Modern day politics took a slight hiatus during the most difficult days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead replaced by a more traditional style of leadership that included compassion, straight talking, and a willingness to work together to make decisions - it was refreshing.
An advisory council of sorts was formed at state and federal level, resolute in ensuring Australia was prepared and protected as effectively as possible.
However, it was not without argument, debate, and parochialism with state leaders standing up to their federal counterparts when they felt the urge or deemed it necessary.
Jurisdiction was also debated with the federal government blaming the states and the states blaming the federal government when things, inevitably, went wrong or the federal government disagreed with a state's approach.
For that part, with Labor governments at a state level and a coalition federal government, it was business as usual, but they were brought together in a common goal - keeping coronavirus at bay.
Rarely have we seen unity of purpose in Australian political history.
World War II saw Prime Minister John Curtin assume power in 1941 from outgoing PM Robert Menzies who after establishing The Advisory War Council, involving government and opposition members, resigned his commission and requested the Governor General ask Curtin to form government.
The Advisory War Council continued to meet until 1945 with extended powers resulting in council decisions being cabinet decisions.
From what I have read PM Curtin was different. He was a consensus driven politician racked with ongoing worry and unfair feelings of personal responsibility that developed into periods of anxiety and depressions. There was a strength in his leadership borne of humility as he attempted to guide our nation through an unenviable period of history whilst struggling with his own inner demons.
That style of leadership no longer exists.
Expressing views on contentious issues is hazardous.
Whether a politician or a member of the public, we are quick to judge and even faster to form an opinion. And once we have arrived at that position in record time, we stick to it like superglue unwilling to change. Suspending judgment whilst attempting to find middle ground is often viewed as weakness; described as wishy-washy, noncommittal, walking both sides of the road, or straddling a barbed wire fence.
Perhaps this is because our community is a product of the political leadership that we have witnessed in recent years. Prime Ministers and senior political leaders constantly forced to keep watch behind them, reactionary opinions, governments lurching from one internal and self-made crisis to the next, and intraparty bickering delivering complicated policy platforms.
Can you even begin to imagine expressing humility in today's political environment? The opposition and public via social media platforms, the instant letter to the editor, would rip you to shreds.
Vulnerability and the courage to unite rather than divide is difficult in an environment where political leaders and parties are hammered in the polls and at the ballot box for breaking a promise no matter the rationale.
Consensus driven leadership, at least from a political standpoint, appears a long-lost art, and disagreeing agreeably, or win-win scenarios appear remnants of a distant past.
In Tasmania, we can trace the history of divide and conquer style political debate to the forestry wars, galvanised by actions aimed to prevent the damming of Lake Pedder, the proposed Gordon below Franklin Dam protests of the early 1980s, and the Wesley Vale Pulp Mill debate of the late 1980s.
Underpinned by these tumultuous times in our recent history, it can be strongly argued that consensus in Tasmanian politics and, by extension, community debate is unachievable.
Protagonists are labelled extremists on both sides as ongoing disputes result in the middle ground rarely traipsed.
It polarises people across Tasmania, which is curious considering most punters rarely share their opinion nor wish to be involved in arguments, protests, or civil unrest. And because conflict is not often relished, most locals simply return to their families after a hard week at work to relax and unwind rather than engaging in political affairs.
Nonetheless, at times it is the 'noisy minority' as they have become known who control social media platforms, mobilising small groups to make loud noises. Their views are magnified by the sophistication of campaign tactics, but rarely do they represent the majority.
Of course, there has always been and will continue to be causes and conditions and ideals and values worth fighting for - we just need to be cognisant of what really matters.
COVID-19 encouraged our political leaders to support each other where they could and remain in regular contact to discuss matters and consider options. Thus, the plan and the views of a straight-shooting leader could be articulated with a little more confidence. Politicians were even willing to say nice things about each other and it was accepted by the public rather than being described as 'soft'.
It is probably romanticism or idealism that encourages me to hope for consensus leadership from our political leaders. And it should not take a World War nor a global pandemic to draw it out from behind the curtain.
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