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Fair go, mate!

By Sally Goldner - posted Tuesday, 18 December 2001

"Fair go!" That traditional Australian catch-cry seems all but lost in sea of us being the "Mean Country", to quote the title of a recent press article by Robert Manne. What was once a country that gave everyone a chance on their merits is now a divided nation where the arrogant, self-righteous and incompetent have taken over. The priority therefore desperately needs to be government for all Australians.

The recent spell of corporate collapses is an example of the incompetent. Take Ansett, for example. How any organisation apparently could fail to prepare a full set of financials for over 18 months is inexcusable. Australia needs desperately to find business leadership who can balance the detail with the need for growth and sound administration rather than pursue one or the other. We also need leadership for tomorrow rather than yesterday. Like it or not, the snake-oil cowboy tactics of the ’70s are useless. It is these tactics that led to HIH and One-Tel's downfall. Management need more than just MBAs that are advanced number-crunching degrees: we need to find the true all-rounders with commonsense and balanced judgment.

We also need business and political leadership that can humanely and ethically balance people and dollar signs; balance the qualitative and the quantitative, rather than swinging from extreme to extreme. Our banks and telephone companies are the prime example of this. We've been fed nonsense that Australia is now more competitive because we've cut overheads. Rubbish. Cutting overheads doesn't make us more competitive. Only improving the quality of service does. Given the lack of service from our banks and phone companies, they couldn't compete overseas for 10 minutes before they were laughed out of business. The solution is a genuine commitment to staff, customers and the public as people to be treated with dignity and respect.


Australians, whether they realise it or not, have wised up to this fiction about competitiveness. The protests about suburban and rural bank closures and rural telecommunication services are the evidence of this. It's why voting patterns are more volatile as Australians desperately search for something better. Ultimately, those business leaders and politicians, who through the stubborn arrogance of ego refuse to take a more balanced approach to leadership will find themselves stripped of their titles.

Ego in the form of self-righteousness needs to go as well. When bank management tell customers they are whingeing minority and forget that those people pay their salary, when politicians tell our Indigenous people that it was a figment of their imagination they were separated from their families because of their skin colour and when the same politicians tell gays and lesbians they make a choice when the clear evidence is otherwise, we have poor-quality self-righteousness taking over. The truth about humans having two ears and one mouth so we would listen twice as much as we talk is now at its most relevant for those in high office. Work constructively, respectfully and together with people and we all benefit; work divisively and everyone loses. There's nothing magical about any of this - as the title says, it's about balance and ... a fair go, mate.

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