What kind of Leaders do we want?

September 3, 2018 at 12:40 pm Leave a comment

Most people found the change in the Australian Prime Minister to be an unimpressive sequence of events.  I will retrace what happened then speak about what we really want from our leaders.  There are certain qualities that I believe we would like to see in our leaders.


First there was the desire of the far Right of the Liberal Party, led by Tony Abbot, to see Malcolm Turnbull ousted from being Prime Minister.  Malcolm Turnbull had replaced Tony Abbot as Prime Minister, a move he resented deeply.  Despite initial statements about not undermining the new Prime Minister he repeatedly did so. No doubt he wanted the top job to be his again.  Getting rid of Malcolm Turnbull was a driving passion.  Turnbull began his time as Prime Minister as a Moderate with some convictions many of us were pleased about.  Unfortunately, he felt the need to appease the far Right of the party.  The result was that while he appeared to be a worthy Prime Minister he did not in fact stand by his convictions and did not achieve anything significant.  As well as Tony Abbot there were key conservative media figures, notably Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and Andrew Bolt who used their influence to constantly attack Malcolm Turnbull. They aggressively promoted their views.


Things came to a head when the ambitious Peter Dutton challenged Malcom Turnbull leading to a leadership spill.  Despite Turnbull winning the vote, the substantial vote for Dutton meant a further challenge immediately. Turnbull’s appeasing approach was not respected by those on the far Right who wanted their own person in the role. Realising that Turnbull’s position had become untenable, he and others sought an alternative to Dutton.  Turnbull made a last gesture in requiring the signatures of those who wanted another leadership vote.  Meanwhile behind the scenes the Treasurer Scott Morrison became the alternative possibility.  He would be more acceptable to the southern states than the hard Right Queenslander Dutton.  Enough votes for a spill were secured.  Julie Bishop also put her name forward as an alternative Prime Minister.  However, she did not get many votes and it came down to Dutton versus Morrison with Morrison as the winner.  So, we have again a new Prime Minister not elected by the people but by the Liberal Party leaders.  Morrison said the standard things about now putting things behind, becoming unified and getting on with the political job. It remains to be seen how possible this is.  Policy wise not much is likely to change as he was one of the key people alongside Turnbull.


What the Labour Party went through with Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, then the Liberal Party with Tony Abbot and Malcolm Turnbull has been repeated again.  All the focus has been on the position of Prime Minister and challenges to it by people within the respective parties.  It has meant an incredible amount of in-fighting and disunity.  The emphasis has been on the egos of particular people and the desire of factions within the party to get their person into the top job.  The need to get on with the task of actually leading the nation into the future and dealing with substantial social issues has been sidelined.  There has been a lack of vision for the nation, only the desire of people to get into positions of status.  Malcom Turnbull for example seemed to enjoy being Prime Minister and seen to be so, even to the point of being positive towards Donald Trump despite all his incredible antics. Turnbull would never have done anything like the French President Emmanuel Macron when he spoke in a challenging way to the joint sitting of the US Congress.


What kind to qualities do we want in our leaders, especially our Prime Minister?  While a desire to lead and influence can be a positive attribute, it does not have to be just ego.  Hopefully those who want to lead have a vision for the nation and for the future.  They have principles they adhere to.


Isaiah described the characteristics of the leader the people of ancient Israel longed for.  “The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord….He shall not judge by what his eyes see, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;…. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins” (Isaiah 11: 2-5).  The prophets of ancient Israel knew what they were looking for in their leader.  They wanted someone to lead who honoured God, who was characterised by faithfulness and righteousness, who had understanding and wisdom, who led with justice and compassion especially showing concern for the poor and disadvantaged, and who dealt firmly with those who took advantage of others.


Is our situation so different?  I would certainly want leaders, especially Prime Ministers to be people who use their position for the common good, who have a vision for the future of the nation.  For me as a Christian that involves a leader who does not only think about the welfare of Australians but is also willing to recognise international responsibilities.  That means taking significant action on climate change which affects us all; it includes raising the level of our foreign aid to what is recommended by the United Nations for Australia is a rich nation.  It does mean caring for people who are struggling, such as farmers due to the current drought.  If the argument is made that we cannot afford to do these things and have a balanced budget then I would urge that we reduce our military budget and activities and redirect some of the money spent on defence. What kind of leaders do we want? – servant leaders who can guide us into a more compassionate and just society which includes care for the environment.


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