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Friday, June 09, 2006

The Nature of Leadership - or lack of it.

I had cause to write recently of the lack of Leadership in Australia. That was during John Howard's recent visit to Washington, U.S.A. As it turns out, John Howard appears to have been taking his latest set of instructions from the Power Brokers in Washington. Shortly afterwards, he flew to Ontario, spoke with the new, and inexperienced, Canadian PM, Mr Stephen Harper. As I wrote on 18 May, I was sure he would be carrying a special message for Mr Harper, from the Americans. Subsequently, on 3 June 2006, Mr Harper "discovered" a terrorist cell in Toronto - and just in time too, it seems. The politics of fear has been spread, by a true believer, to another country.

Meanwhile, John Howard, however, had safely flown home, and discovered that while he had been away, Australians had apparently changed their minds on the need for a nuclear reactor industry to be developed in Australia. When did that happen? While he was in Washington, obviously. Of course it did!

Australia has had a State-run electricity industry, until relatively recently (the electricity delivery systems have been privatised, into small component parts). However, historically, only the State Governments (with the Federal Government helping in the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme) have had the capital to develop the huge electrical generating schemes. During my childhood, the entire Latrobe Valley system in Victoria was developed by the "SEC" (State Electricity Commission). It remains a nasty polluting industry, based upon burning the vast reserves of low-efficiency Brown Coal. But it started as a Government facility.

The Australian population

In this day of economic rationality (so called) any future capital raising for a new electricity generating scheme will certainly be privately funded. So, John Howard, by raising this topic now, can "privatise" a whole new industry without being seen to take it from public ownership, because it has never been in existence. It is the last great "resource" which he can "sell off to his mates", without selling anything. He could simply "give it away" without any accusation of selling off the nation's assets (unlike the case with the Snowy, or Telstra, or, or, or). Yet we Australians will be paying for it for ever, and ever, Amen.

If I were a cynic, I would suggest that John Howard, who has been notoriously "frugal" in his personal financial arrangements, might be interpreted as acting as if he had suddenly realised the need for his own private "retirement fund". What better strategy could the reader develop than to sell a brand new Australian Nuclear Power industry to the world's most powerful multinational corporations? Sell something which does not yet exist. Wonderful. Once that task has been instituted, according to this "theory", John Howard would almost certainly retire. But he would be secure in the knowledge that he might have earned the undying gratitude of huge multinational corporations, such as Westinghouse, General Electric, etc.

Howard knows his time as "leader" is limited. Costello's forces are gathering their power-base to demand a transition to their man. That fact alone could explain the sudden haste in the "Nuclear Debate" which has been invented, and thrust upon us so suddenly.

So, back to the issue of Leadership. Howard is again following his favourite script of saying that public opinion has changed. As I said on 16 May, that is the same as saying: "I am the leader of my people - I will follow them anywhere". Michael Leunig's Mr Curly graphically follows the star hanging from the tip of his own hat. It is the same concept - a total perversion of what Leadership is really about.

So, as yourself these questions:
(A) did you change your opinion on nuclear energy, in the last 3 weeks?
(B) were you or any of your friends asked if you had changed your opinion?
(C) was anyone asked these questions?
(D) is the whole "debate" a fraud on the Australian public?

"You might very well say that: I could not possibly say that" - Francis Urquhart - House of Cards. BBC TV

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