Maybe Malcolm can save us from our selves. Save us Malcolm, save us.
I try not to follow politics too closely. If I feel like engaging in a reality-television circus I’ll watch X-factor. The contestants are hotter.
It’s about strategic ignorance. I get panned for that a bit, but really, how much difference does it make? “Leadership tensions” are a total side-show to the job of making policy.
Still, my ears pricked up when I heard Malcolm Turnbull give his first speech as PM. I heard something different.
Now, I don’t know if Malcolm will be a good PM. I don’t know if he’s got the right set of policies to take the country forward. We’ll find out.
But what I heard was a very clear and very clever message. And it got me excited. Finally, I think we’ve got a PM who ‘gets it’.
As I said, I don’t know what his policies are, and I don’t know if they’re any good. But it seems to me that he truly gets what’s at stake, and he has a workable model for getting stuff done. This is new.
The keys lines that put a pop in my pants were these:
“The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative. We can’t be defensive, we can’t future-proof ourselves.
“We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility in change is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it.”
This is a radical departure from the framework that’s driven previous governments.
At its heart it’s a call to come out of the defensive bunkers we’ve dug ourselves into. Listen to that line: “We can’t future-proof ourselves.”
“Future-proofing” the economy, future proofing the pensions system, future-proofing the health system. It’s become a political cliché. But it’s a total statement of fear. ‘The future is scary, and we need to get our defences in place now so the future doesn’t kill us with its horrible claws and sharp teeth.’
But Turnbull’s right. It’s garbage. You can’t defensively prepare for the future. To survive and thrive you need to keep moving forward. You need to keep pace with the changing world around you. You need to be on the hunt for opportunities.
So it’s exciting for me that he goes gunning for this from day one. You can’t get locked down in a defensive mindset. It’s true for the individual and it’s true for the nation.
Politics in Australia had become the politics of fear, and the politics of protection. Abbott promised to protect us from boats and from a tax. Labor promised to protect us from Abbott.
And when we’re locked down in our bunkers, there’s no appetite for cooperation and working together. It’s everyone for themselves.
And I think Turnbull gets this. Because he’s worked in the real world. He knows that you need to motivate your staff to get stuff done. You can’t pander to their fears and insecurities and then expect them to come up with good work.
And so in his first speech he’s looking to recast the role of the Prime Minister away from “Protector in Chief” towards something of a CEO – the focal point of a collective vision, and a source of motivation.
“We need to have in this country and we will have now, an economic vision, a leadership that explains the great economic opportunities and challenges we face. [That] describes the way in which we can handle those challenges, seize those opportunities and does so in a manner that the Australian people understand so that we are seeking to persuade rather than seeking to lecture.”
This is a CEO mindset.
The Australian ship has been drifting for years. We stopped having a reason to exist. Our economy was the envy of the world. We enjoyed the best life-style on the planet. Our cricket teams defeated all-comers. We had nothing to work for. All we wanted was to hold on to what we had.
We became defensive.
But as any business knows now, you can’t stand still. “Disruption” is one of the most powerful forces in the economy today. The CEOs who find this terrifying aren’t CEOs for long.
And yet consumers and businesses are locked in a recessionary mindset. They’re not spending and they’re not investing.
Because for decades our leaders have encouraged us to feel scared.
If Turnbull can do nothing but turn this around, he will have given this country a fantastic gift. And I’m excited that that seems to be what he’s about.
“This will be a thoroughly Liberal government committed to freedom, the individual and the market. There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today and there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian.”
Exactly. These are wild and amazing times. Anything is possible. We should be reaching out to the future with both hands.
That vision, of where a talented and ingenious Australian population meets an incredible future is exciting. We should be excited. We should be totally pumped.
And maybe all it takes is for our leaders to stop selling us fear.
Hopefully, and finally, we’ve got a PM who gets it.
Of course this is just one speech, so we’ll see. How do you think Malcolm’s going to go?