QLD FARMERS NEED HELP NOW

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Something to THINK ABOUT …

While our Federal politicians obsess about which card to play next in the border protection game, they’re missing a very real and immediate disaster in our North where unprecedented floods have covered an area twice the size of Tasmania.

Farmers in north-west Queensland have lost up to half a million cattle in the floods and they need help from the national government now or they’ll be wiped out. They need urgent financial support and they need the Army to provide the facilities to help them bury their animals.

The AFR reports this morning that one Julia Creek farmer lost 6000 of his 7000 steers. That’s his next two years’ income gone. The losses to the industry in the region will probably exceed $1 billion 

It’s time for the government to pull its collective head out of the Canberra bubble and act. The farmers can’t bury their dead animals until the floods subside and they can’t even think about restocking until they have the money and the capacity to rebuilt the thousands of kilometres of fencing that’s been destroyed.

Both the government and the opposition are daily pulling real and imaginary funds out of hollow logs for election pork barrelling. They must immediately find the funding to help the flooded farmers and their communities who face months and probably years of rebuilding.

Some are suggesting that we divert our overseas aid to help the flooded farmers. We’re quite capable of maintaining our commitments to improve the lives of our neighbours and coming to the aid of our beleaguered graziers. 

But we have to do it now when they need it most.

LATHAM ... THE REPTILE RETURNS

I’ve been scratching my head trying to find a good reason for voters to give Mark Latham another chance in parliament. I can’t find one. Not one.

For the past 14 years (since he resigned as Labor Leader after losing the 2004 Federal Election) Latham has spent his time randomly and crazily sniping from the sidelines. Now, he thinks he sees a chance to become a powerbroker in the NSW Upper House … this time as a far-right politician!

In one of the most bizarre political transformations in living memory, this avowed ‘hater’ of conservatives has jettisoned a lifetime’s political beliefs to throw his lot in, first with David Leyonhjelm’s Liberal Democrats and, when rebuffed by them, with arch-conservative Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party.

Current Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, said Latham “showed all the attributes of a dog, except loyalty”. That’s a libel on dogs. Latham shows all the attributes of a reptile. He was an early adopter and a leading exponent of reptilian politics here, driven by his ‘hate’ of anyone – friend or foe – who disagreed with him. 

He continued this approach after he left politics - joining what Christopher Pyne today called “the shouty press” as a commentator - and leaving behind a long list of failed or abandoned media programs, columns and positions. In 2002 he summed up his approach: “I'm a hater. Part of the tribalness of politics is to really dislike the other side with intensity. And the more I see of them the more I hate them.” 

Latham expects us to judge him on what he claims he now believes and what he claims he will now do instead of on his previous form. Of course, everyone is entitled to reassess their beliefs but we’re equally entitled to question their motivation and their commitment, especially when they unleash an about-turn as dramatic as Mark Latham’s.

Latham’s early political career followed the path of the classic apparatchik: while completing his uni degree he served as an ‘adviser’ to Labor politician John Kerin (1980-82), former Labor PM Gough Whitlam (1982-87) and then NSW Opposition Leader Bob Carr (1988-91). In 1987 he was elected a Labor member of Liverpool City Council and was Mayor from 1991-94. 

Latham enjoyed a rails run as a young politician, ushered into the party’s revered seat of Werriwa, famously held for 26 years by Gough Whitlam, in 1994, aged just 33. Nine years later, in December 2003, with no ministerial experience, he was elected Labor’s Federal Leader and Leader of the Opposition. 

To win the leadership, Latham had to sublimate his instincts as a wide-thinking, open-minded political strategist and adopt the Labor canon of the day, a structure he described as “statism, unionism and class”. Locked into that mindset, Latham was a disaster as leader, lasting a little over a year in the position.

In typical Latham style, after he lost power he lashed out at his former colleagues, fuelled by a seemingly endless supply of bitterness. He called Bob Carr, Peter Beattie and Geoff Gallop “arseholes” and said of his successor as leader, Kim Beasley: “Labor got the leader it truly deserves – it is well suited to a conservative and stand-for-nothing type of leader”. 

So now, even though Latham was still a member of Leyonhjelm’s Liberal Democrats as late as last November, he claims to be “the driving force” of One Nation’s NSW Election platform. “They are my policies. I’m the State Leader,” he told the SMH last month.

One Nation says it wants to “put common sense back into NSW Government”. Among the platitudes and generalities in its policies are: “Getting our schools back to basics, studying the 3Rs instead of political fads” and “Ending the PC madness and the discrimination against men and boys”.

It also proclaims: “We are the only political party to question climate science.” And it says “… there is a growing concern about the evidence on which the claims of man-made global warming rests.” In addition, it wants Australia to withdraw from the UN’s Refugee Convention “because it is no longer in Australia’s interests”.

As weird as this latest political manifestation of Mark Latham seems, pollsters and even his opponents, give him a very good chance of winning a NSW Upper House seat - that’s a term of eight years - a paid platform for this human loose cannon to spew his mean-spirited, myopic rantings under parliamentary privilege, untrammelled by traditional party strictures. 

The reptile is back at the gate.

IS THE BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION MEASURING THE WRONG THINGS?

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Some of the most important revelations from the Hayne Banking Royal Commission cannot be measured, yet they’re at the heart of the problems.

Most of the failures revealed are human failures: in character, moral courage, compassion, decency and leadership. And they’re not ‘bottom-up’ problems caused by some shady cohort of Millennial tellers, they’re ‘top-down’ problems caused by a colossal failure of leadership.

You don’t need an MBA to know that it’s illegal and morally wrong to charge dead people for services you’re not going to provide, or to steer your clients towards inferior products because you’ll make a higher commission from them.

But these products and practices - and the weasel words that shroud them in secrecy - are not created by the drones who sell them, they’re devised, structured and marketed by those occupying the highest echelons of the organisations. And these are the individuals who pocket the greatest rewards.

Forty years ago, I reported on the late Sir Keith Campbell as he travelled the country taking submissions for his Inquiry into the Australian Banking System. He was a decent man and he patiently listened as individuals, organisations and businesses across the nation gave their thoughts on what our banking system should look like.

In the years after he handed down his report, our financial landscape was transformed into a virtually fully-deregulated system. I often wonder whether Keith Campbell would like to revisit his findings.

But he couldn’t have predicted that a once respected profession would abandon its principles on such a massive scale. Bank managers used to be a highly valued member of local communities. The best of them played roles far in excess of their mandates. They understood their communities’ needs and the people who comprised them. They had substantial powers with which to help them to improve their lives 

Today, the demise of local branches and the diminishment of the role of the manager has seen clients downgraded to faceless numbers. It’s a lot easy to rip off someone if they’re a number.

We’ve become obsessed with measuring virtually every facet of our lives. From the moment we’re born to the day we shuffle off, we’re measured, assessed and compared. The digital world has made the situation infinitely worse and, in the pursuit of ‘disruption’, behemoths like Facebook and Amazon have turned data into gold, no matter the collateral damage they leave in their wake.

Sadly, most of the things we measure are economic. Our leaders have convinced us that these are the best gauges of our progress and happiness. We know that’s wrong. We know that happiness and satisfaction in our lives come from loving and helping our families, caring for our friends and neighbours and our country and appreciating the beauty in our world.

We need to find a way to measure that.

ANYONE BUT PALMER

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One thing is already clear to me about the upcoming Federal election: Clive Palmer doesn’t deserve another chance as a parliamentarian.

In my years as a journalist I always tried to be apolitical in my reporting. I still believe serious journos should keep their personal opinions to themselves and report the unvarnished facts. But, sometimes you have to speak up. 

It’s time for new blood and new ideas. It’s time to walk away from the reptilian politics that is destroying civil public discourse. And it’s definitely time to fight against the simplistic nonsense Palmer is peddling in his inane advertising blitz in the lead-up to the election.

But the main reason we must push back against blokes like Palmer is because they lack imagination. Everything about Palmer and his latest party is derivative. 

He’s repurposed the Palmer United Party into the abandoned name of the United Australia Party, which existed from 1931 to 1945 and was the forerunner of the Liberal Party. He’s stolen and adapted Trump’s ‘Make America Great’ slogan - itself stolen from Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr (in 1980) and Bill Clinton (in 1991).  And for his campaign anthem, he’s ripped-off Twisted Sister’s song, ‘We’re not gonna take it’, apparently without permission.

Even the party’s manifesto seems to have been written on the back of a napkin over a long lunch. On the United Australia’s Party’s website, its “National Policy” extends to four paragraphs and, extraordinarily, the first plank in the platform is that “party officials should not be paid lobbyists”. The party will ensure this to “save taxpayers’ dollars” and it will introduce “Fair Policies” (unspecified). 

The second plank is the wonderfully vague notion of “revising the current refugee policy to ensure Australia is protected and refugees are given opportunities for a better future and lifestyle” (again no detail).

The third is “creating mineral wealth” (wonder where that came from) “to continuously contribute to the welfare of the Australian community”. Clive’s team will do that by “utilising mineral resources from Queensland and WA”, together with unspecified Commonwealth Government incentives “to establish downstream processing” in Victoria, NSW and SA and exporting products “at a higher dollar value, thereby creating more revenue, jobs, tax and more facilities” … how hard can that be?

Finally, the last plank in this threadbare platform is “establishing a system where people create wealth in various parts of the country and for that wealth to flow back to the community that generates the wealth.”

Clive is the George Costanza of Australian politics. The only thing we can be certain of is that, as always, he’ll emerge from the shambles he leaves behind as a richer man. You have to give him credit in that department. But we can’t give him another turn at living off the public teat while he reprises his vacuous grandstanding in our Federal Parliament.

Now, more than ever, we need representatives of substance, with beliefs of their own, who are not self-centred, but rather have a wide vision, imagination, a sense of public service, compassion and who can offer concrete policies.

Billionaires like Trump and Palmer need to get new hobbies … we won’t cop it anymore!

 

BRAND AUSTRALIA Does Australia have (or need) a ‘National Brand’?

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Austrade has awarded a $3 million advertising contract to Clemenger BBDO to develop Australia’s ‘nation brand’. It got me thinking: What is our ‘nation brand’? Do we actually have one? Do we need one?

Austrade said it sought an agency that could create ‘a unified brand’and a ‘more consistent brand approach’that will‘bring together Australia’s export strengths – such as tourism, agricultural products and education – under one banner’.

It put me in mind of BHP CEO Andrew McKenzie’s corporate-speak classic of two years ago: ‘Our people have stepped up to unlock low-cost latent capacity and achieve strong productivity gains across our tier one assets.’ 

And the former US chairman of Starbucks, who when asked to describe the company, said it was delivering ‘an immersive, ultra-premium, coffee-forward experience.’

Or the way Uber responded to attacks on its operations when it conceded that it had ‘underinvested in the driver experience.’

Austrade is asking ‘our best creative minds’ to come up with the next generation of our nation’s international branding. Fiona de Jong is the head of Australia’s nation brand at Austrade. (Who knew that vital position even existed?) 

She said: ‘It’s time we were recognised for more than our beautiful beaches, unique animals and friendly people. It’s our uniqueness, resilience and resourcefulness that will take Australia into the future and all these things together form our unique offering to the world.

‘The nation brand concept is aimed at firmly positioning Australia as a trusted source of premium quality goods and services; an internationally competitive investment destination; a quality provider of education; and a fabulous place to visit for business or leisure.’

I can see the commercial benefits of being able to build a marketing campaign around a “national brand” but I can also see some serious risks in ‘corporatising’ our national image 

Let’s hope the ‘brand experts’ look at our nation with wide eyes, resisting the temptation to measure our worth in economic terms. We’re far more than a giant quarry, a tourist destination or a producer of sporting champions: we’re a complex, ever-changing amalgam of people, problems, dreams and aspirations. 

We’re a remarkable social experiment, trying to blend together the ancient culture of our First Australians with a swirling melting pot of people who have settled here from almost every nation on earth.  It’s a delicate and fraught exercise and it will only succeed with goodwill from all the key participants. 

Perhaps there’s no end game, just the fleeting satisfaction of being part of something that is greater than the sum of all of us.

KOKODA, THE SPIRIT LIVES named Best Doco ...

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Our feature documentary, KOKODA, THE SPIRIT LIVES, has won the best documentary award at the Sanctuary Film Festival and will be screened this coming Sunday at 2pm at the Village Theatre at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast. If you're nearby please go along. Details at http://sanctuaryfilmfestival.com
We're delighted and honoured. #kokodathespiritlives #kokoda #WWII#documentary #sanctuaryfilmfestival #limetreestudios #Kokodacampaign

FINDING BEAUTY NOW ON SALE

My latest inspirational book,  Finding Beauty - 170 ways to look on the bright side,  is now in all good bookstores, in Big W and gift stores, or via the Store on this website. Hope you enjoy it and it brings happiness and light ...

My latest inspirational book, Finding Beauty - 170 ways to look on the bright side, is now in all good bookstores, in Big W and gift stores, or via the Store on this website. Hope you enjoy it and it brings happiness and light ...

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“The clouds, the only birds that never sleep.” Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

KOKODA, THE SPIRIT LIVES recognised with Award

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KOKODA, THE SPIRIT LIVES has been honoured with one of the top awards at the Accolade Global Film Competition based in California.

The citation for the Award of Excellence, Special Mention reads:

"Patrick Lindsay (Australia)KOKODA, The Spirit Lives, Doc Feature: Best-selling author turned director Lindsay weaves vintage footage and captivating interviews from fascinating and robust survivors, to follow in the footsteps of the Diggers, who, against all odds, preserved Australia’s freedom in WWII. Aired on Nat Geo."

We're delighted at the recognition, especially for the stars of the film, the Diggers of Kokoda - now all in their 90s - whose story and sacrifice the film honours.

The film was up against entries from all around the world and made it into the top rank of the competition's awards.

DVDs of the film are available from the Australian War Memorial's store and online platform by clicking HERE