Executive Diary

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One of my favourite writers is Geraldine Brooks who progressed from a humble newspaper journalist in Sydney to an international Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Her success reflects not only her storytelling but also her attention to detail as she researches her characters and their narrative.

Her current book The Secret Chord paints the life of King David – a figure of grand proportions in the stormy world of Middle Eastern kingdoms in 1000BC. David was successful in pulling together the diverse tribes of Israel, however, Brooks’ novel reveals the confronting flaws in the character of the man.

Coinciding with my exposure to David, a commentary piece appeared in The Australian newspaper reflecting on the achievements and flaws of Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. The reflection served to introduce an analysis of the challenges facing Prime Minister Turnbull. Separate commentary on Opposition leader Shorten provided a similar analysis. Whilst the domestic reflections on flaws and the use of power amount to less than a minor blip compared to Brooks’ analysis of David, it is timely to step back from the public debate, especially in an election year, and consider the nature of leadership we receive as a nation.

A key question could be how well do our political leaders balance the needs of the nation against the priority of re-election? Is self-interest the key determinant? Recent history suggests polling has been a major influence for both sides. It smells a bit of self-interest.

The focus on trade unions and their link to the Labor Party provides an interesting study. Was the Royal Commission established only for political reasons or was there a legitimate public policy question about unaccountable and unlawful exercise of power and influence in some unions?

Similarly, is the continuing focus on industry super funds part of the execution of an ideological strategy rather than a reform of superannuation? Is there a fair balance of reform zeal directed at retail funds?

Did the failed attempt to change financial advice regulation (including FoFA) and the subsequent watered-down level of consumer protection reflect the interests of the finance sector rather than provide a balance with the needs of consumers?

The current debate over retirement income has been poorly constructed with cuts to access increasingly reflecting political imperatives.

For David, elections were not an issue – rather it was the maintenance of power. Much was achieved. David was ruthless and used all means to remain in power. Thankfully that is not an option in our time. Judgement for our national leaders will come this year. Ensuring our leaders have the correct balance between maintaining power and providing leadership for the nation is something all should value and be engaged with.

A key element of National Seniors’ governance model is the role of member representatives on the Board Appointments Committee. A vacancy currently exists. Anyone interested should click here for details.

This article by National Seniors chief executive Michael O'Neill originally appeared in the December/January 2016 edition of 50 something magazine.

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