BETTER TO LIGHT A CANDLE THAN CURSE THE DARKNESS

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Introduction

I was asked to deliver the 2011, Richard Searby Oration for Deakin University on Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Below is a transcript of that speech, extracts of which are available on video, here and below.





BETTER TO LIGHT A CANDLE THAN CURSE THE DARKNESS

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and thank you for taking your time tonight to celebrate and honour Dr Searby.
It is a great honour and privilege to give the Richard Searby Oration for 2011. Dr Searby’s life has been one marked by achievement, a thirst for knowledge and service to the community. From his early days schooled by his father, to working as Associate to Sir Owen Dixon, his work as a leading member of the legal profession and his latter days as Chancellor, Dr Searby has never lost the great respect for knowledge and ideas.
To Dr Searby it is the role of universities to expand the global pool of knowledge and encourage discussion and discourse – hence it is fitting that an annual Oration is named in his honour.
I believe Australia is a good country.
For most of the last 15 years, I have had the great privilege of working for the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross in some of the world’s most difficult situations.

In the earliest of those years, I felt filled with pride by how others referred to Australia. Seen as an open and tolerant country, Australia was an example of the society that had the balance right.
Over more recent years, people couldn’t quite reconcile the openness of our society with how our national dialogue appeared to have changed.
Over the last year or so, many of us here would have lamented the quality of our political debate. But given we are a democracy ultimate responsibility for the quality of debate and discourse does not rest with politicians, nor the media.
It rests with us, the Australian people. The voters.
The challenge I will put tonight is this: we must take a role in lifting the quality of debate. We must make a change each time we are engaged in discussions around policy, be it at work, or with family and friends. We must rise and encourage a race to the top of the mountain, not to the bottom of the barrel.
I still believe that ours is a good country, made up of people who care for the nation’s future.
I have always felt that.
In 1994, I had the good fortune to be sitting opposite a young man who became a great friend, Rufus Black, in a small pizza shop in Princeton New Jersey. Rufus and I were studying postgraduate degrees in the UK, he at Oxford and me at a less well known institution to the south.
Back those 17 years, knowing what I wanted to do internationally, Rufus asked me why I didn’t want to work in Australia.
“Because Rufus,” I said, “at the end of the day I have inherent faith that the Australian people get it right.”
Fast forward to 2001, immediately following that year’s Tampa election, Rufus called me and asked if I still held that view.
I questioned it then, and I question it now. Do we, as a nation, collectively get it right?
The science of politics maybe of sound bites and tweets, but the art of politics must be to inspire, not the cynical manipulation in the pursuit of electoral power.
If the phrase ‘cynical manipulation’ sounds too strong or confronting, could I insert one of: ‘overuse of focus groups’, ‘sound bite responses’, ‘twitter feeds’ or ‘Facebook updates’ in its place?
Cast your mind back 10 years. While many, including some in this room, may have agreed with the focus group driven statement “we decide who comes to our country and the circumstances in which they come”, there was at that time an opposing view on the opposite side of the parliamentary chamber. Some even on the then government side.
Without agreeing with one side or the other in that debate, at least I can say there was a debate.
Oh how that has changed. I now want to put the Challenge to you:
We decide who leads our country and the circumstances in which they lead!
Let me ask you this: If back in 2001, we were told that within ten years our country would be led by a female prime minister from the left wing of the Labor Party, who promoted off-shore processing as the refugee solution in Australia – you would rightly have said that maybe one of those four things would come true.
Many have said that the refugee issue should not be a big issue. And I agree. It should not be. But it is.
This issue has now moved beyond one of boats. It has moved beyond the location of processing. It has even moved beyond one of people.
This has grown now to become an issue about the soul of our country, an issue about the content of our collective character. It is now a debate about who we are and how we wish to be perceived.
Former Villawood manager, Peter Mitchel, wrote in his just released book “Compassionate Bastard” that:
“(we) have to accept the fact that the refugee issue is complex and defies a quick fix. Asylum seekers will continue to arrive by boat. And politicians have to stop oversimplifying the issue by trying to outdo one another with tough talk.”
We are an intelligent country that can engage in difficult debate. Having worked for the UNHCR, I know the issue is complicated. Mitchel is right, the asylum debate is difficult and it does our country no good to simply say ‘stop the boats’.
PAUSE
But nor does it do justice to a complicated issue to say ‘just let them land’. Any policy that in any way encourages people to jump on leaky boats to undertake a risky voyage with a high likelihood of death, is a bad policy.
It is not the purpose of this oration to suggest a refugee solution. It is the purpose to call for a lifting of the quality of national discourse. Our country should be known as one that debates in detail, not sound bites.
Can I suggest a three point framework to guide detailed debate around refugees by way of example?
A.    Any policy must have the best humanitarian solution for asylum seekers as its driving focus, those here, those seeking to come and those waiting elsewhere for resettlement.
B.    Any policy must satisfy legitimate concerns for border security.
C.    Any policy must enhance and not detract from Australia’s international reputation.
I would suggest the framework of humanitarian, legitimate concern and image as a good guide to judge alternative policy suggestions.
If we do this it becomes clear that the question we are currently debating; the one of location of processing – Australia, Malaysia or Naru is the wrong one. The harder and more critical issue is that of resettlement once a refugee is processed.
The back of the people smugglers business model is not one of the location of processing, it is a lack of resettlement after processing.
The Bali Process, and the Regional Cooperation Framework it created, is a good start to regionally discuss the plethora of complicated issues from trafficking, to law enforcement and permanent solutions for asylum seekers. The government should be credited for trying to make that process work. However this forum could be used more to search for lasting solutions on resettlement and those resettlement issues should be the main focus of Australia’s involvement, not location of processing.
I readily admit this is complex, but in today’s Australia complex issues are not framed in a way we can, as a community, digest. We are given sound bites.
Ask yourself if you are comfortable with the way our political debate is framed in Australia?
Ask yourself if the framing of debate is generating good or bad policy outcomes?
Ask yourself if the framing of debate is shaping an image and reputation of which we are proud?
Are we a country that seeks deep analysis before deciding complex issues? One that is inspired by the positive? Or one that looks to sound bites and seeks energy from the negative? Do we have genuine alternatives from which we are asked to choose?
Gone are the days of discourse surrounding great issues like conscription, urban planning, floating the dollar. Back then we were given alternative visions, alternative views
Back then, we had politicians who would put ideas on the table. We had ‘recessions we had to have’ and ‘banana republics’. We had ideas we agreed with, and ideas that we disagreed with. We had vision and challenges put before us.
We were inspired to choose.
Today, the issues are not gone. But the visionaries have fallen quiet.
Take carbon emissions. It is a major issue. I find it disconcerting that I know more about the so-called disaster that will befall our country if carbon tax is introduced, or the ineffectiveness of direct action, than I do positives of either program.
I am being asked today, more often than not, to vote against a fear, than for a vision.
This state of affairs does not sit comfortably with me.
This is a problem statement that many share and express, but what about a solution?
I started by saying we all need to step up and improve discourse. I mean we all need to, in whichever way we feel comfortable. Lamenting without action is just not enough.
Let me move to four issues that while divergent; demonstrate an interesting trend of long-term thinking developing in the business sector: planning, natural disaster recovery, international education and international aid. Although different, these issues all share some hope of new thinking.
Planning
Melbourne has just been voted the world’s most liveable city.
How to keep it that way?
It is possible to have a small village congested and dirty if planned and administered badly. Likewise, it is possible to have a large city which is clean and fluid if planned and administered well. It doesn’t come down to size, it’s all about planning.
So, where is our long-term vision for this great city?
Committee for Melbourne is calling for a 50 year plan for Melbourne, based on a logical analysis of where our population will be. Not necessarily a population figure we are encouraging or discouraging, but one we are planning for – there is a distinct difference.
Only when we have a planning figure, can we plan the roads, the schools, and the infrastructure we need for a growing city.
The Committee believes growth will slow from 1.65% (our 50 year average) to around 1.4% over the next 50 years.
But even a slowing growth rate will see Melbourne get to around eight million people by 2060. This number causes fear, and fear deters our political leaders from engaging in long-term discourse.
Making Melbourne more liveable with that number is possible, but only if we plan it, discuss it and bring the community on board. Only if we plan to make Melbourne better in the future, rather than hoping we will not grow, will we succeed in giving to our children an even better city than the one given to us by our parents.
And this is why we have in the past been quoted as saying that Dick Smith is a threat to the future liveability of Australian cities.
We do so because we believe his calls distract public debate from one of planning of infrastructure – issues we can 100% control – and have people concentrating on planning population – an issue we can fine tune at best.
We don’t believe Dick has malicious intent, we just believe that the debate is in the wrong place.
We should plan for the population that we think we will have, and build the infrastructure that population needs.

When did you last hear a politician give a 50 year view for Melbourne, like Menzies once did, like Whitlam once did? We remember Whitlam’s Family Law Act, Medicare and The Dismissal, but do we equally remember the building of sewers in the outer suburbs and investment in infrastructure?
Whilst we may think Dick Smith is wrong, we would not try to silence him. He helps encourage debate when others are silent.
But this debate should be led by political leaders, not a retired business man on one hand, and the CEO of Committee for Melbourne on the other. There should not be a vacuum in the first place for us to fill.
But there is a spark of hope here in Melbourne. We have in our new Planning Minister, Matthew Guy, a man who says the impacts of his decisions will not be felt in his time in the Planning Ministry, nor his party’s time in government, but in 20 or 30 years. If planning questions are debated, and planning decisions are made, in this timeframe, it will be a great step forward.
I have a vision of a city in 50 years that is more liveable than the one we have today: A city with a fully integrated public and private transport system.
I would like us to remove Melbourne’s rail level crossings. With 172 of them, we cannot put more trains on our network without having the level crossings close more often and thereby clog up our roads. Melbourne is at a city-wide, system-wide, mobility crisis point that the last two governments failed to address. It is time to remove the level crossings – yet it will cost $17 billion to do so. We need to discuss this.
I would like us to stop the unsustainable decreasing density in this city. With the highest average footprint house in the world, with less people per house as our family sizes shrink, we are continuing to spread, from a density of 23 people per hectare in 1960, to around about 14 today.

Consider this, by 2025, 51% of households in Melbourne will be ‘no child’ households (pre, post or decided to have no children). So why are we building so many family homes?

This is the dialogue we need to have, but only if we have a logical discussion on where our population is likely to be. Who is leading this logical discussion today?
Post disaster
Dorothy MacKellar told us when she was just 19, that Australia is the land of droughts and flooding rains. We know also that we are the land of fires and cyclones. For years, we have built up some of the globe’s best immediate response teams, if not policy. The Red Cross. SES. CFA. Emergency Management Australia (EMA), an organisation most Australian’s don’t know of, has worked over the years to ensure lessons learned and interoperability on emergency response.
But why is it that, our national leaders seem to plan for good immediate response, but still do post-disaster recovery and reconstruction in an ad hoc way?
Why do we have the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction Authority set up for one event? Why did it need to re-learn the lessons of Cyclone Larry, rather than have an institution that had learned in advance? Why did Queensland establish yet another ad hoc mechanism to deal with the floods, and why do we need a flood levy?
We are told that the answer to all these questions is a version of ‘well this was unforseen.’
I only need to go back to that great fortune teller, Dorothy MacKellar, to seek guidance. We know for sure that in my lifetime disaster will happen again – many times. After all, in my life time so far, the ‘rare’ events have included Cyclones Tracey, Larry and others, Black Saturday fires, Ash Wednesday, two great floods in Queensland, a couple in Melbourne, and whole bunch of droughts.
In the last six months, I have lobbied Federal and State, Labor and Liberal MPs, around one very simple issue:
If we are the land of droughts and flooding rains, and if we have our act together well enough to be one of the world’s best at emergency response, why do we still do recovery in an ad hoc way?
Why can’t we slightly extend the mandate of EMA to include lessons learned and share knowledge on recovery as well as response? All but four politicians gave me a bunch of reasons why it couldn’t happen.
Credit to Simon Crean, Andrew Robb, Janelle Saffin and Greg Hunt for seeing an alternative. Two are in power, two may soon be. Let’s see if a simple and cheap idea can become policy. 
IBM is about to hold a Colloquium here in Melbourne and this is how this multi-national sees it:
We are witnessing the largest wave of urban growth in history with more than 50% of the world’s population now living in cities.  We have also witnessed the incredible power of nature during the 2011.  The intersection of major disasters, with increased population density and the interconnectedness of our businesses and economies, is leading to a requirement for communities, organisations, cities and countries to become more resilient.  This colloquium will explore our vulnerability, preparedness and responsiveness to large-scale events, and what opportunities exist to improve societal resilience.
Why is it that business is doing this not government? Why does business see the long-term impact, but all but a few political leaders can’t?
International education
Recent ABS statistics revealed a drop in population growth from 2.2% to 1.5%. 
As natural increase has stayed relatively level, this drop is a result of a dive in net overseas migration – largely from international students. Whilst some may be relieved on the easing of pressure on our infrastructure, is this drop really a good or bad thing for Melbourne and Australia?
Education is Melbourne’s second largest and formerly largest export. It is a larger export earner to Australia than gold, natural gas, wheat, and even beef.  International education is so big that Deloitte Access Economics equates it to around 1% of GDP; providing around 100,000 jobs to the economy, or about one job for every two higher education students in Australia.
Put another way, for every two international students lost, we lose one Australian job. Roughly 20% of the impact being in retail. 
The fall in international students has seen a drop of nearly 23,000 students in 2011. That is 11,500 Australian jobs lost.
If the current drop is not cause for alarm, then the future projections to 2015 should be. By 2015, some forecasts predict a drop of nearly 70,000 students against future expectations. If this occurs, it would mean 35,000 fewer Australian jobs in the broader economy. 
So why are we not strongly fighting to protect this industry?
Rather than being concerned about jobs, for some reason our nation appears so fearful on population growth that we applaud the drop in arrivals without fully understanding the broader economic impact.
Glenn Withers, the chief of Universities Australia said that the negativity surrounding Australian public debate on population, migration and refugees is “creating an impression that we are not welcoming students, or even welcoming visitors.”

We must work urgently to reverse the negative brand image of Australia as unwelcoming because it is untrue.
We should not be surprised by this brand image risk.
We had 30 years notice.
Recently released papers revealed discussions in the Fraser Cabinet. Michael Mackellar, the then Immigration Minister said to the cabinet:
”Under international law Australia could legislate to: prohibit entry to Australian territorial seas, to vessels carrying refugees and expel such vessels. In view of our image as a developed, technologically advanced and still under-populated country, such steps would be courting international pariah status.”

This was said 30 years ago. This was why we had a positive narrative at that time. I see no reason why today, we should have a different reasoning from that which applied over 30 years ago. We are still risking pariah status. The risk appears to manifest itself in the education sector.
As global uncertainty envelopes all industries, we must not see the international education sector as an isolated victim, rather, we should see it as a strong indicator of threats to the broader economy.  It would be naive to think otherwise.
Those involved in business, small, medium and large know that good reputation is critical.  When given a choice, people prefer to do business with people they like. It is human nature.
If the international education sector is the canary in the cage, and if the framing of national debate on population, refugees and immigration is portraying Australia as an ‘unwelcoming’ country, there is no doubt this will impact the broader economy and cost Australian jobs.
We know business is starting to realise this because more and more business leaders are speaking out to protect Australia’s brand image. Who would have thought only ten years ago, some of the most pro-refugee and pro-immigrant voices were not the left wing, but some of our business leaders?
Then there is a deeper issue: Surely if we want to improve the globe, enhance inter-cultural dialogue and understanding, reduce conflict, enhance collaboration and cooperation, isn’t international education a great diplomatic tool, not just an economic benefit?
Let me propose two simple policy ideas:
1.            Every Australian Embassy in the South East and South Asian regions should foster the creation of an “Australian Alumni”. Many senior political and business leaders in the Asia Pacific region have received some or all of their education in Australia. We should maximise the diplomatic, cultural and business advantages to all countries by keeping track and fostering a lifetime cultural connection between former students and our country. While some universities are doing this, surely the Australian government should do so as part of a soft diplomatic outreach.
2.            We should allow Australian businesses that are looking to expand into the region to employ students upon graduation in Australia. We should allow them a year or two to understand the culture of the business and then be beach-head staff employed back in their home countries by our companies, thereby allowing the Australian business to have a better chance to thrive. The Knight review released last week is heading in this direction and has recommended changes to the visa rules to allow this. The government has indicated that they will accept that recommendation, and I look forward to it becoming law.
International Aid
Let me go to a final area: international aid.
Fifty three percent of capital flows from the OECD countries to the developing world are through private sector. Only 17% are through aid.
While UN Development Program’s core funding is $1 billion a year (there is more in noncore funding), the combined CSR spend of Committee for Melbourne Members alone is $1.5 billion. The top 100 companies in the world spend $15 billion – the same as the entire UN budget.
BHP Billiton spends 1% of pre-tax profit on community engagement. That is $220 million a year – making BHP the world largest miner, fifth largest company in the world and the third largest development agency in Australia. Even larger than the Australian Red Cross.
So why is business doing this?
In Mozal Mozambique, BHP Billiton runs an anti-malaria campaign that has seen adult infections drop from around 82% of the population to 8%. Their internal documents state a major reason for doing the campaign is to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Think on that.
But there is an additional benefit.
The improved community health has seen absenteeism in the workforce drop from 22% to 2%, improving the productivity of their assets by an amount higher than the cost of the entire program.
People may be tempted to say “see, they only do it for profit.” I say, the link with profit is not a bad thing, as it guarantees the long-term viability of the project.
Win, win, win.
When you speak to some senior business leaders like Karen Wood at BHP, Bruce Harvey at Rio, Julie Bisinella at ANZ, you are left in no doubt that their objective is to find ways where their companies can genuinely improve the communities in which they operate. It is not just for profit. In the long run it is, in their view, the right thing to do.
And here is the key: The companies are thinking long-term. Not in twitter feeds. Not in electoral cycles.
Listening to people who have successfully invested and built business in China, in the region – I hear them say –  Embrace, engage, learn, immerse, exchange our expertise in our region. They don’t say protect, beware, control, change or stop. They say ‘yes’, not ‘no’.
It is perhaps an unusual position to look to business as a source of inspiration in today’s Australia. But business is only just coming to terms with this itself. It is new ground. There is a lot to learn and improve. And yes, there is a lot to analyse between market motivations and community motivations.
I am not saying by any means that corporations are perfect, many are far from that. But leading companies are making some efforts and we need to give credit where credit is due.
Let me leave those four examples of unusual thinking in planning, disaster recovery, education and aid, and return to the larger problem.
I am yet to meet the person who says to me:
“That last federal election was truly inspiring. I was uplifted with a sense of confidence in our national leaders and a feeling of ‘relaxed comfortableness’.”
I am yet to meet that person. More lament the lack of those feelings. But we lament more often in silence.
Ronald Reagan building on Burke’s sentiments beseeched people to:
“Stand up for what is right or sit back and let evil prevail.”
I agree with Reagan, not on all his views, but certainly upon that.
His view that one should not just sit back, is neither new nor restricted to western societies.  There is an old Chinese proverb:
“Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
Lapse of leadership is the darkness. We must demand leadership and by doing so enhance quality debate. Quality debate is the light of the candle. “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
This proverb transcends all nations and cultures.  This proverb should inspire us to realise that the apparent lapse of leadership is not Australia’s burden carried in isolation. Those dynamics of twitter, focus groups and endless news cycles, do not manifest themselves in Australia alone. If you doubt that, can I suggest you have a cup of tea in the United States just now?
If the problem is global, can a solution begin locally? Is it possible for Australia to be a leading light rather than a following deputy?
Australia, as a nation lacking a burden of colonial expansionist history, and a nation rightly absent a belief that its culture is big enough to dominate the world by force, has in many times in its history sought to assert its influence, in the words of Barack Obama:
“By asserting not the example of our power but the power of our example.”
And what an example we are: living in the world’s most liveable city, in the second most liveable country on earth. Perhaps our greatest failing is not recognising how much we get right. Simple things like watching groups of 12, 13 and 14 year olds leaving the MCG after a football match. Ask yourself, where else in the world could a 14 year old girl say to her mum: ‘Hi mum, I am going to a mass public event with 100,000 people and no adult supervision,’ and mum replies, ‘See you when you get home dear’?
Where else could this happen? Do we realise how good our society is, and therefore, how hard we must fight to protect it?
Oh how it would be if our leaders were like the Norwegian Prime Minister, who in addressing his nation following those dreadful attacks earlier this year, held no fear in showing emotion, confusion and bewilderment at the assault. But he still stood firm in the resolute belief that one deranged person would not derail the openness of his society.
Whilst leadership through history is in some ways cyclical, with periods of greatness and periods of tenuity, we should hope for the former.
I worked with Shaukut Aziz in Pakistan. He is a fine man and an example of a fine leader. He did remarkable things as both Pakistan’s Finance Minister and Prime Minister in circumstance so difficult that most couldn’t even imagine. He was a deserving winner of the 2001 award.
In leadership one remembers that no-one has the monopoly on good ideas, and no-one is always wrong. It is therefore worth listening to other’s ideas, and we should encourage leaders that can applaud with us the good ideas of their opposition.
Hawke was a master of this.
We all must demand of our leaders, who give credit where credit is due, build on other’s good ideas, in order to inspire us to choose between strong and stronger, not fear and fright. We used to have such leaders.
Men and women who spoke of lights on hills also held visions of a community of nations ridding the earth of the scourge that is war. They lead using the strength of the example of this nation.
We were a leading people in the establishment of the United Nations, fights against apartheid, in support of boat people, in recognition of China.
We lead from this nation by the power of our example.
Paul Keating described Malcolm Fraser thus:
“The unifying theme behind all Fraser’s foreign policy was a pragmatic and independent search for the Australian national interest. When speaking for Australia abroad he was consistently informed, formidable and constructive.”
It takes character to give credit to an opponent. It takes leadership to set a moral course.
We lost that with Tampa.
When we were asked those 11 years ago, “Do we want those types of people here”, why could we not have said:
“People willing to risk their lives and work hard for nothing more than the better future for their children? Yes we want them here!”
Wouldn’t it be better if our national dialogue was one of how to accept a fair share here in a controlled and fair manner, rather than how to keep people away?  A ‘controlled entry program’ rather than ‘border protection’?

Tampa was for this nation a turning point. It is when we stopped leading on the basis of hope and optimism and started inspiring through fear.
Tampa began a change in our national culture, it challenged our national character and we are yet to undo that damage.
I, like many here, hunger and thirst for positive dialogue, intelligent dialogue, challenging dialogue.
In the words of Bobby Kennedy:
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of the rest or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from millions of centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance …
Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.”
That is a big, inspiring statement and we as a country can be as big as that.
In preparing tonight’s Oration, I shared the draft text with a few people of different ages, and sought feedback.
One friend in her mid 20’s friend from a politically active family emailed me and said:
“I think that for many young people my age it is not just that there is a lack of vision and leadership among our politicians; it is that they no longer believe that politics or politicians can actually achieve real change… 
As a result of this we have become not just politically disengaged from the main parties, but from the very issues they are actually debating…”
Disagreement is one thing, disengagement is worse. How bad will the future of our country be if we have a generation that doesn’t even think the debate is worth entering?
A friend at the older end of the spectrum responding saying:
It seems to be that much discussion and action in the public domain lacks any generosity of spirit, indeed there is almost a grinding meanness to debate.  Business seems to have grasped this, and in order to survive, has seized on rewarding loyalty as one of the key motivators to maintain custom.  Enlightened self interest? Of course.  Good for all? Yes.  Far-sighted? Yes.
So, back to solutions again.
Lindsay Tanner nearly got it right when he blamed the media.
Let me put a refined view.
We, as the consumers and creators of media, must demand leaders frame the content of the debate in a way that strengthens the content of our national character: To give us not a choice of fear, but a choice of hope.
When we read, or hear ourselves repeat the negativity, remember the first step on rectification is to rectify ourselves.
New media, new groups energised around issues and hope are tools that can be used to build much deeper community dialogue, not shorter sound bites. New media tools should be an opportunity for politicians to engage in longer dialogue of substance. There is hope with GetUp and other like mechanisms, but we need to demand it. The responsibility is ours.
If you agree with me that we have a vacuum in quality political discourse in planning, immigration, emergency aid, education, global poverty, or whatever else drives your passion, then you have two choices: sit back and lament the darkness, or engage in dialogue, demand quality and in doing so lean over and light the candle of hope.
I have in this Oration quoted Regan and Bobby Kennedy. I have drawn from Obama. I have spoken of Fraser and Whitlam, Hawke and Keating. I have drawn on the leadership of Menzies, Curtin and Chifley and of Doc Evatt.
Could we wish to imagine a day 20 years hence when quotes of current leaders where referred to, not in lamentation, but in reference to visions leading us forward, filling us with hope, inspiring us to dream, telling us of things to be done, not because they are easy, but because they hard and require the leading by the power of example?
So back to Rufus’ question.
How would I answer his question today, and more importantly, tomorrow? What is the content of our national character going to be?
Rufus: I still have inherent faith that at the end of the day, we the Australian people we can get it right.
I believe that we want again to be inspired, to dream, to debate great ideas. Now is the time for us to demand of those in power that they inspire us.
And let’s start our discussions from the point of strength that we now have. Our growth was 1.2% last quarter. Greece:-7%. Our unemployment is 5.2%. US over 9.
We are in the ideal future time zone.
This should be our Golden Time. Despite current equity market turmoil, this should be the time where we debate a bright future. Our choices should be ones of inspiration.
If we are not careful, instead of this being our golden time, it will be our lost opportunity. Instead of being a time where we say ‘no’, it should be a time where we say ‘yes’.
My core message is this: nature abhors a vacuum, and the time limit for the vacuum in quality debate has expired. Our country is not a negative one. We are known as the lucky country. We are not a whinging country, we are one that just gets on with it. Negativity is not part of our national character.
It is us who decides.
We decide who leads us and the circumstances in which they lead.
We can and must ‘Make Australia Positive Again’.
__________

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