMHO.

It is brutally clear that our current PM, Scott Morrison, is obsessed with the economy. He has been in the forefront of pressuring a return to ‘normal’, ASAP, following the economic impact of the COVID-19 lock down.

He must still be grieving over the fact that the pandemic knocked his ‘back in black’ for six!

And Victoria’s current woes show how ill-advised that pressure was.

In my discussion today with Mr Mills, I expressed my opinion that policy based on popular demands was not an ethical way to conduct politics. After all, we elect a government to provide a system which is better for us, and if they have made promises over what they will do, and a majority have elected them, then that is what we expect them to do.

But, hopefully, before making those promises, they will have at least explored what we need, as well as what we say we want.

Now – back to the moral framework.

A majority of the Australian public, in all states and territories, have expressed a need for action on climate change. We are not so stupid as to think that one state, territory or even country can achieve what is necessary to reduce emissions, but we are intelligent enough to realise that, if too many states, territories or countries hang back from taking action, we will never succeed.

In some ways the COVID-19 epidemic has put a spanner in the works by distracting attention from climate action, but, by the same token, it has also caused a temporary reduction in emissions, as manufacturing plants have been temporarily shut down, and general traffic has reduced.

What we desperately need at the moment is for ideology to be removed from the planning process (sometimes the impossible does happen!) and for governments at all levels to look much more closely at what we need, given that we are effectively starting from scratch and people are desperate for a sense of security and certainty!

Thousands are concerned about mortgage payments or rent.

Probably thousands of landlords are also concerned about their mortgage payments, too.

Thousands are concerned about finding a job.

Life is never going to be the same for today’s adults.

Approaches to government finance can and must change. A UBI has major problems but it is also an initiative which could buy the government time, more simply than using processes which cause them to be get tangled in a mass of complex ‘welfare’ measures.

People need food, a roof over their heads, ability to move around, once infection levels are under control, and children need an education.

We really can afford to worry later about where the money is coming from!

We are a fiat nation!

To force people into poverty because of action taken by government – yes, it was necessary, but it has also been destructive – is immoral and probably illegal.

And – thinking of legality – the illegally obtained money from Robodebt MUST be returned ASAP!!! In full, immediately and with no adverse income tax implications!

In general I feel that politicians are far more interested in helping themselves than in helping us – and since we elect them, we have to take some blame for this.

If we want to keep the bastards honest, we have to make the moves and ensure that we are led by people who do have a moral compass.

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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  1. RosemaryJ36

    Probably thousands could be replaced by millions!

  2. Phil

    Leadership and popularity. Don Dunstan was the greatest politician next to Gough Whitlam this country ever produced. Don had a rapier wit, was a colourful raconteur and could break bread with the rubbish collector or, the Queen of England. Don was a blue blood, he should have been one of the establishment, well educated and a great speaker. but he was a warrior for the working class and they hated his guts for it. Not as much as they hated him for being Gay/Bi sexual. The Tories hounded the man with their scum bag mates in the media and they killed him, as sure as stick a knife into his heart. Don had open home bbq’s for his electorate, I was fortunate to have met him. He had a knack of making people comfortable and not threatened by his great mind. Anyone meeting him felt better for the experience.

    You are right about the fact the current mob of politicians though they are mostly mostly Tories, are a mob of self serving gold digging moochers. Expecting any change to the Status Quo to the current system with out a revolution, is not possible. Even the threat of letting the Covid – 19 get out of control, does not stop their mantra of ” Business as usual ” The Liberal Premiers as well as that gibbering idiot Scott Morrison, could care less how many people die keeping their business model alive. Factory workers, shop assistants and other push and carry men and women, boys and girls are expendable. They now have the media they own, trying to convince the hoi polloi it’s all good, nothing to worry about, nothing to see here. What is going on in Victoria is Machiavellian, you can’t make it up. Andrews has saved lives and he is being treated like a Leper. I feel terrible about my thoughts, I sit and curse these Tory bastards and wish the Covid – 19 on them, knowing it is a terrible way to die. F#$% them.

  3. Andrew Smith

    Leadership and popularity ….and ideology….. the political and/or media obsession is through (push, dog whistle etc.) polling precluding grounded policy and leadership, and allows radical right libertarian ideological to become policy (often under the radar or noise)….. to the detriment of social discourse, shared narratives, community and the nation…

  4. Terence Mills

    For many years I have had to live with another Terry Mills posing as the real Terry Mills.

    When he was up for re-election some years ago there was a headline in a Newscorp tabloid saying Terry Mills has back to wall. I had a phone call from a concerned relative in Tasmania asking if I was alright.

    Let it be known that the Terry Mills in the NT is not the same Terry Mills who contributes to AIMN.

    Message to Terry Mills in the NT : please only use my name when you are saying something sensible, noteworthy and memorable.

  5. Joseph Carli

    ” Don Dunstan was the greatest politician next to Gough Whitlam this country ever produced. Don had a rapier wit, was a colourful raconteur and could break bread with the rubbish collector or, the Queen of England. “…100% correct, Phil…I was on a multi storey job in Adelaide and he came on-site to talk to the workers of his plans when running for the election back in those days…calm, comfortable and self assured in a bloody good way…he was listened to politely and he was elected…But yes…the Murdoch arse-sucking media did for him…
    Grossly and Morally Improper. ( The political morals of a main-stream media journalist?).

  6. Jack Cade

    Dunstan was targeted by the establishment from the very beginning. Every aspect of his life was analysed, bowdlerised, publicised. They criticised his heritage, calling him a half-chat. When he made pastor Doug Nicholls governor of SA, some began to call Government house ‘The Woodpile.’
    They even tried to tie Dunstan in to the family murders.
    There is nothing the right will not stoop to, and much of the filth they peddle sticks. No dirty trick was too crude for them then, as it is not too crude for them now.

  7. paul walter

    Jack Cade, took them a long time to wear him down though.

  8. Phil

    Joseph and Jack.

    You both being South Australians you would remember Don calling into the Police HQ in Adelaide asking/demanding that a file the
    ‘ Special Branch ‘ (Special now there’s a contradiction talking about coppers, umm special that some and I some may have been actually honest } held on him. He said to the police he would use a law still on the statute books to call out the military if they didn’t hand it over. As you know back then and no doubt still do, the police kept files on known dissidents and their first love/hate Homo Sexuals. I have absolutely no doubt all of us, who comment on this here great blog are on a list some where. Btw he got his file.

  9. Michael Taylor

    Phil, was that the prelude to Commissioner Salisbury’s sacking?

  10. Michael Taylor

    Don was crafty, to be sure.

    With his popularity dwindling leading into an election – at the same time as Gough was taking the heat over the Khemlani loans affair – Don publicly distanced himself from Gough. His popularity rose again, and the election was won.

    But the media was soon to turn on Don, and they did so by their horrid and cruel attacks on his dying wife, Adele Koh.

  11. Michael Taylor

    I’ll never forget Don breaking into tears as he begged the media to leave his wife alone. Haunting memories. 😢

  12. Jack Cade

    At the same time as SA was being seen as a shining light, the Athens of the South, our adjacent states were enjoying the governing of Henry Bolte, Robin Askin (changed it to Robert because Robin seemed effete), Johannes Bjelke-Petersen and Robert Court. A zoo of dinosaurs, and vicious, predatory ones at that.
    The Libs in SA had Steele Hall, who earned the hatred of the right almost as much as Dunstan because he bust the Tom Playford gerrymander.
    With the Whitlam experiment, it was an exciting time in Australia. We even had a passable Independent press in the Ill-fated Nation Review and The National Times.

  13. Phil

    Phil, was that the prelude to Commissioner Salisbury’s sacking?

    Indeed. I have a book about the whole saga. ” Grossly Improper “

  14. DrakeN

    I must disagree with you on one point, Rosemary – the one about an UBI having major problems.
    The only problems would be those created by political/commercial/religious forces whose eternal wish is to keep the general public subservient to themselves.
    A well drafted guaranteed basic income for every individual would sever the umbilical cord which binds labour to capital as in the current ‘Western’ system.
    The return to Government coffers could be effected by a simple, but miniscule, impost on each and every commercial transaction whether monetary or in kind.
    That way it would be those who accrue most from the common weal who would return more of it, leaving the less fortunate with a smaller burden to carry.
    It would also reduce the leakage of the nation’s wealth to overseas interests.
    Freed from the need to seek a ‘job’ with an employer, many in the community could engage in activities beneficial to society which are commercially unviable: This would also make redundant most of the current ‘welfare’ payments and their associated bureaucracies and, as been shown in the experiments in Canada and elsewhere, reduce the demand on medical services and justice systems.
    It is only the avarice of the already wealthy and their sycophants that would make such a concept impracticable.

  15. RosemaryJ36

    DrakeN – thanks – but I fear too many would see your vision as unrealistic, attractive as it is. I spent 19 years out of full time employment when my 3 children were growing up, but I was involved in various NGOs as well as part time work. When a family has two tax-paying adults, there should be adjustment to the tax system to allow for a non-equal income sharing.

  16. New England Cocky

    @Phil: ASIO Files?? Don’t worry too much, I have been on an ASIO file for over 50 years because I attended university and recently retired Senator Whacko Williams, elected to that position by about 14 members of the Inverell NSW branch of the Nazional$, advised me that the file was still active. Obviously there are pubic servants paid big salary packages with nothing better to do.

    Why, even the public icon Phillip Adams, broadcaster on ABC RN Radio has pulled his file and retains a copy.

  17. Phil

    New England Cocky.

    Just take my word for it, they have one on me. I have been active in the union movement and have dabbled in Marxism. I know where the safe houses are located in Perth, where dissidents years ago could write their material with out being annoyed by the plod. When I was a digger I spent some time in Canberra. The forms I had to fill out for a clearance to get into the Army HQ there, were something out of the Mc Carthy era. I had to ring my mother to get the maiden names of my Grand & Grt Grandmothers . In Wagga Wagga a life time ago, I ran into my brother who was only a few weeks away from going to Vietnam. He said to me, check this out. He showed me an Australian passport that was issued to him with out him even applying for it. They lifted the passport photo from his Army I.D. card. My brother is English by birth and was not at that time an Australian citizen. My only point here is, the government will and can do anything they please with out the normal protocols that would apply to Joe Muggins the rubbish man. I don’t think the average Mug in the street realizes that the so called democracy we live in, is just a sham, a myth. The establishment destroyed people like Don Dunstan people like us have no chance. Ah Philip Adams I still listen to him, he has the same disdain for plod as we do. Although I often wonder about Adams is he just a foil. When I’m on the dog to the mates we say disgusting things just in case they’re listening. I usually end the conversation with ” If your listening do something useful go and find some lost dogs”

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