OUR FUTURE AUSTRALIAN LEADERS?
By Sasha Uzunov
The Occupy Wall Street movement and its Australian franchise have generated fear and criticism from leading commentators but if history or human nature is any guide, then we could see a future Australian Prime Minister or state Premier emerge from that movement in the years to come.
We all know Winston Churchill’s famous quote that if a man was not a socialist by the age of 17 and a conservative by 40 then there was something wrong.
However, we now live in the “era of eclectica.” This means that old labels of left wing, right wing are no longer accurate. We find middle-aged male stockbrokers who follow the Dalai Lama and wear an earring in one ear. Or conservative mothers with tattoos. In other words, people pick and choose bits and pieces of political ideology and the clothing that goes with it.
The Occupy Melbourne franchise, critics allege, degenerated from a peaceful protest against the abuses of capitalism to a full on brawl with Victoria Police. Accusations and counter-accusations have been made about “police brutality” in evicting protestors and “professional protestors” deliberately creating mayhem against the police.
So how should we view these types of anti-establishment movements? I would argue that the mainstream political parties, the ALP, Liberal-National Coalition, and the Greens should take a scientific approach, much in the same way that the Australian Football League (AFL) does with its draft system and talent scouting.
I would have talent scouts from the political parties fully badged or wearing photo ID cards, so as not to be confused with protestors or police during a confrontation, they would carry clipboards and take notes as to potential leaders or rising stars, who would be given points for charisma, speaking, organising ability and so on.
I can think of three examples of mainstream politicians emerging from what could be termed, for want of a better phrase, anti-establishment movements.
First is our own Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. In her youth, according to political news breaker Andrew Landeryou and his website Vexnews, the Prime Minister was a member of Australian Union of Students Women’s Department, and a staunch supporter of Gay/Lesbian rights in the early 1980s without embracing the lifestyle. But now has been accused of abandoning these principles for her opposition to same sex marriage.
Iron Mike Rann, Premier of South Australia for nearly a decade until being forced out recently, has made an incredible political journey from one end to the other in the political spectrum.
In the early 1970s he began as a Greenpeace activist in New Zealand and as a “Green Admiral” organized boats to breach French territorial waters in the South Pacific to protest nuclear testing.
He moved to Australia and began work for his political idol, the flamboyant Don Dunstan, ALP Premier of South Australia. Eventually, Iron Mike evolved into a middle-of the road politician and towards the end of his career embraced right-wing Greek nationalism on the issue of Macedonia.
Joschka Fischer also has an incredible story. He began as a militant German left-wing activist who once brutally beat a police officer during a riot in 1973. Fischer mellowed by becoming a Green politician and Germany’s Foreign Minister who, ironically enough, supported “imperialist America’s” invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
The list is endless of u-turn politicians: Australia’s own Gareth Evans who opposed conscription during the Vietnam War (1962-72) went onto become Foreign Minister and in the early 1990s sent Australian combat troops into Somalia and Rwanda in order to win a Nobel Peace Prize and become United Nations’ Secretary General, whilst supporting Indonesia’s brutal occupation of East Timor.
Professor Robert Mann, dubbed Australia’s leading public intellectual, is in a class of his own. By his own admission he gone: “left, right, left” in terms of political views. And who knows where he will be in the near future, still in the left or back to the right? It all depends where the spotlight is? Pardon my cynicism!