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Wise words from Tony Windsor

“When I was young I thought South Africa would always be apartheid. I never thought the Berlin Wall would come down. I thought Russia would always be Communist. Leaders didn’t bring these changes. They came from the people. All of us as individuals must turn up.”

– Tony Windsor, Carnegie Conversations, Sydney Opera House, 3 May 2015

On Sunday, the Sydney Opera House hosted the Carnegie Conversations – a series of discussions about a variety of topics broadly themed around what is wrong with Australia and how can we fix it – ideas for a better Australia.

Refreshingly, Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten were barely mentioned if at all. It seemed broadly agreed that “we cannot wait for the political class to deliver.”

It was suggested that there is a dirth of political talent and even further, that some Senators are not just questionable but “evil”. We have people of dubious merit who we have never heard of gifted preselection by powerbrokers, and others who are elected on a sliver of the vote.

Tony Windsor suggested that the two major parties have morphed into management teams vying for power. They are beholden to donors or factions or organisations. Individuals have to bow down to the executive.

The party ‘management teams’ have to make it divisive by concentrating on the few things they differ about rather than the many things they agree about

As Nick Bryant put it, politics has become obsessively oppositional. It has become petty. We have a “period of reform followed by a period of revenge.”

The rise of professional politicians has led to a lack of fresh ideas from a group of people who, every three years, must once again face the polls. They do not have time or inclination to make long term reform as their focus is on renewing their job.

There was talk of a longer term in government – 4 or 5 years – but also of finite terms for individuals. At the 2010 election, over 50% of those elected were career politicians which has led to government becoming overly politicised.

It was also pointed out that, because our parliament only sits for about 60 days – in the UK they sit for about 120 days – debate is curtailed and legislation is rushed. We now have “retail politics which has sunk to the level of a $2 shop”.

Infrastructure spending has degenerated into “hero projects” rather than what would most benefit communities.

Benjamin Law discussed how the demographic composition of our parliament is unrepresentative of our population. To those who think we live in a meritocracy where the cream rises to the top, he reminded them that “cream is white”.

Both Chris Berg and Marcia Langton spoke of the frustration of dealing with politicians who clearly do not understand the legislation on which they are voting.

Marcia suggested that rather than a cavalcade of politicians descending on Aboriginal communities for photo shoots that they stay away unless invited and give all that money wasted on charter flights and entourages to the Empowered Communities program which is enabling Aboriginal people to help themselves rather than being the “native mendicants” that the government paints them as.

Holly Ransom spoke of the entrenched disadvantage that is arising from growing youth unemployment with university graduates contributing a growing proportion to this statistic. When assessing the gap between education and employment, Australia ranks 33 out of 33 in the OECD.

Everald Compton spoke of the need for older Australians to form partnerships with young entrepreneurs, marrying the innovative ideas of youth with the business acumen and experience of older people.

It was suggested that governments reflect national priorities and that our prosperity has made us complacent about necessary change. We can probably all agree that something has to be done about taxing superannuation and changing the negative gearing laws but it doesn’t have to be done in one fell swoop. Grandfathering clauses would allow investors to adjust their investments accordingly, but the major parties are hesitant to alienate voters by embarking on necessary reform.

This is only a brief selection of the problems and ideas that were discussed by an impressive array of guest speakers and audience members. The general consensus was that it is the constituency who must look at the longer term problems and come up with ideas to address them. We must lead the change. We must demand it. The fact that we even had an argument about the NBN and action on climate change shows we cannot rely on our politicians for long term thinking.

We must have the conversation with the electorate. We have the means. It is incumbent on all of us to inform ourselves and each other, to continue the conversation, to stop the trend of fears trumping ideas. We need to temper the outrage culture and use social and independent media to force change.

As Tony Windsor so rightly says, it is we who must turn up. Rather than being disempowered, despairing victims of others’ greed and ambition, or combative adversaries promoting division and disunity, we must find our common ground and come up with and unite behind the ideas that will drive this nation forward.


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  1. Marg1

    Not a truer word said Kaye Lee – pity Tony Windsor and many more like him are not still in parliament.

  2. Richard Grant

    Have just finished reading Tony Windsor’s autobiography part of which is spent on his time in Federal Parliament. It was a interesting read which talked about the convergence of the major political parties; the executive role of Government; and the no brainer Joyce; farmers need to modernise their farming practices and the utter contempt for the current PM.

  3. townsvilleblog

    The tragic thing for a Labor supporter is that some of the preselections are determined in the capital cities by the dominant union of the particular State, for example in Queensland in Brisbane by the conservative AWU and SDA supposed unions who have never helped a working person in their history, or very few. It is done by registering phantoms with the party then the phantoms all vote for the candidate out of the post office box or crematory that they are living in, this way the AWU candidate wins the preselection and goes into the parliament representing the ALP. This helps to explain why Labor governments never deliver what Labor supporters expect them to. I know the situation as a gerrymander, but the name may have been updated? I know people who have stood as candidates who would have been a great asset in the many parliaments to the ordinary people in the community who have been blocked by the gerrymander.

  4. Kaye Lee


    That was never more evident than in the placing of Joe Bullock above Louise Pratt on the WA Senate ticket.

  5. Greg Cadwallader

    I gave my MP irrefutable proof that corrupt police refuse to arrest known criminals. What has the MP done? Absolutely nothing.

  6. Kaye Lee


    The only reason I would contact my local member would be if I had a ribbon that needed cutting, a plaque that needed unveiling, or some eye candy for a photo shoot. Our politicians have become largely irrelevant in achieving anything of substance.

  7. Greg Cadwallader

    ASIC Commissioner Greg Tanzer stated in yesterday’s Sunday Mail (Brisbane), verbatim, ‘ASIC’s enforcement record includes many actions against major banks.’ Enforcement of laws pertaining to fraud means time behind bars. I am yet to hear of any major bank executive who is a victim of ASIC’s ‘enforcement’. Mr Tanzer’s statement proves ASIC has found major banks are committing many criminal offences. Banks are supposedly the most trusted of institutions. Mr Tanzer’s statement proves that major banks are precisely the opposite; bloody dishonest.

  8. Kaye Lee

    Ummmm…..I am not sure if I am allowed to mention Securency and Note printing Australia. This country has gotten weird like that.

    “In 2011 Securency and Note Printing Australia were charged by the federal police with bribery offences relating to the alleged payments to overseas officials. Court orders prevent recent developments regarding the charges against the companies being reported.”

  9. diannaart

    …we must find our common ground and come up with and unite behind the ideas that will drive this nation forward…

    There are, I am sure, a few honest politicians left in the 2 major parties – however they are clearly fatally compromised given the power and control the far right currently hold.

    It really is up to us now.

  10. Greg Cadwallader

    A top Commonwealth Bank executive testified (that means under oath) to a Senate inquiry into the operations of financial advisers, verbatim, ‘In some cases we have found fraud’ and, verbatim again, ‘We have reported advisers to the police for that very thing’. Is a Senate inquiry a judicial proceeding? If so, the executive committed perjury if it can be proved the Commonwealth Bank did not report advisers to police. This is from the Australian crimes act: ‘Any person who in or in connection with any judicial proceeding makes any false statement on oath concerning any matter which is material to the proceeding, knowing the statement to be false or not believing it to be true, is guilty of perjury and liable to imprisonment for 10 years.’

  11. Kaye Lee

    Yes diannaart,

    We have to convince a sufficient number of the electorate to give the legislators the courage to do what we know must be done. We will not do that by calling each other names. We will not do that by letting them divide us.

    Tony Windsor spoke about a rural council he once organised – a coming together of all bodies with an interest in regional communities. He said if different organisations disagreed about issues they quickly moved on to things they could agree about hence being far more productive.

    Let’s forget politics and focus on community agreement because we care about the future of our country and our children. I don’t really care anymore what Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten are saying. We are the ones who must find a united voice to which THEY will listen.

  12. diannaart

    Kaye Lee

    The tone of voice used by these born-to-rule types always have a tone of “this is for your own good I am telling you this” about them. Particularly Hockey and Abbott – I switch off walk out, sing la la la else I get very angry and I do not have the reserves of energy to get very angry.

    They WILL listen – there are more of us and we are worthy.

  13. Kyran

    We can remain hopeful there are people of substance who have a vision, a dream, that can be developed and defined. Not dictated. Whilst I understand the concept “it is we who must turn up”, I wonder at the opening sentence in the context of our recent history. “We” turned up on Friday regarding our current apartheid regime and were dismissed by MSM (and others) as rabble. The reference to Securency pales into insignificance compared to AWB. On a day when the AFP holds a press conference to protest its innocence, I can only suggest some reading.

    The separation of powers is a necessary ingredient to reform. Otherwise, it will be more deform. As always, grateful, Ms Lee. Take care

  14. Loz

    Thanks Kaye for this update on the Carnegie Conversations. I wish I could have attended . I feel angry with this government and wish I could do something that could assist in making changes. I will though continue to comment on blogs such as yours and maintain my anger at the way this government is treating its electorate.

  15. diannaart

    Want a fair and well reasoned budget?

    Get-up has called in real people who are real experts on matters fiduciary:

    Focusing on wasteful loopholes and tax breaks for big business and the wealthy, they amount to $40 billion per year in potential revenue, covering superannuation tax breaks, cutting fossil fuel subsidies for industry, capping tax deductions for the wealthiest 1% and more.

    They have found revenue that Team Tony couldn’t/wouldn’t even think about.

  16. Rafe Falkiner

    How do we get articles like this on the TV in prime time. Carnegie Conversations etc & play them over & over & over to the dickwits that vote in this country??????????????????????

  17. Keitha Granville

    What a shame that politicians of the calibre of Tony WIndsor are so conspicuous by their absence in the parliament. With a few more of his ilk we might have a fighting chance.
    But he is quite right, we have to step up, we have to question, and argue, and propose and be prepared to fight for the right.

  18. gregcadwallader


    How can people fight this? I sent it to Alan Jones.
    Alan Jones
    I listened to your unrelenting diatribe against the murder (as you call it) of two drug runners. But there was no condemnation from you when it was revealed that fraudsters employed by the Commonwealth Bank caused good people to take their own lives. Those people would be alive today if the Commonwealth Bank hadn’t cleaned them out. They were, in fact, murdered by the Commonwealth Bank.

  19. Rossleigh

    Some people are an inspiration.
    Of the two Tonys, I know which I think is more likely to be remembered as such.

    Keep on reminding us, Kaye Lee, that we may yet hope for something better.

  20. DanDark

    Greg said “Those people would be alive today if the Commonwealth Bank hadn’t cleaned them out.”
    That is spot on that statement by Greg, and do the gov and banks give a flying ffffffffffduck…….nooooo they don’t,
    whats a life to them nothing it seems after they have sucked people dry because of the criminals the banks employed to screw us on purpose, yes on purpose because the fraud has been so great and billions of dollars are involved and the big banks have been the winners and have been for years with this systematic fraud of customers.

    But I am alive and was cleaned out by the Con Bank by thousands of dollars, it would take more than a corrupt bank to take me out though, and now they have made it that feckin hard to prove it and get compensation for the damage those leaches did to ordinary battlers and single mums like me.
    the banks are the biggest criminals in the country, the ANZ are cleaning the farmers out as we speak…
    I miss the Australia I once knew ……..

  21. Pingback: Wise words from Tony Windsor – Written by KAYE LEE | winstonclose

  22. Awabakal

    The cigar smokers call us the chattering class.

    The government steam rolls right over the top of us while the corps sit behind the government wheel.

    Without a full-on rejection of government policy by ALL OTHER Australians the day after tomorrow will be exactly the same as today.

    Can you see a full blown revolution by the Australian public? Didn’t think so.

    What to do? Lots of suggestions, no real answers.

  23. Kaye Lee


    Every suggestion helps form part of the answer. No, I don’t see a revolution. We must change public perceptions in some areas and that happens by continuing the conversation and the information.

    Community feeling is swinging back to the need for action on climate change. Abbott and Murdoch’s misinformation campaign is being drowned out by the growing global voice finally supporting our scientists. The irrationality of a so-called “consensus” centre which ignores scientific consensus has been called out.

    The reality of Malcolm’s fraudband is starting to bite. He can’t deliver what he promised and his assumptions of future capacity demand have already been surpassed. Parramatta, NSW’s second largest CBD, isn’t even on the rollout plan. Business, tourist, and regional sectors are voicing their discontent and overseas, countries with FttN are moving away from it as it cannot deliver for current needs.

    The craziness of cutting funding for education and research must stop. We must encourage and incentivise studies in STEM subjects and give the CSIRO and our universities the resources to conduct the research that underpins our future.

    If we want to talk in cost-benefit, let’s look at the benefit from giving foreign aid compared to spending money on wars and armaments and national security. The consequence of poverty and wars is even more asylum seekers and in response, we abrogate any responsibility towards helping the people who must flee. If we helped them at home, if we condemned human rights abuses, if we stopped flooding the world with more and more guns and bombs, if we educated and empowered the women – the “bang for your buck” would be so much more.

    After stripping funding from so many Indigenous frontline services, and threatening to close remote communities, we now see the government doling out $860 million in grants, less than half of which is going to Indigenous organisations even though they are crying out for the chance to empower their own communities.

    All of these things are seemingly so obvious but our politicians prefer their ideological political party games to implementing very obvious pathways to improvement. Whilst it is hard to say we have the answers, we certainly have much better ideas than what we see from our politicians.

  24. Fred Martin

    Could not agree with you more Kaye Lee. The problem is how do we get the message out when at least 46.5% of the population think we are full of it, and another big chunk have switched off and are not listening or don’t care. I sent a copy of Steven Hail’s lecture on modern money theory to a number of politicians (including the shadow treasurer) and asked them to tell me if it was true or not. I did not get 1 single reply.

  25. disizeit

    Thanks Kaye Lee an alternate narrative we need to spread to promote independent thought (beyond this forum obviously! )

  26. Matters Not

    Both Chris Berg and Marcia Langton spoke of the frustration of dealing with politicians who clearly do not understand the legislation on which they are voting


    Indeed! But sometimes it’s worse than that with the relevant Minister also not understanding the full implications of the Bill.

    Ministers don’t develop the ‘wording’ used in a Bill. That task is undertaken by Parliamentary Counsel to ensure that it’s ‘technically’ correct and that it isn’t in (unintended) conflict with other legislation. Often there is slippage between what a Minister ‘intends’ and what the wording of the Bill actually ‘says’ in the strict legal sense.

    That ‘slippage’ is often magnified with subsequent ‘subordinate legislation’ such as ‘Regulations’ and maybe ‘by-laws’, ‘proclamations’ and ‘notices’. It is unusual for subordinate legislation to be debated (but it can be) which is a further problem because it’s in the ‘subordinate legislation’ that the detail is revealed. And as we all know the ‘devil’ is often in the detail.

    So we can have a situation where the Minister is out of his/her depth and so many other Members simply not interested but usually ‘required’ to vote. Certainly Members can ask to be briefed by Parliamentary Counsel but that offer is rarely taken up other than by the Shadow Minister.

    Generally speaking, it is only when outside groups such as ‘unions’ (including employer unions) and special interest groups of all shapes and sizes, raise ‘objections’ (usually involving the meaning they give to the ‘wording’) that the interest of Members becomes focussed.

    Yes it’s a problem. But it’s this ‘lack of clarity’ keeps the legal fraternity employed.

  27. Wally

    “The rise of professional politicians has led to a lack of fresh ideas from a group of people who, every three years, must once again face the polls. They do not have time or inclination to make long term reform as their focus is on renewing their job.”

    Of all the problems outlined in the article I think professional politicians who would become unemployed (many would probably be unemployable) if they were to lose their seat are the biggest problem in our parliamentary system. Doing the right thing for themselves or doing right by the electorate becomes very conflicting and very few if any of the current crop have the integrity to do the right thing.

  28. Kaye Lee

    A couple of others things said on Sunday,,,,

    If we hadn’t had a hung parliament, the RC into child sexual abuse would never have gotten off the ground – neither Rudd nor Abbott would have done it.

    Confidentiality clauses stop employees of service providers in offshore detention centres from reporting incidents like when the witnesses to the beating of Reza Berati who identified those responsible were taken into a room, tied to chairs, beaten and threatened with rape if they did not withdraw their evidence. Reporting on this is not a threat to national security – allowing it to happen, covering it up, ignoring reports of sexual harassment and mental and other health issues, most certainly is an extremely dangerous threat.

  29. Wally

    @Kaye Lee – “allowing it to happen, covering it up, ignoring reports of sexual harassment” Abbotts favourite establishment the Catholic church did this for decades so it is no surprise that their is no change in sight under his leadership. Yes I use the term leadership very very loosely.

  30. Matters Not

    Abbotts favourite establishment the Catholic church did this for decades so it is no surprise that their is no change …

    As a confirmed atheist I have no brief to defend the Catholic Church at any level. Yes, the track record of certain ‘clergy’ (both male and female at many levels) is to be deplored as the current Royal Commission demonstrates. But the ‘social justice’ efforts of that religious group at any number of levels deserves recognition and applause.

    In many areas, they lead the way.

    Frank Brennan and Francis Sullivan are two that spring to mind.

  31. Matters Not

    While on the subjects of ‘Catholics’, can I assert that the decision by the ACU (Craven’s) to offer scholarships in memory of the recently executed drug smugglers is simply a failure of judgement.

    While I am tempted to explore other failings by this over paid ‘head’ of the ACU, I won’t

  32. lindsayms

    politicians who clearly do not understand the legislation on which they are voting.

    Many of them are also appear to be ignorant of some of the basic operation of parliament. This, combined with the replacement of Permanent Public Service heads of departments with partisan hacks has created an echo chamber where dissenting voices are never heard. Real expertise is missing from the house and the self serving members are continuously on the look out for personal benefit.

    Our politicians are the recipients of an extremely generous superannuation scheme that was probably developed to ensure that they would not be subject to the temptation to feather their own nests. This is obviously not working, Any politician who takes a position with a “lobbying” group after parliament, should immediately loose their superannuation.

  33. diannaart

    Any politician who takes a position with a “lobbying” group after parliament, should immediately loose their superannuation


  34. Kaye Lee

    It is so frustrating that the ideas are out there but our politicians won’t listen. The Australia Institute does some great work. The following shows how we could raise almost $20 billion a year. Add in cutting fossil fuel subsidies and exploration grants and we can stop the silly discussion about not being able to afford health and education and welfare and research and infrastructure.

  35. gregcadwallader

    I can’t send the attachments referred to here but believe me I have sent them, along with this, to ASIC: .
    Dear ASIC,

    Unless and until immoral financial advisers are convicted every financial adviser’s reputation is tarnished. The Treasurer, Mr Joe Hockey, spoke these words on last night’s Channel 10 news: ‘With interest rates so low now is the time to borrow and invest’. I need an honest financial adviser. According to the first attachment, ‘Financial advisers who ASIC knows are guilty of fraud CONTINUE TO OPERATE AS FINANCIAL ADVISERS’. That means known fraudsters are still in the business preying on innocent people. Who are these fraudsters? It is imperative that I am supplied with the names of the fraudsters mentioned by ASIC’s Commissioner in the second attachment so I can avoid becoming a victim. Please supply the list.
    Greg Cadwallader

  36. DanDark

    Here is a copy of an email I sent Sinodinis on the 12/3/2014……….. 🙂

    Hey Sinodinis,watched you on Lateline trying to answer questions
    Well how silly do you think the average punter is?
    YOU and Phony Tony are trying to stooge the people again
    with your finance advice cronnie mates,
    To help strip away protections with
    these finance frauds is beyond belief,

    Your words are trick words
    Yes a lot of words amounting to nothing
    Trying to convince people it will be OK,
    we are the “adult gov in charge now” what a joke.

    You and the rest of the grumpy old white Blokes
    pretending to run this country, are past your use by date.
    I have seen many views on these WIND back of PROTECTIONS
    the result for customers is grim, going backwards in time again
    (which is the LNP’s mantra,the backwards mens club)
    Many people do not like what you are about to do
    There is a lot of criticism by the experts out there

    March in March next weekend
    Sir,your Gov is about to slide into oblivion
    The “mice” are on the move
    Check out youtube,a great video
    called Coalition Blues,its a great tune
    written all about you and the rest of your inept gov

    Your propaganda is not working,and Tony knows it
    Hockey’s been a bit quiet lately,his been taking a pounding
    Because he tells porky pies,and lots of them
    So Tone’s plan to push you out in front of camera to
    spread your destruction on innocent people,and taking away protections.
    To keep your mates in the finance sector happy
    I would reconsider

    As for the documents you wont release until
    “its the right time and not the wrong time”,what is that?
    The contempt you are showing towards the voters is gob smacking, at the leas.t

    OMG What are you hiding,more secrets, like the COB, your concentration camps
    you are running in Manus and Nauru etc etc etc etc etc

    I look forward, to your imminent retirement, from politics Sinodinis
    You are not worthy of high office…….

  37. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Tony Windsor was one of my eye-openers. When he came into the wider public eye approx. 5 years ago, I was still largely a devoted Labor supporter, even though I was starting to see their cracks on welfare and asylum seekers. I hadn’t yet ‘jumped ship’ to board the Greens, or look for other alternatives like the Australian Progressives, or even value the minority voices on the crossbenches on selective issues where they excel at capturing the electorate’s attention.

    Now I know what Windsor in Australia, Bernie Sanders in America and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK are saying about taking the reins ourselves coz we can’t trust the entrenched career pollies (lamentably even many Labor ones too) to show the leadership to do this on our behalf.

    If the pollies see us making noise on any and all issues of community concern, (even the less sexy ones like vulnerable unemployed and under-employed people’s rights to dignity, security and self-determination), they take notice and start to use our language. You can hear it by the words they use on the media.

    They are subliminally showing us that they are listening and if we show them the leadership by persistent and consistent communications via every means possible, they know our expectations are that our ambitions for better community and nation-building is what we want and nothing else will do.

  38. diannaart

    A diverse senate is a democratic senate, Jennifer Meyer-Smith – as I am certain you understand.

    For others who believe in a two-party system, the idea of many representatives for the people (independents as well as small parties) is contrary to their way of thinking. Most of the counter to the excess of the Abbott government has come from the ‘little guys’, such as we witnessed in Gillard’s hing party and much to many people’s surprise, so to vex the Abbottoir.

    For example, Ricky Muir , what a beam of light unexpected, has he proven to be:

    Rundle: Ricky Muir, a closet lefty unionist in revhead clothing

    Glen Lazarus reveals he might be a brick, but his eyes work extremely well:,7726

    Even Jackie Lambie – with whom I disagree a great deal, is better value than the entire coalition – why? Thank you, for asking, she makes up her own mind, she is not a LNP drone and sometimes she upsets the LNP far-right agenda.

    More power to diversity – after-all this is the human species – not divisible into two.

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