'We need leadership'

The good ship Australia has run aground

Our last effective prime minister was John Howard who courageously introduced GST and gun control, the latter in response to the horrific Port Arthur shootings.

Grahame Leonard. Photo: Peter Haskin
Grahame Leonard. Photo: Peter Haskin

Australia, my Australia, your Australia and our Australia, the country and people regarded as the best and most fortunate in the world, is going down the gurgler.

Our elected governments are abandoning much of what we value to serve their short-term party political interests. Our politicalised public servants are following their example. Despite advances in technology, a one-size-fits-all solution is applied to most issues. This descent into leaderless mediocracy has been accelerating since the global financial crisis some 16 years ago.

Our last effective prime minister was John Howard who courageously introduced GST and gun control, the latter in response to the horrific Port Arthur shootings. The far-sighted and essential reforms enacted by the Hawke/Keating government of the early 1980s are a fading memory.

Why do I feel this way?

• Our intuitions have been seduced and infiltrated by foreign finance and ideology. As a result our universities are no longer safe places where all opinions are welcomed and civilly debated. Young Australians including school and tertiary students are being told that Australia is a racist country which abuses human rights. The failure of our education curriculums to provide young Australians with a balanced history of Australia and the world only exacerbates this situation.

• Entitlements and rights, not responsibility and accountability are the battle cries of the noisy disruptive minorities, often anonymously. Until our laws and regulations can catch up with social media, this is likely to continue unabated.

• Much of our unquestioning media simply accepts and repeats what is circulated by the many spin doctors without attempting to distinguish between facts and opinions. Encouraged by the media and contrary to the principles of Australia’s initial multicultural vision, partisan debates on overseas conflicts are infecting our daily lives. Too often journalists and commentators are unwilling or unable to distinguish between elected democratic governments, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organisations.

• Multiculturalism is being replaced by tribalism; part of the increasing trend towards fragmentation of our society. This is exacerbated by the unprecedented high level of immigration beyond our capacity to absorb and sustain. Our previously much admired settlement policies and practices which enabled the successful integration of large numbers of new Australians have failed to keep pace with the changed mix of more recent arrivals.

• Failure to enforce the core legal principles underpinning our society which have served Australia so well since federation. Examples include abandonment of the presumption of innocence as demonstrated in cases such as Cardinal Pell in Victoria and Bruce Lehrmann in ACT and the replacement of tested evidence by perception in the Higgins mediation and the Gobbo debacle in Victoria. These principles are our most important legacy from Britain.

• The absence of meaningful economic reforms since the introduction of the GST including lack of incentives to invest, results in a decline in our standards of living and an ever growing gap between the haves and have-nots. Many of our younger people are angry and lost following the covid pandemic which disrupted their social lives, education and careers. They feel our leaders are incapable of assisting them to reclaim their lives. The middle class, the core of Western democracy is being squeezed from our society. Experience elsewhere, particularly in the USA demonstrates that if this continues the lower economic groups will seek radical solutions. Only our mandatory voting system is keeping many Aussies involved.

What needs to happen? As a matter of urgency we, the silent majority, most of who voted no in the disastrous Voice referendum need to find our voice. During the balance of 2024 our elected leaders need be made to understand that the majority of Australians do not approve of what is happening to Australian values and way of life.

We must use all the democratic tools, including advocacy and letter writing, to our elected representatives and the media. The intent is for this to result in change, for a recognition of the strong linkage between morality and values, and for the necessary policies to preserve and celebrate Australia’s values and way of life to be formulated before the next federal election.

We need effective visionary leadership now.

Grahame Leonard is a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and a former Victorian multicultural commissioner.

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