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Where have all the Leaders gone?

John Stuart Mill once wrote that not all conservatives are stupid, but most people who are stupid are conservative. That is probably because they are afraid of what they don’t know. People seek guidance at every turn and accept the time honoured practices and formulae of the past; they view such a strategy as safe. In short, they don’t know any better and don’t want to. They just want to be reassured. Conservative politicians are good at offering that. It’s politically clever but it’s not leadership.

Prior to the time when Gough Whitlam came to power I was apolitical. Back around the late 1950s my parents were DLP voters which was hardly surprising coming as they did from an Irish-Catholic background. They thought they were supporting a Catholic breakaway party resisting what was perceived as an unhealthy communist influence within the Labor party.

This was the era of Bob Santamaria, the National Civic Council and Archbishop Daniel Mannix. Santamaria was depressing fellow who saw danger at every corner. If he wasn’t paranoid about communists, it was trade unions, sexual deviants or left wing university students. He even advocated the abolition of the ABC. But it was a different time and mindset from what we value today and in the end not a lot of what he espoused or campaigned for, ever came to pass. What Tony Abbott saw in him is unclear other than that of an anti-communist Catholic zealot but, I suspect Abbott still clings to the image of what he thought the man was. Daniel Mannix was of similar mind to Santamaria but he went further. He misused his position as Archbishop of Melbourne and told Catholics that if they voted for Labor they would be committing a mortal sin.

So, in my first voting foray in 1963 I followed my parents lead and voted DLP. That continued until 1972 when Labor gained power after 23 years in opposition. Mannix was dead and the communist influence in the party had been marginalized and the Coalition looked tired and lacking of a vision for the future. I thought Whitlam was a breath of fresh air. He ended conscription (of which I had been a part) and brought home the remaining troops from Vietnam and began reforming the education system; he socialized health and encouraged reform on some of the more sensitive moral issues of the day.

Labor, under Whitlam, had a vision and it seemed that we were heading down a more enlightened path. But, they seemed not to understand economics very well and inflation and interest rates were taking their toll. The coalition smelt blood and rejected several bills in the senate. This was new to the baby boomers and to those of us who were part of the silent generation. The government seemed not to be able to govern. Whitlam decided to go back to the people in 1974 and ask for a fair go. The people said okay, but fewer voted for them compared with 1972.

From that point on, the coalition was relentless in its efforts to stop the government from functioning. Inflation and interest rates continued to soar and, in what I viewed as disrespect for the democratic process, the coalition decided to block supply. This demonstrated to me that the Liberal party was more interested in governing than they were in democracy. Their actions precipitated the Governor-General dismissing the government, installing a care-taker prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, and we had another election in1975. Whitlam and Labor lost in a landslide. It was humiliating. Nothing that happened subsequently convinced me that the actions of the conservatives were justified. Indeed, it was their own economic mismanagement under the then treasurer, John Howard that saw them thrown out seven years later.

Then came the Hawke/Keating years when the economic parameters we used for decades underwent major reforms to give us what we have today.

Having seen and experienced the benefits of Labor’s reforms over the past thirty years, I have come to view the Liberal party with great suspicion. They appear to lack a moral compass, preferring to ride whatever train would take them to government and keep them there. They appear not to have a vision for the future, preferring to govern for today and not worry about tomorrow. They appear uninterested in shifting from the accepted norms of the day or ever question some of the time honoured traditions of western society. Is it any wonder then that their principal support comes from the more conservative echelons of a white middle-class Anglo-Saxon mindset.

With such a limited vision what chance does Australia have of ever moving forward under their watch? The manner in which they approach issues such as health, education, cutting edge technology, climate control, asylum for refugees, drug law reform as well as working class and minority rights are all testament to a party that is more concerned with staying in government than in reforming outdated social attitudes. Their obsession for frugal, fiscal management masks their financial flaws and underlines their belief that if the people are happy with the state of their hip pocket, that is all they need to worry about to stay in power. It is a sound political philosophy but it is not leadership.

That brings us to the present day. We put this government in power and they are, therefore, a reflection of us. So much of what politicians tell us comes from information that focus groups tell them. Over the years I have witnessed some interesting performances by a variety of politicians on both sides. Some have leadership qualities superior to others and I have often thought that the wrong person was leading the country. Leaders today get elected on the basis of three-word slogans; they become the people’s choice for the time being. They use catchy little phrases to attract uninformed voters. They borrow most of them from past, equally unimpressive leaders and have nothing original to contribute. With Tony Abbott, this is one such time.

But today, they all seem to stand or fall down under the weight of a national media that is more relentless than anything we experienced back in the days of the DLP. As long as the media continue to call the shots on image and visual performance of our politicians, we will always get what we deserve, and those with real leadership quality will be left on the sidelines.


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  1. Don Winther

    ” Its all for sale “

  2. Kerri

    This should be a discussion article for studies in Politics.
    An excellent article.

  3. Chris

    “. As long as the media continue to call the shots on image and visual performance of our politicians, we will always get what we deserve, and those with real leadership quality will be left on the sidelines.” The Murdoch’s of this world are fast coming to their end ,Online newspapers seem to be the .go I lived through the same times as the author and saw what he saw and probably agree with most of his conclusions .

  4. lawrencewinder

    Excellent potted history… and something that resonated.
    If Labor can’t seize the chance they now have with these reactionary aspirational bogans it’s hard to imagine how much will be lost.

  5. Jack Tarr

    Y’see there we go again. It’s the premise that is faulty. I mean… “Where are all the Leaders” as a premise is similar to the prior discussion on Regal awards given out by the Abbot fella and the difficulty everyone had with understanding his reasoning…

    This would not have been the case had they first established the correct premise.

    Instance: If the decision to award anachronistic titles anchored in Colonial class structure in modern Australian society by a leader and genuine PM of Australia then we have a wide ranging discussion that includes appropriate consultation and reasonable decision-making etc.

    On the other hand: If we have a village idiot making up names for his Nannie’s (Credlin) amusement whilst plaiting corgi excrement in the antipodean sandbox where the Sax Coburg and Gotha look-a-likes with their corgis were sent to shit for a hundred years or so…Then its axiomatic isn’t it..?.

  6. kathysutherland2013

    Must admit, I can’t see much leadership potential in Labor, either, except perhaps Tanya.

  7. Dave

    Once again another well written article.Thanks John Kelly.
    As i have stated in this forum before, we need to get these opinions out to mainstream society and get more people engaged in these extremely important issues and a call to arms for more people to stand up for the country.
    This bunch of power hungry narrow minded clowns need to be stopped and the sooner the better. Australians are notorious for being apathetic, now is the time to stop this behaviour and unite behind each other before our reputation suffers any more damage at the hands of Phony and crew. Not to mention our great lifestyle in what i still consider the greatest country in the world.

  8. Wayne Turner

    The last leader with vision in this country was Paul Keating,too intelligent for the masses.The masses rathered the me me me encouraged by John Howard,and his reinforcing the ignorance of the masses.

  9. John Kelly

    Reblogged this on THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN and commented:

    As long as the media continue to call the shots on image and visual performance of our politicians, we will always get what we deserve, and those with real leadership quality will be left on the sidelines.

  10. Wayne Turner

    Great article.

    Also,if it was possible,I would vote out most of the public,if I could.Most are conned by the MSM and a blight on democracy,because democracy only truly works when the masses are informed,NOT easily manipulated by the likes of the MSM and have critical thinking skills.Most people clearly don’t.

  11. sacjad

    Thank you John…..I think you have more than explained the dilemma of our so called democracy…..and seriously, what’s next from Phony….will he anoint himself as God chosen ruler and protector of the realm?

  12. Graeme Rust

    never seen a liar that can remember all the lies they tell, abbortt is no exception, what he says today ,he denies tomorrow , is this really what the people voted for ?? I think not, people o/s are laughing at us and treat us as a joke now, they compare abbortt to g w bush, is he related to him ?? or is he just his own kind of stupid ??

  13. mars08

    I love this quote from H. L. Mencken: “…As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

    Considering the type of people in our ruling class, it was bound to happen…

  14. Don Winther

    Hi Wayne Turner, Paul Keating did bring in a few good things, The Native Title Act etc but he also started the major sell-off of our Public assets, he dropped any protection for local industry and agriculture ( the level playing field while he was sitting up in the grandstand ), he sold and deregulated our banks and produced massive inflation, the recession we had to have and record unemployment. More arrogance, sell sell sell same as Abbott. He was also very good at looking after himself and still is. Gough Whitlam wanted to buy back our mines and make them a Public asset now that was visionary. Instead they are still owned by one very greedy Australian and a few overseas multinationals that wont pay there taxes. Why sell Medicare? because that’s all that is left and where does all the money go, to more of Tony Abbots entitlements? A couple of new luxury Jets for Abbot and his mates. Tell the unemployed blue collar workers of Australia that the two 737 we payed for are not big enough and Tony tell us how much money we pay you to sell our country. If you were an Aussie you would know that Holden,Qantas, education, health and having a job is part of our Australian Psyche. Sorry Tony I just dont like or trust you or your mates. Cormann used to manage HBA for years is there a back door deal going on with our Medicare / Medibank.

  15. rangermike1

    Great article John, It appears we have none with the vision and foresight today that could match Keating. To me, the man was close to Genius in Parliament. He had the ability to praise or belittle you in a few short sentences. The Liberal Party knew this only too well.

  16. diannaart

    As long as the media continue to call the shots on image and visual performance of our politicians, we will always get what we deserve, and those with real leadership quality will be left on the sidelines.

    How do we vote out the MSM? Who deserves such an Orwellian political system? I guess if I was Catholic or similar I’d blame all of us, “we are all sinners, blah, blah, blah…”

    I don’t hold with blame, but then I am in the minority.

  17. Don Winther

    Mars08 It has happened in Canberra

  18. sandrasearle

    Congratulations John Kelly, another great article.
    Dave, somehow you think that Australians are an apathetic lot. Well I would have to disagree with you in regard to that statement. How many people took the opportunity to attend the March in March rallies across the country? Over 100,000 I think.
    There are so many more people who would have attended if they could have. So I think that perhaps that was the call to arms that you wanted, but because the MSM decided that it wasn’t worthwhile they had us all believing it was of no account.
    Perhaps when another March is organized (and I for one hope there will be another) the voice of the people will be properly recognized for what it is – LEADERSHIP FROM THE GROUND UP, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR ALL THE PEOPLE.
    It is only when people stand up for what they believe in that true leaders will emerge.

  19. Wayne Turner

    Hi Don, Goods points about Paul Keating sadly selling off assets.I agree they were bad moves.I think Keating had vision,but didn’t agree with everything he did.But compared to people in positions of power since,he was and is light years ahead in looking at the bigger picture eg: Wanting to strength ties then with asia.

  20. Don Winther

    Hi Wayne, I run a business in Melbourne so I do get a bit shitty watching our Politicians with there noses in OUR ( every Australians ) pig trough as Keating used to say. If I took on a manager because I was busy doing other stuff and he sold my machines and sold my raw materials and sacked my workers and told them that they got to much entitlements then told me what a great profit I was making then told me he wants a bigger company car….well thats what I feel about selling public assets and our politicians. I’d have nothing. My mate lives is Canadian and lives on Prince Edward Island, he is in Melb at the moment. They didnt sell there power stations and he pays 11 cents per Kwh, we sold ours and I pay 31 cents per Kwh. Thats not a level playing field. Germany didnt sell there power stations ( I dont think? ) but they subsidize there industries BMW, Merc etc with free or very cheap power because industry is money and employment. Industry is value adding and it imports lots of money. Its easy to sell sell sell assets that someone else built but there is no future in it. When was the last time you saw MADE IN AUSTRALIA on something? When did Abbott ever get his hands dirty? He and his family took advantage of every freebee they could get. I bet he has never even driven something as common as an Australian built Holden or Toyota. He just destroys and takes. Abbott is an idiot but he is not stupid and your right I dont like him one bit.

  21. Stephen Tardrew

    Great Post Don.

    I love the business metaphor it is absolutely perfect.

    The fact is that it is demonstrably true while most Australians bury their heads in the sand wishing and hoping its gonna be all right.

    Well it aint galls and fellas.

    That’s enough dreamy time sleeping and magical thinking for now.

    Somebody needs to shake this country out of this fantasy dream into a state of conscious awareness.

    Great article John:

    Where are the leaders? In hiding I suppose or a least hope so.

    Didn’t find one under the bed but will keep searching.

    I do think Penny Wong has the makings. Will the misogynist bastards kill her off.

    Somehow I don’t think so.

  22. Paul Raymond Scahill

    Let us hear it for Paul Keating, a true visionary!

  23. Don Winther

    Steve its not a metaphor its just plain true. Australia is a business and it has to be run properly and not white anted. We nearly made it to independence. We could be proud of ourselves. We could make anything, do anything, have anything we were Australia. Remember Bob Hawke and Bondy, we built that yacht and won.Now we cant even make a washing machine, a can of pears, a toaster and soon we wont even be able to make a car. We dont own our communication,our power, most of our big farms, our mines, live exports. We cant even make a piece of steel. We sell iron ore for $110 per ton and buy it back for $2000 per ton. We have sold the kitchen and now we live on takeaway food, expensive junk and thats why Abbott is selling Medicare. Whats next Abbott, whats after Medicare, Qantas… wont get much for that….. whats next, our Gold reserves? to late, Little Johny got that. Not much left Tony you might have to sell some of that fat gov entitlements of yours, might have to delay those big new VIP jets you have ordered, save us $600- $800 million but you really want them dont you Tony, just for you and your Murdock mates. Stop selling my country and do your job Abbott. The highest payed Prime Minister and your an Idiot. Your at the end of the line Abbott. You will be remembered for sticking the knife in.
    I should have started this with Dear Tony,

  24. Stephen Tardrew

    Point taken Don agreed. However the business is not often what it seems.

    One major problem is that all money created is debt and this absurd claim that public sector benefits increase the debt when fiat currency and fractional lending is pure and simply creation of debt is absurd. Banks cream off the top 6 times for the same dollar lent and as the principle is payed off the amount returns to zero while the bank takes the interest. All purchases baring housing, some financial dealings, art, collectables etc. loose value due to wear and tear and planned obsolescence so the goods purchased turn to crap and of goes the cycle again. Even your house must be maintained and renovated and if you sell and want to buy up you still have to borrow. Commercial Banks not the Reserve Bank actually control the money supply. You ask for a loan they create the money take of the interest and rest the loan to zero. The interest is used by banks to play the money markets thus generating wealth for the few. This is called fractional reserve banking.

    Debt will inevitably increase which it has since coming off of the gold standard.

    Debt is not caused by mismanagement of the public sector.

    This is called monetary creation through debt.

    It is mathematically impossible to solve the problem of public and private debt.

    Have you heard from your politicians lately concerning debt.

    Big fat noose around the neck what?

    This is French video however it also applies to most countries including Australia

  25. contriteshadow

    “They use catchy little phrases to attract uninformed voters.” – The only explanation I can think of for LNP winning election. Interesting piece. Thank you.

  26. Don Winther

    Well Steven, great to have a chat with you.Im not an economist or an accountant but it is fairly obvious that if we dig it up and sell it we get so much but if we dig it up and process it into something useful we will get a lot more and the money will benefit a lot more of us.
    “Do you want fries with that” McDonalds makes a lot more profit on the fries and coke than from a hamburger ( if you can call it a hamburger ) and a lot more profit from real estate than fast food. Exporting cars is a lot smarter than exporting iron ore. We imported $20 billion worth of cars last year, that meant we exported $20 billion Australian Dollars. There is a 5% import duty that raised $1 billion for Tony, if it was 30% it would have raised $6 billion but we would not have imported $20 billion, we would have made more of them here. You may be surprised how far the auto industries fingers stretch into the manufacturing community. Unemployment is very expensive. Have you ever been into a car factory running at full steam. Have you ever tried to make a nut and bolt, what about a headlight or a speedo?( not the ones Tony like to wear in public ) GM, Ford and Toyota are here and if we let them go we are total idiots and deserve the Government we have.Yes banks run this country so why did Keating deregulate and sell them? Why did he drop all protection on imported manufactured goods? Why are we exporting millions of tons of raw material with out fries and a coke. We dont need Abbott, we just need a kid from McDonalds to run this place. We could even pay him overtime and a few entitlements. I dont think he will want or expect us to buy him/her two new 777 Boeing jet and a fleet of BMW bullet proof cars imported from Germany.

  27. Stephen Tardrew


    Actually worked for Chrysler Mitsubishi started as laborer and furnace operate in foundry worked up to quality control and know heaps about auto industry. I absolutely agree the depth of suffering for workers runs into thousands who will loose homes, have domestic challenges and kids will suffer as well. Just appalling. They have absolutely no empathy for those workers. Its is heartbreaking to see.

    There are many alternative solution however the way mainstream parties are at the moment we are not likely to see a change. The point about debt financing is that globally these Banks and financial institutions have us by the short and curlies because they control money supply.

    And politicians just play lip service to financial system that is rigged against labour and for the wealthy and corptocracy. Politicians are serving us a shit load of lies while peoples income and standard of living are taking a dive. Bank profits and bonuses at all time record while the average person suffers for their greed.

    Your points are valid however who the hell is going to change this corrupt system.

    I feel that all the people involved in both posting and reading at AIMN are looking for adequate solutions and in some important ways this is the place to be. I don’t have all the solutions but am a willing learner.

  28. Don Winther

    One other thing, banks create money but work makes real money. Money represents work and value. Creating money just devalues it. Working for it increases its value. Germany has a bit of coal but what is it famous for and China to.They are famous for what they make and get well rewarded for it. They dont create money they make it, real money. We are just living off the backs of our hard working Parents and Grandparents. My Grandpa would be disgusted.

  29. Don Winther

    Good you know what is going on and have seen the results. You must also live in South Australia and know how much the economy relies on GM. GM wanted a drink of water, $125 million. SA will need a lot more than that to replace GM. Abbott wants two new luxury jets, a lot more than $125 mill.and 6 new Bullet Proof BMWs, Are we idiots? There is something funny going on and the MSM is in on it.

  30. jasonblog

    Neoliberalism Don. Welcome to the conversation…

  31. jasonblog

    With regards to Keating check out his chat with O’Brien and see his views on economic rationalism and how it could be managed without it being a brutal greed-fest

  32. Hotspringer

    Wish I was as erudite as Don Winther, agree all the way. What we need is another Gough, not a pale imitation of Abbott.

  33. Don Winther


    erudite :- having or showing great knowledge or learning. ( I had to look it up )

    Nah thats not me, I just love my country and dont like seeing it destroyed and sold off.

    I am ( was ) an electro / mechanical technician servicing top end production machinery and have worked in thousands of businesses all over Australia and Europe. I always made a point of getting to know the management and the shop floor workers and I have noticed that the rot starts at the Top. Managers that are arrogant, disrespectful and ignorant of there products, there equipment and there employees skills and aspirations usual end up destroying the business. Even when the manager has studied Law at Oxford, like I said a kid at McDonalds could do better.

  34. kathysutherland2013

    Don Winther, the. Mids at McDonalds could do better because they get training in customer service.

  35. Bacchus

    What is with this neo-conservative push to return to the gold standard? It’s coming from the very wealthy and is supported by the Republicans. That alone should tell you it’s not going to be good news for the majority of us. If you want to know why:

    Return to a gold standard – don’t even think about it

  36. Don Winther

    Returning to the gold standard would be a big problem for us because Little Johny sold it all to America ( first thing he did ) and of course the majority of us didn’t get one cent of it again.
    That government Future Fund is costing us Australian our future.

  37. Raziel

    I think it matters not what or if any standard you use so much, More of how well you pull the levers, That comes back to the original question. (Where have all the leaders gone?)

    Australia did better in the GFC because we did not skip the wealth redistribution phase like so many others did. I think if the US would have bailed out the people instead of the banks their economy would be in better shape right now. Money trickles up not down.

    Good job the LNP were not in Government when we had the GFC. Now that’s a frightening thought. Little Johny’s idea of a stimulus was $2 if i remember right, He said older people could buy a door snake to save money on the power bills.

    Only well informed voters will get us the Leadership we need because when the people speak out loud the politicians will have to arise to the will of the people if they want to be in power.

  38. Stephen Tardrew

    Thanks for the Link Baccus read the lot. I stand corrected. Does Basill ii or iii protect US and European Banks to the same degree and are the reports of continual fragility of Europe and US banks a remaing worry. Did Dod-Frank achieve the desired effect?

  39. pvcann

    Independence has been lost, which means integrity ceases, leaders are owned by power blocks, money, or opinion, sadly immasculated

  40. Stephen Tardrew

    Baccus: according to Bill Williams quantitative easing is a lemon which has failed in Japan and the US should in fact expand net public spending which is in effect a return to Keynesianism as it should be.


    It may be true that the politics in the US are so destructive that its sovereign government is constrained from using its fiscal instruments to advance public purpose.

    From my perspective – of understanding the intrinsic operations of the modern monetary economy – it is extraordinary that we allow ideological constraints to be imposed on our governments which conspire to prevent millions of disadvantaged workers from being able to work and force them and their families to live in poverty.

    When there are insufficient jobs the answer is simple. Create more. The national government can always create enough jobs by expanding net public spending. The most direct way to ensure this is to create the jobs itself in the public sector.

    But when influential economists like Paul Krugman avoid this reality and instead continually advance economic notions that misunderstand the operations of the monetary system and have been proven over and over again to be vacuous when converted into policy initiatives, you have to wonder what is going on.

    The other point is that there has to be activism to bring the political system more in line with the extent of the opportunities that a national government has in a fiat monetary system.”

    So the US is still more than a bit of a worry.

    Building bank reserves will not expand credit

  41. Stephen Tardrew

    I just realized that Abbot is following the same austerity highway leaving no room for stimulus of any kind. Unemployment it seems will inevitably grow but she’s right mate got me a new car, refurbished me gift house and get a lovely new plane.

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