As global voter discontent spreads to Australia, is Turnbull up to the job?

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Will Turnbull be up to leading the pack? (Cartoon by John Graham)

If we are to generate a vision and good strategies on how to move ahead in our complex and ever-changing environment, we need leadership from the top. Paul Budde, telecommunications analyst, addresses the issue.

OVER THE last couple of years, when speaking of the many opportunities that the digital, sharing and interconnected industry has to offer us, I have addressed the issue of leadership from our political leaders. If we are to generate a vision and good strategies on how to move ahead in our complex and ever-changing environment we need leadership from the top.

Good governance requires good leadership, and there are plenty of good leaders in our politicised world. However the trouble has been that of polarisation — particularly over the last decade. It has become the practice to shoot down the ideas of anyone who follows a different political "religion".

Significant sections of the press, who used to be more or less neutral messengers in decades past, have now also become active players in the sphere of politics. As most of them are becoming desperate to sell more newspaper, radio and television advertising, rather than providing objective news and informed analyses, they now prefer to fuel discontent, anger, fear, uncertainty and doubt that always sells.

Furthermore, over the last 20 to 30 years, it has been the middle class that has been hollowed out by globalisation and conservative neo-liberal politics, and a large part of this disenfranchised middle group has now joined the people who eternally sit at the bottom 20 per cent of society who are always the victims of whatever happens.

This makes effective leadership far more difficult as a very large section of the population now clearly is discontented and no longer trust their political leaders.

The resulting polarisation favours conservative rather than progressive policies and politicians and this is what brought us Trump, Brexit, Le Pen and others in most of the western democracy countries.

Interestingly, we don’t have the same problems at a city level. In general terms cities are far less polarised and there is a greater willingness to do what is best for the community rather than what is best for politics. Across the world, much more effective leadership is coming from cities and state governments than from federal governments.

On a federal level, we also need better leadership, based on doing things for the community and for the benefit of all, rather than for pure political reasons. So perhaps it is better to include the term "effective" as well as "good" leadership. I remain convinced that good federal leadership is needed to get us out of this morass, but that leadership needs to reverse some of the inequality that has crept in over those decades. As voters across the western world are indicating there is a great need to stop hollowing out the middle and lower income groups and create a better sharing of the economic gains we have made over that period.

The outcome of this type of absentee leadership will be more social unrest, inequality and hatred against whoever become the victims, and as a result it is more likely that countries led by such populist policies will slide further down this slippery slope. There have already been "Kristallnacht" events against "foreigners" in some of the British cities and villages.

You might want to argue about whether it is economically right or wrong for Britain to leave the EU, but the real reason for Brexit is anger, hate, lack of good leadership. It is not based on any social or economic rationales. The reality is that this is a disastrous outcome in the struggle to develop a cohesive economy. In my view, if a society is not cohesive it cannot be a global player or an economic powerhouse.

Also, Brexit goes against the global trend towards further global integration.

Interestingly, around the western world we see people being forced by political rhetoric to decide between one extreme and the other. This more or less 50/50 split could also be interpreted as indicating that parties will have to find some middle ground rather than demonising each other.

So back to leadership ….. yes, leaders will have to come up with a vision for their city/state/country that represents "the national interest". They need to win the support of the people through engagement, information and education, not through election rhetoric and untenable promises. Our ICT industry, with its strong grassroots links, can most certainly play a key role in this process.

We all know that this is not an easy issue, but if good leaders emerge who can earn the trust of the people, come up with good ideas and who take the people with them, then there is no reason to think that we cannot move back to better government and better governance. However, we can’t let this slide much further, otherwise the way back will become much more difficult.

Many of our cities are now showing great examples of how we, together, can move towards improved lifestyle and economic prospects and, in general terms, happiness, and worldwide we see that cities are increasingly taking on a greater role in governing society, together with its people.

Paul Budde is the Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication Pty Limited, trading as BuddeComm (www.budde.com.au), an independent telecommunications research and consultancy organisation. You can also follow Paul on Twitter @paulbudde.

This article was originally published on BuddeCom and is republished with permission.

Cartoon by John Graham. You can buy this cartoon original from the IA store here. You can also follow John on Twitter @JohnGrahamart.

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