Where have you gone Australian leadership, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you

I’m calling this.

Time of death: 3pm Friday 22 March 2013.

We have a cricket team led by Watson and a country led by Gillard. In the words of Marvin Gaye (no, not that bit about needing sexual healing), “What’s going on?”

These are the two roles we used to believe were the highest in the land, the ones that children were taught to aspire to.

Regardless of your political persuasion and interest in cricket, these were the big roles.

Menzies, Curtin, Chifley, Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard.

Bradman, Woodfull, Benaud, Chappell I and G, Border, Taylor, Waugh, Ponting.

Now, we have both roles held by people who effectively have them because no one else is available or wants it, neither is supported by key aspects of their own team, and potentially stay in the role due to the lack of a suitable alternative.

One spits the dummy, talks about considering their future in the sport and bags officialdom.

The other relies on minorities to stay in power, has to seek constant reassurance that they actually hold the job they have and lost significant internal and public support yesterday.

When did these roles with such large shoes to fill get occupied by such pygmies?

This isn’t a political commentary on policy; however whatever you think of the individual, the office of PM should be a little more dignified at present.

In the cricket world, Watson’s untried leadership will be put to test working with a coach he doesn’t respect in a series already decided, on spinning pitches our spinners can’t turn on, and playing for a trophy named for two giants of the game whose drinks he isn’t fit to lace.

It’s hard to see who has the bigger job currently and who faces a more difficult period between now and the end of September.

Meanwhile, the season of AFL kicks off with one club who are proven salary cap cheats and another under investigation to confirm what they injected their players with when their season went pear shaped in 2012.

This is turning me into a grumpy old man. I blame the internet, the rise of text messaging, the supermarket duopoly and its impact on milk prices, as well as a departure from good old fashioned manners.

I weep for the future.

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.


  1. When Shane Watson is fit and can bowl, he’s the first guy you’d pick. Without the bowling, he should be 20th in the queue. How the selectors have messed this up is stupefying. Indeed, have me ever had a period where so many bewildering selections have been made? Inverarity and co must go. As for the ALP? Geez, they’re handing it to Abbott on a platter. It’s gonna be a long 4 years

  2. Errgh, the thought of Abbott on the victory dais flanked by Christopher Whine and Bishop has me dry retching.

  3. The thought of Abbott is even appealing to me, JD. Shows you just how bad our current government are!
    Agree with you Sean, hoping the return of the footy tonight ( I won’t mention the current state of the AFL ) may prove a wonderful new focus for the coming months.
    Go Saints!!

  4. mickey randall says

    WE couldn’t do worse with a job swap. Gillard bats at 3 and bowls some faintly intimidating offies. Watson surely more effective for his country in Question Time.

  5. Rick Kane says

    I completely reject the Gillard summation. In the 3 years she has led the country, what has she done wrong? Really? Here’s the view from the UK:


    If anything, she has stood her ground firmly and with authority, while two of the greatest dummy-spitters we have seen, Rudd and Abbott, go about their grubby business of attempting to undermine her. In shallow and spiteful and deceitful ways. Her success is that she has held a minority government together, managed the economy very impressively judged against OECD countries and passed a record number of Bills.

    On the same day the ALP went the fistless fistycuffs with each other the Abbott, PM in waiting was embarrassing the nation in a speech which was supposed to be part of the nation’s apology to children taken from their mothers between 1950 and 1970. He was rightly booed by the audience and had to apologise himself. Not our PM. No, Gillard apologised for the nation behaviour and policy, with grace and humility. That’s a leader. History will prove her record as PM proud.

    So sorry, the Gillard/Watson comparison does not hold. Read the Guardian report again.


  6. I’m with you Rick. We are a land full of whinging sheep that treat the News Ltd hysteria and propaganda as if it were actually news.

  7. Good premise of bad leadership.
    Ridiculous comparisons.
    Watson is vice-captain and deputising for an injured skipper.
    Where’s Mark Doyle when I need him?
    Not sure The Guardian’s backed a winner since Arthur Scargill!

  8. Peter Flynn says

    Where’s Stephen Dank?

  9. busy with rhyming slang

  10. Skip of Skipton says

    What has she done wrong? Are you fucking serious or just shit-stirring? Quoting from the biggest Left Wing-Useful Idiot shitrag in the English speaking world, I’m guessing you are just having a troll. I hope so.

  11. Let us know what you really think Skip!

  12. Skip of Skipton says

    Mark Doyle didn’t answer the call, so someone had to step in and call ‘bullshit’, crio.

    I like Norzita tomorrow (today). I’m not tipping it, but I will back up on Havana in the Todman at huge odds.

  13. wrong page for race chat!
    The point here, though, is valid… what do we expect from, and what respect should we thus offer, our leaders?
    “Embarrassing” seems to be a comment currently applied to this week’s cricket and Lodge incumbents.

  14. Rick Kane says

    I was serious when I asked the question, what has she done wrong. So, tell me please. List the things that Gillard has done wrong. Start with the asylum seeker policy because we’ll probably agree. But then imagine what an alternative govt would have done. It doesn’t justify Labor and Gillard’s policy. That was and is rank. I didn’t pose the question in the first place, from a stand point that Gillard was perfect. Far from it. However, in the current circumstances she has done as good as I could expect. Even with bad decisions and policies. I was reacting to an article that appeared to deride her performance as leader completely. And I don’t agree with that assessment.

    And why the vitriol for The Guardian? I don’t get it. Even if you dislike it (what would you nominate as a better ‘rag’ in the UK then?) so what. The article in The Guardian was the point not the news organ itself.

  15. Rick

    My point was more about leadership, perception and the status of the office they hold. I believe that the dignity that both high offices should hold is disappearing, for a variety of reasons, and that is sad.

    I am not a Julia fan clearly but am not skilled enough to have a politcal debate on policy, and I admire and respect the passion with which you defend her.

    But, would you accept that, even if not of her doing and regardless of her record, that the office she holds has been tarnished by what occurred this week.

    I can accept that about half the population at most elections wants the other candidate, and if polls are to be believed, her figure is dramatically less than that currently. And, I accept that there are flaws with the other contender.

    However, when the PM is having to constantly seek reassurance from her own party colleagues that she is the person to hold that office, I believe her leadership, possibly through no fault of her own, suffers.

    Yes, we are talking about running a country not deciding whether to have a man at short leg. and Watson is a buffoon: spoilt, petulant and rewarded with the highest honour someone in his profession can hold, a week after suspension.

    But both offices, previously respected and highly sought after, have been tarnished by the actions of the incumbents this week, and that’s a pity.


  16. Dave Nadel says

    Sean this last post doesn’t make sense. If the position of Prime Minister was tarnished this week it was by Rudd’s pathetic display of pulling on a leadership challenge and then dogging it in the last moment. Gillard’s call for a leadership ballot was not seeking reassurance, it was a tactic to put Rudd and his supporters on the back foot and worked like a charm. I would have thought Gillard shared wth Howard, Keating and Whitlam an absolute conviction that they were the best person for the job. I don’t agree with all the things they did (I hardly agree with anything Howard did) but I would consider them all strong leaders. Which, incidently doesn’t make them great leaders. Bob Menzies and Bob Hawke were both much better at compromising without appearing to backflip and were more popular with more people than Whitlam, Keating, Howard. But Whitlam in three years (two really because he was in trouble in his third) got through more of Labor’s agenda than Hawke did in eight. Howard in his ten years passed more right wing policies than Mernzies did in 17. I think that is strong leadership.

    Historians will note that Gillard actually acheived a lot of her objectives, despite having the background noise of Rudd’s constant challenges, despite having to face a constant misogynistic jabber from shock jocks, Liberal politicians and a lot of men who are too stupid to accept the legitimacy of a female politician and despite having had to face a biassed campaigning Murdoch press. Gillard is not popular and will lose the next elections. I am very disappointed with her asylum seekers policy (which is why I will be voting Green). But to be fair she will leave a pretty good legacy on climate change, Disability reform and (hopefully) Education.

    I don’t think that office of Prime Minister has been tarnished. I may think differently next year after we have had some months of Abbott. On the other hand I agree with you about Watson.

  17. Mark Doyle says

    This is an ignorant and illinformed essay on leadership and the opinion is probably formed by the garbage Australian media, especially the ABC, the Murdoch and Fairfax organisations. Julia Gillard has been a reasonably good Prime Minister, except for her government’s continued inhumane social policies concerning refugees and the welfare payment intervention policy concerning aboriginal people. The Australian media also reflects the attitude of Australian society which is anti-feminist and anti-intellectual. The only decent media political commentators are Lara Tingle and George Megaleonis. Most of the media buffoons are only capable of writing or talking about trivial matters such as Gillard’s marital status or some mickey mouse opinion poll. Australian society has also developed a culture of apathy and complacency because most of us are financially well-off and live in a country that is socially and politically stable. This apathy and complacency has also allowed the bureaucratic organisations of the political parties to exclude their members and the public from policy debate and also to con the public into blindly accepting a party preference recommendation by voting ‘above the line’.
    The probable election of a liberal government with taliban Tony Abbott as pm will have little affect on our lives except that Abbott will continue the Howard government policy of privatising the public education system by stealth. National governments have very little influence on economic policy because of economic globalisation where economic policy is determined by multinational companies.
    The comments about Shane Watson’s cricket leadership are also ingnorant and illinformed and the comment that the position of Australian cricket captain is one of the highest in the land is nonsense.

  18. Peter Fuller says

    She isn’t constantly seeking reassurance of her colleagues. Every organisation has people in subordinate positions who think they could do the job better than the person running the show. This is amplified in an ego-driven and highly public activity like politics, where even the people on the sidelines (the press gallery) think of themselves as players. Since she’s been elected leader, there have been three instances where KR has had an opportunity to test his support. The one occasion on which it was measured, the result was 71-31. Twice KR has been unwilling to put the assessment of his colleagues to the test.

    Since the PM’s motives are constantly impugned, any action or decision is viewed with a warped perspective. She is managing the minority administration (which is the outcome of the collective wisdom of the voters) with considerable skill, in the teeth of trenchant opposition, within and outside Parliament. The evidence is plenty of desirable policy (I acknowledge the value judgment in the adjective). The carbon price, the NDIS, the mining tax, paid parental leave, and better targetted welfare are a few examples.

    That some of these have been watered down is a consequence of the finely balanced numbers in Parliament. That some policy proposals have not been implemented (e.g. media policy, pokies’ restrictions) is unsurprising given the histrionic (and I would argue grossly distorted) campaigns by those with a vested interest.

    I note that Skip has left his critique rhetorical. That seems to be the problem. Her detractors think it’s enough to assert bad Government, worst Government in the nation’s history; it’s impossible to respond to these claims beyond saying “I disagree”, unless some specifics are advanced.

  19. When you’re a party that’s just called an election, a leadership spill at the 11th hour – and one that was aborted at its own 11th hour – is highly embarrassing. This is not a perception, it is a reality. I reckon Sean is right on the money about how farcical it played out this week. Coz that’s what it was: farcical. To think otherwise is thinking otherwise … whatever the hell that is.

  20. It is interesting that many of the critisicms of the piece (which I embrace and respect) point to the Prime Minister’s successful track record.

    Whether that is the case or not (and the country gets to make their call on that this year), I reiterate that the office of the PM has been tarnished. There’s a distinction between the person holding that role (always temporarily) and the office itself (which continues regardless of the incumbent.

    That diminution may actually have nothing to do with the PM herself, however I feel that some dignity as been lost from the office of leader of this country. This is not about on which side of politics you fall, or whether the alternative is a good one or the potential death of our nation.

    Take Julia Gillard out of this, her gender, circumstances of her rise to the position, and everything. Forget the media, as Thursday last was fact, not opinion. The stark truth for me is that many people do not respect the Offfice she happens to hold, regardless of their opionions of her.

    Watson might be VC, might be a good bloke and yes, the idea that his role is the second most important is an anecdote from the Steve waugh and John Howard days that frankly, many readers have got themselves tied up in knots about.

    Chill out guys, save the opinons for tweeting Q&A.

    In my opinion, the status, dignity and stature of the highest office in the land has been diminished through a variety of actions, which overall, cheapens the country.

    Watson’s appointment is equally poor. The coincide in the same week, was to me, telling.


  21. Gillard, Abbott, Rudd, Bishop, Conroy, Oakeshott…..a plague on your various houses. If any of you are leaders, I no longer wish to be a follower.

    Cricket, however, is another thing. It is probably not Watson’s fault that he was captain for this Test. The reams of paper and megabytes of data devoted to his shortcomings prior to this Test have covered the field. Suffice to say that he appeared not to enjoy universal support from Australian cricket supporters prior to Clarke’s injury. What has he done since his meteoric rehabilitation? I offer you bringing on Lyon too late in the first dig, out to an appalling and irresponsible shot in the second (there was variable bounce; who would have thought?). The biggest sin, and the pall is cast widely, was to preside over the unwelcome return of the gobby, boorish Australian cricketer. Not much in evidence while being comprehensively outplayed in the first 3 Tests, there it was in all of its uncouth, embarrassing splendour when there was a whiff of equality, if not dominance, in this match.

    I feel for Nathan Lyon, who strikes me as a decent soul – poorly treated by being dropped for the last Test, it’s a wonder that he survived at all given the selectors’ apparent view that Doherty is not only a spin bowler but a better one than he – but to have to front a press conference and defend the behaviour (along the lines of ‘we play it hard, we know where the line is and we respect it), seemed manifestly unfair. Get the gobby captain, or the voluble Warner to do that job. Oh, that’s right, neither of them did anything worth mentioning over 4 innings and they may have been asked s
    Ightly tricky questions about their own performance.

    It’s a good job our Kiwi cousins are doing a little number on the English, or we may be deafened by the laughter.

  22. Dave Nadel says

    I’d prefer not to discuss politics on the Almanac site, but your comments, Sean, leave me no choice.

    Firstly, you seem to think that the Prime Minister is a head of state like the American President. S/He is not. S/He is the leader of the party which has won the election. You cannot remove a US President without a complicated impeachment process involving Congress. A Prime Minister can be removed when s/he loses the confidence of the party room. That’s what happened to Rudd in 2010, Hawke in 1991 and on the Liberal side of politics, Gorton in 1971.

    Secondly, do you really think that Thursday’s shenanigans tarnished the office of the Prime Minister more seriously than the events of November 1975?

    What about some of the occupants of the office? Do you really think Gillard, Rudd or even Abbott could tarnish the office more than our first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, who was widely known as Tosspot Toby because of his alcoholism? Or John Gorton, who when sober was one of the more creative and progressive Liberal Prime MInisters but when in his cups was known to make crude and inappropriate passes at young women? How about Harold Holt, whose hero-worshipping of President Lyndon Johnson was a national embarrassment? Or Sir Robert Menzies and his fawning over the young Queen Elizabeth which probably embarrassed her as much as it embarrassed many Australians? In the interests of balance I could also mention Paul Keating’s use of language which often added little dignity to the office he held or Jimmy Scullin’s total paralysis during the Great Depression!

  23. Dave

    We’ll call it a draw. I agree we should go back to sport on these pages. It’s been a fun and hearty debate though, and I’ve loved the back and forth and passion shown. I stand by the piece but have been open to the history lessons from those wiser than I.

    Michael makes some very good points on Watson. Bought back into the team, rewarded with captaincy, he delivers a return to ugly sledging, (when we had no reason to feel as though we were on top), and a shocking brain fade of a shot.

    Maxwell to open, when we had nearly three days to go and a slight lead?

    Thank god the tail can bat. I imagine they’ll be feeling as though they have to make the runs and take the wickets. Cowan demoted by the very man who covets his spot, then shows them all up as he has all tour, by putting a value on his wicket, as Starc, Lyon and Siddle did. Learn from that Watto


  24. Bad government is usually the result of big government.

    Big technical flaws are usually the catalyst for bad cricket.

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