Monday 20th of May 2024

in search of substance ...

in search of substance ...

To finish my week’s theme on “commongoodism” I take you back to 2015 when the darling of the Murdoch journalists was suggesting that all you really needed to be successful in politics, was a degree of sorts.

In April 2015, Miranda Devine in a piece for The Daily Telegraph proclaimed the Abbott Government’s ‘right to govern’ on the basis of its MP’s academic qualifications.

What then qualifies a person to become “the honourable member for wherever” or a senator for that matter? Does being richly educated matter or does just being rich in knowledge suffice? Do you need any credentials at all?

Undeniably the Abbott/Turnbull Governments were/are rich in qualifications. Degrees decorated the walls of their offices from the very best learning institutions. Yet despite all this education it could be argued, on the evidence of occupancy, they have been hardly qualified to manage the local milk bar.

The government has three Rhodes Scholars: Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, and Angus Taylor. Two more ministers have degrees from Oxford University: George Brandis QC, and Josh Frydenberg, who has the added distinction of a master’s degree from Harvard.

Two other MPs also have master’s degrees from Harvard, among the seven MBAs, two MPAs and four PhDs on the government benches. Two more have masters of philosophy from Cambridge.

Fulbright scholar Greg Hunt has an MA from Yale. Former WA treasurer Christian Porter has an impressive four degrees. And he’s a backbencher. Three government MPs are medical doctors, including Dr David Gillespie, a gastroenterologist who won independent Rob Oakeshott’s old seat of Lyne. He is also a farmer, one of 16 in Abbott’s government.

There are also teachers, bankers, journalists, engineers, research scientists, economists, small business owners, a shearer, a carpenter, a wool classer, an air traffic controller and even a crocodile catcher.

Also on the Abbott/Turnbull government’s side were/are:

… at least 30 lawyers, and five former police officers, including Jason Wood, once a detective senior sergeant in Victoria’s organised crime squad and counter-terrorism unit.

Luke Simpkins was also an officer with the Australian Federal Police and an army officer for 14 years. Senator David Fawcett had 22 years as an army officer and experimental test pilot, along with a science degree and an MBA.

Another backbencher Brigadier Andrew Nikolic, had three master’s degrees, and wartime roles in Afghanistan and Iraq as Chief of Staff and deputy commander. Among numerous awards is the Conspicuous Service Cross.

I think, without going through the entire membership of the current Coalition’s party room, I have made my point. They do indeed add up to an extremely impressive cohort of parliamentarians. Arguably the most “academically” qualified group of politicians, on both sides of the dispatch boxes, ever to frequent the halls of parliament.

As a person who is almost entirely self-educated I am in awe, even envious, of their collective and individual achievements. But the paradoxical problem here is that all this education amounts to nothing if you cannot govern. In politics intellectualism is no match for political instinct.

Conversely Bob Hawke’s first ministry is considered by political historians to be arguably the most talented and successful ever. Hawke is said, as a leader, to have had a gift for delegation and listening.

Bob Hawke is also a Rhode Scholar with a Bachelor of Letters, Arts, Laws, Politics, Economics and Philosophy.

Lionel Bowen attended Cleveland Street public school, and became a solicitor.

John Button was educated at Geelong College and Melbourne University where he graduated in arts and law. He became a prominent barrister and solicitor.

Don Grimes was a medical practitioner in before entering parliament. Ralph Willis was Footscray Central School, University High School and Melbourne University, gaining a Bachelor of Commerce degree.

Paul John Keating left school at 14 with little formal education. Peter Alexander Walsh was a wheat and sheep farmer.

Bill Hayden was educated at Brisbane State High School and served as a policeman. He continued his education privately, completing an economics degree part-time.

Susan Ryan graduated from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Arts and has a Master of Arts from ANU. Gareth Evans attended Hawthorn West Central School, Melbourne High School and Melbourne University where he graduated with both a Bachelor of Arts and Laws. He also has a Master of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

John Dawkins was educated at Roseworthy Agricultural College gaining a Diploma in Agriculture, then at the University of Western Australia where he graduated in economics.

Mick Young attended Marist Brothers College in Sydney later working a shearer and roustabout before becoming an organiser with the AWU in South Australia. Gordon Glen Denton Scholes Was a heavyweight boxing champion.

John Kerin attended Bowral High School worked as a poultry farmer before later completing a BA from the University of New England.

Kim Beazley was educated at Hollywood Senior High School and the University of Western Australia where he obtained a BA AND a Master of Arts. Then on a Rhodes scholarship he graduated from Oxford with a Master of Philosophy.

Dr Neil Blewett was educated at Launceston High School and the University of Tasmania, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with Honors and a Diploma of Education. Blewett received a Rhodes scholarship and studied PPE at Jesus College, Oxford between 1957 and 1959 for a further BA (later converted to a Master of Arts He also obtained a DPhil in political science.

John Brown was educated at Christian Brothers College, St Patricks College and the University of Sydney.

Barry Cohen Cohen was educated at Griffith High School, Sydney Grammar and Sydney Technical School. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the ANA.

Clyde Holding was a lawyer. Brian Howe was educated at Melbourne High School and Melbourne University. He studied Theology in Chicago and became a minister.

Chris Hurford was an accountant. Barry Jones was educated at Melbourne High School and Melbourne University where he studied arts and law. He began his career as a schoolteacher.

Tom Uren attended Balmain High school was a successful sportsman and served in the Second World War before being captured and becoming a POW and working on the Burma railway.

We can see that Hawke’s Government also had a fair amount of paper flying around but if there is a defining difference it is in background, the earthiness of early beginnings, and attitude to governance.

The Abbott/Turnbull cabinets have acted with an ideological born to rule mentality whereas Hawke’s governed for the common good.

After four years as opposition leader Abbott came to power with no long-term agenda and immediately set about vindictively attacking the Labor Party and individuals within it with Royal Commissions that were calculated to hide its own inadequacies.

And after 18 months of appalling governance Abbott the then Prime Minister could not lay claim to any policy that has progressed the nation. His leadership was abysmal and his Ministers were found wanting with a litany of failures in, education, health, environment and the economy. Turnbull’s government has been no better.

Both Abbott/Turnbull governments had enough diplomas to staff a university, but both were so intent on implementing a warped right-wing ideology, with a baseless mandate, that they forgot that policies actually mattered. They governed with propaganda calculated to make you feel good about the wrongs being perpetuated on you.

By way of contrast Bob Hawke came to power the day Malcolm Fraser announced the 1983 election. He won in a canter and immediately called a national economic conference and reached an accord with the Unions.

He followed this up by deregulating the economy and forged a more flexible industry wages system. He sought and got consensus and trust from all sections of industry and the community.

And it was all achieved in a short space of time because he presented quality leadership, trust, an open mind, the ability to delegate responsibility to ministers (not control them) and a vision that the people understood. And it was all premeditated on what was good for the nation and not ideological imperatives formulated by the IPA and a born to rule mentality.

So whilst Miranda Devine might be correct in her assumption that the Abbott government was the most qualified in Australia’s political history, for me all the academic education in the world is no substitute for what life itself teaches us.

The Hawke ministry had brains but it also had what is so lacking in today’s politics. That being that Government should venture into philosophical possibilities outside one’s own ideology. Government for the common good. Government that believes in equality of opportunity and government that believes in an equitable share in the country’s wealth with everyone working for the same ideal.

When our voices are silent against unfair, deceitful and dishonest government we get what we deserve.

In the end it all comes back to quality of leadership. Abbott had none and Turnbull has been a great disappointment. He has been unable to change direction and is a carbon copy of the Abbott reign. All brain but no comprehension.

My thought for the day

“In the recipe of good leadership there are many ingredients. Popularity is but one. It however ranks far below getting things done for the common good.”

PS: Vote YES.

Day to Day Politics: Do qualifications matter in politics?


an unconscionable smelly turd...

Did he speak about climate change and the need for emissions reduction? No.  Did he speak about energy reliability?  No.  Did he speak about jobs?  No.  Did he speak about affordability?  No.  Did he speak about investment?  No.

“This is an opportunity for us to sharpen the difference with Labor on an issue which is of deep concern to the public, on a hip-pocket issue, where we can be on the side of voters and Labor is on the side of green extremists,” Abbott told Hadley. “We’ve got to change the debate.  Let Labor be the party of renewable energy and us the party of reliable energy”.

Ignoring the increasingly desperate cries from industry for some sort of certainty in energy policy, Abbott wants to play political games.  He doesn’t want consensus, he doesn’t want solutions.  He wants to run the same dishonest campaign that he did about the carbon price where even his own chief of staff admitted they deliberately lied for the sake of “brutal retail politics”.

Abbott contends that Australia risks de-industrialising our country “in our obsession to drive down emissions”.

He said he would have liked to scrap the RET altogether “but I had to deal with the Senate and I had to deal within a cabinet and, when you are the party leader, as opposed to a backbencher, you are inevitably a little more constrained.”

This pusillanimous pugilist wants us to renege on an international agreement that he himself signed up to and why?  So he can make it as hard as possible for Malcolm Turnbull and so he can attack Labor.  The best interests of the country don’t get a look in.

Abbott told Hadley his government was the only government in recent history to lower power prices when it repealed Labor’s carbon price.  He conveniently omits the fact that his government put up the price of everything, including power, by 10% when they introduced the GST, and that his Treasurer, Joe Hockey, wanted to increase it further to 15%.

For ten years, Tony Abbott has caused chaos in this country and business groups have had enough.  Everybody – business leaders, climate groups, investors, state governments – have pleaded for the Finkel review to be adopted to halt the freeze on investment in energy that continuing uncertainty has imposed.

Turnbull and Frydenberg’s impotence in implementing the expert advice that everyone except Abbott and his small but vocal band of bastards agree must happen, indicates that they too are more interested in politics than good governance.

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