Who should lead a nation?

There are two types of leaders: boring administrators and inspirational heroes.

Who would you prefer to lead your country?

Personally, I want a boring administrator to lead my nation. Boring administrators fulfill the role of a national leader, which is to essentially ensure that schools are funded, rubbish is collected, hospitals are staffed and trains run on time. It’s a boring job, best performed by boring people. Politicians are public servants and the highest ranking politician in the land is the highest ranking public servant in the land. A highly-paid and famous public servant, but still a public servant.

Unfortunately, too many world leaders have forgotten this, and have succumbed to the temptation to be seen as strong, charismatic, brave heroes.

Politicians do paperwork. Ultimately, that is their job. They review current policies regarding public services. They draft new policies and negotiate to have them implemented. Politicians on all sides of the political spectrum will strive to have their world view reflected in policy, but ultimately all of them are administrators.

That’s not to say politicians are boring per se. They can be as exciting and interesting as they want in their free time. They can front alternative rock bands, make funky art, do extreme sports or whatever they want, as long as they remember that when they are performing their role as a politician, they are supposed to be boring.

Brave, inspirational, strong and charismatic leaders struggle to combine substance with their style.

Donald Trump epitomises style over substance. His substantial fortune funded a slick public relations campaign which won him the election and kept him in office. He deliberately positioned himself as a strong, charismatic leader making bold statements to persuade impressionable voters to elect him. It worked. He even coined the phrase ‘Fake News’ to drown out the voices of reason, the voices of the boring administrators who offered the electorate statistics, facts and objective information gleaned from the boring paperwork they had done in their role as public servants. Trump reigned as a populist leader who was apparently strong and brave, and did nothing to serve the public. If you vote for strong leaders, you risk creating another Trump.

In Mexico some years ago, people vowed to vote for Enrique Pena Nieto because he is ‘muy guapo’, or very good looking. Perhaps not the best reason to vote for a president. It worked, though, and he became president, but few people would nominate Mexico as a land of public service efficiency.

Leaders such as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Boris Johnson in the UK and Scott Morrison in Australia have also fallen into the Trump trap. They posit themselves as strong, courageous leaders who can improve and protect their country, but forego the boring administrative tasks required of a leader.

Scott Morrison is called ‘Trump Lite’ and famously displayed his organisational incompetence during the recent Australian bushfire crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and the damaging floods. A boring administrator would have saved many Australian plants and animals, homes and people’s lives.

Morrison also makes endless statements claiming to ‘stand up to’ fellow world leaders in times of crisis. He famously attacks China when his popularity wanes and pretends to be courageous towards the emerging superpower. The statements increase his popularity among gullible, impressionable voters (and the racists) who demand inspirational, brave leaders, but they are not the wise words of a skilled administrator addressing the country’s largest trading partner. A boring administrator would treat China appropriately, and protect Australia’s economy and exports.

Brave, strong charismatic leaders often need an enemy. They will often create one to appear strong, and this can manifest as real life conflict.

Morrison’s predecessor also succumbed to popularism. Former prime minister Tony Abbott flaunted his impressive muscular physique honed through daily exercise, and implied that it was central to his ability to run the country. Yes, it was impressive for a man of his age, but do you need a six pack to manage tax rates? He also promised to shirt-front Vladimir Putin at a world leader’s summit, before eventually shaking his hand and smiling. Not only did he fail to deliver his promise, he also placated voters who expect a leader to be physically strong and brave, rather than boring and intelligent. He also forgot that you can’t shirt-front someone who never wears a shirt.

Putin is himself a strong, charismatic leader. He poses endlessly in photos boasting of his physical virility and prowess. He portrays himself as a strong leader and he eventually believed his own hype. Experts attribute his invasion of Ukraine to his ego, and his desperation to be seen as a strong leader, in the vein of a conqueror determined to restore the glory of Russia and the former Soviet Union. If you vote for strong leaders, you run the risk of creating another Putin.

Strong leaders keep us safe.

This is a popular belief and refrain. Proponents point to leaders like Winston Churchill as examples of charismatic and brave leaders who protected a nation during times of war. Yes, a brave leader might guide us through a war, making rousing speeches of courage and resilience, vowing to face the enemy anywhere at any time, even on the beaches. But a skilled administrator, a boring public servant, could prevent us from going to war in the first place.

“She’s got no balls.”

You’d hope not, because then she wouldn’t be a she – but that’s a different discussion. The quote comes from an acquaintance discussing candidates in an upcoming local election, made in reference to the incumbent female representative. The conservative, middle-aged man believed the woman wasn’t strong, brave, confident or aggressive enough to lead their region.

Why?

They didn’t say. They just believed she had no balls. Clearly they expected a leader with as much style as substance, perhaps even more of the former. They didn’t want a boring public servant.

Media darlings

Modern politicians must exist within the modern media landscape. They must present well and this will force all of them to consider ‘optics’ before and during their political term. However, many politicians prioritise optics too greatly and neglect their duties. Only voters can prevent leaders from concentrating too heavily on optics and instead force them to dedicate themselves to their work.

Next time you consider who to vote for in an election, ask yourself:

Does charisma staff hospitals?

Does charisma care for the elderly?

Does charisma improve children’s literacy?

Does charisma make the trains run on time?

Does charisma keep wages high?

Does charisma create employment?

Also remember this:

Boring politicians do their job and let us get on with our lives.

Boring politicians are not noticed, except when they make mistakes. When the trains don’t run on time, hospitals are understaffed, school children are left without teachers and roads are full of potholes, politicians are noticed. They shouldn’t be. They should administer our nations and regions and remain in the background.

Boring politicians avoid the headlines. Boring politicians resist the lure of fame, they ignore the temptation of the perfect soundbite or witty retort at their opponents.

Boring politicians are more efficient. Thus, you spend less time dealing with their departments, and more time enjoying your own life.

Image: Aditya Joshi

LNP destroys highly-paid occupation.

The Liberal National Party (LNP) is being blamed for killing off one of Australia’s most lucrative careers after it forced fossil fuel lobbyists out of work.

“The LNP is the fossil fuel lobby,” stated a representative of the resources industry.

“We don’t need lobbyists advocating on our behalf in Canberra anymore.”

Fossil fuel lobbyists were until recently a common feature of Parliament House, and sought meetings with politicians on all sides to persuade them to create policies favourable to activities such as coal mining, natural gas and coal seam gas extraction. The lobbyists were highly-skilled operators who earned substantial salaries courtesy of the enormous profits of resource companies. They also represented some of the most influential people in Australia such as Gina Rinehart and Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest.

That has all changed.

“All of our lobbyists were given substantial redundancy payments in recognition of their valuable contribution to our cause, and invited to seek alternative employment, because the LNP is now firmly under the control of the fossil fuel industry,” continued the spokesperson.

“Politicians from Morrison down now take orders directly from Gina and Twiggy.”

Experts suggest the LNP became a branch of the fossil fuel industry when Tony Abbott became Prime Minister. It wavered slightly under Malcolm Turnbull, and has strengthened under Scott Morrison. Many claim the close relationship started during the era of John Howard, like so many of Australia’s current ills.

“Tony is a great advocate for coal,” the spokesperson explained. “He is so committed to coal that he rode his bike all over the country to promote coal mining, and Matt Canavan is another disciple. Others like Keith Pitt and Angus Taylor are also devoted to fossil fuels, so any LNP member who is not will never be heard.”

“That said, it’s not just the LNP who have made lobbyists redundant. Joel Fitzgibbon is under the thumb of coal, and Labor as a whole will not commit to ruling out coal as an energy source. If Labor do manage to win the next federal election, our lobbyists may be called upon gain, but as of now, the job of the fossil fuel lobbyist is done.”

As for the plight of the lobbyists themselves:

“One of our former lobbyists has seen the writing on the wall, and last I heard he was working for a solar energy company.”

Image: Mark Nolan

Tony Abbott: ‘Let Drug Addicts Die.’

Former Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott has demanded that all drug addicts in Australia be refused medical treatment or rehabilitation and be left to die.

Abbott made the comments after also calling for an end to COVID-19 restrictions, which would likely result in the deaths of many elderly Australians but would open up the economy.

“Nobody is forced to take drugs,” Abbott announced from London, where he is set to advise the UK government on matters of trade.

“Anyone who is proven to have taken illicit drugs, or even taken an excessive amount of prescription medication, should be left to die. We should stop offering medical treatment and rehabilitation services to these people because they are damaging Australia.”

Abbott then explained why he had taken this stance, even after attracting a lot of criticism for his comments regarding elderly Australians.

“People take drugs by choice and they put themselves in a position to die or fall seriously ill, and it is their fault if they die. Admittedly, some people may turn to drugs after experiencing significant trauma, such as fighting in wars which politicians instigate, but you can’t tell me those young kids popping pills at music festivals are suffering trauma.”

“Illicit drug use and the drug trade cause enormous damage to Australian society. Taxpayers fund rehabilitation, training and housing services for addicts, so letting them die would boost the nation’s economy. Drug use tears families apart and takes food off the table. What’s more, we know drug addicts can often be found in prison and on the unemployment lines.”

Critics of Abbott’s proposal pointed out that letting drug addicts die would leave some children without parents, to which he replied,

“Addicts are rarely good parents.”

The former national leader also claimed that refusing to provide medical treatment to drug addicts would free up ambulances and hospital beds for other people in need of these services, including the victims of drug-related crimes or accidents.

“Refusing to treat drug addicts at medical facilities should reduce our overall health budget and allow us to spend money in other areas.”

“As a nation, we devote so much time, money and effort to rehabilitation services, but we know that most addicts don’t quit taking drugs.”

Abbott would not be drawn on whether he supports the decriminalisation of illicit drugs. Proponents argue that this would reduce the crime associated with drug dealing turf wars. Drugs would be decriminalised but rehabilitation services would be scrapped entirely, and the money currently spent on rehab would be redirected to extra police in order to combat the subsequent rise in crime from drug addicts desperate to fund their next hit.

It is not clear whether Abbott suggested the move in order to help reduce the world’s populations, as overpopulation is the biggest problem currently facing the planet. As a conservative politician and staunch capitalist, Abbott would generally favour a large population which contributes to continued economic growth.

The Australian government has so far distanced itself from Abbott’s comments, and this latest controversy may explain why he was sent to England.

Image: Mark Nolan, Getty Images