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Where are we getting our leadership?

Once you have language, "you need a bullcrap detector".

That is often watching people's actions: they say they're religious, but do they practise or go to church? More Creds, less scepticism. Here Lanman cited Roger Dudley's study of Seventh Day Adventists that showed a greater likelihood of becoming apostates if during their adolescence their parents were not practising.

So consider those national statistics again: the US has massive inequality and a weak welfare state and a very small percentage of (open) non-theists. In the mid-20th century, Scandinavia built a very strong welfare state and now has a high percentage of non-theists.

Strong atheism, however, is a different matter: "Atheism can also be an identity," he said (just as religious beliefs can serve as markers for social groups), "though I wouldn't call it a religion." As an ideology, strong atheism tends to emerge under the threat of theocracy. Strong atheism found its public voice in the US under the twin stresses of George W Bush's second term in office and 9/11's demonstration of the worst dangers of fundamentalism.

"The UK," Lanman concluded, "seems right in the middle between Scandinavia and the US." The UK had Blair, and has blasphemy laws, a growing perception of the dangers of militant Muslims, and increasing numbers of faith schools – "but you don't have Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee".

This interesting piece in the Guardian makes me wonder where Australia fits in all this, somewhere near Scandinavia, I would think.

We certainly do need a bullshit detector (just being Australian and calling a spade a spade).

Too many of our politicians and religious leaders are full of spin and bullshit.

Many of our religious leaders have been compromised with sex scandals, the use of terrorist tactics, or just basic lack of wisdom in coming to grips with the modern era. Lots of bullshit has been talk in the name of religion.

The Australian Defence Force Academy – one of our key institutions, where future Australian leaders are educated – seems to have lost its way. We have witnessed so much lack of loyalty and trust and too much bullshit there recently.

We are really struggling for good leaders when we end up with the likes of Abbott and Gillard as our only choice of Prime Minister, too much bullshit from these two.

As many of us do not attend church regularly where are we getting our leadership?

We certainly do need a bullshit detector!

Unfortunately many get leadership from Facebook or shock jocks. No wonder our young struggle for direction when facing the challenges of our generation including climate change, limits to growth, and moral standards.


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Shock Horror

Alan, shock horror I really appreciate your contribution. You're right - collectively we are all crazy.

Finally after many years we agree.

Too much of a hurry

Justin, I should have know the piece I was referring to was yours not Alan's - it was so much out of character. So cross out Alan and replace it with Justin.

Too much of a hurry.

community based action.

As you say yourself, John Pratt, there is the problem of history - our institutions no longer deliver as to platforms for and modes of reflective thinking and feeling; our social and cultural mechanism for understanding and passing down to future generations have been circumvented by "progress".

These days mundane individuals like parents, priests, teachers and so forth are up against the idealised examples and unrealistic role models of media culture in vying for the attention of the young.

Meanwhile, the old ways of inducting the young into a community through work, sport, hobbies and care for the old, helpless and disabled have been replaced by glamour, raunch culture and high-powered marketing which valorises and flatters self to the point of the expense of all else.

Which is not to say there is no resistance, otherwise we wouldn't have evidence to this, with blog sites like this discussing these sorts of issues, as but one example. But it is going to be an uphill battle in general and the politicians are no better equipped to deal with living than we are. It may even be true that in some cases we are lucky they are not worse than what they are, too.

Our job is to make sure they stay honest and ourselves too.

The trouble with democracy.

America is deep in the mire, and seemingly lacks the leadership or political tools to dig itself out. Optimists point to the fact that the US has been here before. On several occasions in the past, they say, public debt has reached current levels relative to output, only eventually to be brought back under control. America can do it again.

Yet today’s borrowing is quite different from the type that has fed the debt mountains of the past. When the country was still young and filled with hope, it borrowed repeatedly and liberally from Europe to finance its railroads and other forms of infrastructure investment. The gamble paid off big time. But today, the debt is to fund private and government consumption. It’s just money down the drain.

The IMF has calculated that to bring public debt back onto a sustainable footing will require a fiscal adjustment over the next 10 years in terms of spending cuts and tax rises equivalent to a jaw-dropping 17.5 per cent of GDP. That dwarfs even the scale of the challenge faced by the UK, and America’s bipolar political system may make it impossible for agreement on such a consolidation to be reached.

Eventually, there will be an outright fiscal calamity in the US, and from that a leader will emerge with the wherewithal to lead the country back from the brink. Looking around the Washington scene today, though, it’s hard to see where that person will come from. Modern democracies seem to have become too compromised to produce saviours.


As the US struggles to come to grips with its massive debt levels, democracy seems unable to produce the leadership required.

In Australia we are still finding it nearly impossible to take action on climate change. Again this is an issue of leadership.

The two party system of democracy is failing us, when it comes to difficult   decision making. Maybe we should rethink our democracy hopefully enabling it to encourage better leadership.

Proportion Representation and a leader elected by Parliament may be the way. Rather than backroom deals in party rooms.

A leader elected by parliament would gives us a broad base to choose from.

It would also give us a more open process.


Some sit and pontificate

Some sit and pontificate about whether leaders are made or born. The true leader ignores such arguments and instead concentrates on developing the leadership qualities necessary for success. In this article, we are going to discuss five leadership traits or leadership qualities that people look for in a leader. If you are able to increase your skill in displaying these five quality characteristics, you will make it easier for people to want to follow you. The less time you have to spend on getting others to follow you, the more time you have to spend refining exactly where you want to go and how to get there.

More ideas on leadership. My experience has been that true leaders often rise up from the ranks when the going gets tough. I found this out during Cyclone Tracy in Darwin. Some of the leaders who had the rank could not make the hard decisions and left it to others.

Political leaders often surround themselves with "yes" people who do not have the courage to say no when it is needed.

It is only "under fire" when we see true leadership.

I think we saw good leadership from Anna Bligh during the recent floods and cyclones. (Maybe it does run in the family - she is related to Captian Bligh.)

Where are the union leaders

John Pratt , ''Every Australian should pull his or her own weight,'' Ms Gillard told the Sydney Institute last night. ''It's not fair for taxpayers to pay for someone who can support themselves.

Hinting at penalties should these people not accept offers of training or jobs, Ms Gillard said it was no longer permissible to regard these people as victims.

Can you imagine if Tony Abbott had said these words every union official in the country would be screaming blue murder that he was calling the so called working class "dole bludgers".


OK, John, I agree that we need to have leaders. Where are they to they come from? That's what I would like to know.

I also think that Australia's longstanding tall poppies syndrome is weighted against any sensible leader emerging from whatever scrum they might be in.

However, I'd appreciate your suggestions. 

Oh, one other thing - the mere fact that someone is a leader doesn't mean that he/she "deserves" our loyalty. That has to be earned. In my lifetime, it's a long long time since that's been the case for almost all of our political leaders (might give the benefit of the doubt to Rupert Hamer and Lindsay Thomson, however).


Fiona, finding or developing good leaders is a problem for any community.

In the past leaders were often born into the position through royal blood lines. Some were good leaders others terrible. People rose to positions of leadership  through institutions such as church or the military, where a certain amount of leadership training was given. Also in these institutions leadership was usually a gradual climbing of the ladder, in this way bad leaders could be discovered before it was too late and they had too much power.

We must have good institutions to develop leadership, the first step is a good education. The military is often a source of good leaders, if you can get a group of people to follow you into combat you must have their trust and loyalty. Another reason the military is a good producer of leaders is that it has a broad base of people to draw its leaders from. and many rungs on the ladder.

Leaders can also come for those that have brought a lot of people together to achieve a goal, for example business leaders,community and scientific leaders.

Loyalty and trust are earnt, it is only by seeing the actions of a leader over a long time can we judge whether or not that leader is worthy of our trust or loyalty.

That is why our political system is failing us: we have leaders who are neither trustworthy or loyal.

One of the problems we have developing leadership in our young is that often the people they see as leaders are film, sport or rock stars who often show no leadership skills. These people are all over our media and the true leaders in our society rarely rate a mention.

Us or Them

If we wish to label ourselves as a democracy, then we must accept ourselves as the true leaders, both authoritative and accountable. Anything else is cowardice 

Even a democracy needs good leadership.

Jay, even those of us who live in democracies need good leadership.

When we vote we get to choose between one leader or another. To do otherwise would lead to anarchy.

Very rarely can we act on our own - we need to be loyal and trust our leaders.

When we are young we learn from others, we learn by example that is why good community leaders are essential to any society.

As we mature we all have a responsibility to be good leaders to our children and to our community.

Since we have more of less abandoned the moral leadership of the church we probably need to replace it with something else.

Is it any wonder that our children are confused when the words loyalty and trust are rarely used? Where does loyalty or trust enter into a dog eat dog world or a worship of celebrities?

What values does a young man have that abuses a sacred trust and displays video of his girl friend on Skype.

Where are civil manners or gentlemanly behaviour taught?

Destructive culture?

But Julian Fidge, a GP in Wangaratta and a medical officer with the rank of Captain in the Army Reserve, has called the issue of women in frontline service a "furphy".

He says Air Chief Marshal Houston is the reason a "destructive" culture remains in Defence and has called for his resignation.

"The Minister needs to ask the Chief of Defence to resign. He's been there for the last several inquiries and hasn't been able to achieve any change," he said.

"He no longer enjoys the support of the Australian public. As a serving officer he doesn't have my support, or the support of many officers.

"I think the officers who do support him are the ones who cause the problems at the root of this culture."

Dr Fidge agrees women should be allowed to take up any role within the military, but says it will not change Defence culture or the way women are treated.

It is hard to understand how any one man can be responsible for a destructive culture.

Allan Grant (Angus) Houston joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as a cadet pilot in 1970. He spent the early part of his career flying Iroquois helicopters in various parts of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

He is a qualified Flight Instructor and completed several instructional tours on Macchi, BAC Strikemaster and Iroquois aircraft in the late 1970's. He also served on exchange with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and in late 1979 was posted to Hill Air Force Base, Utah for exchange duties with a United States Air Force helicopter unit.

Air Chief Marshal Houston's principal command appointments include Number 9 Squadron in 1987, during the introduction of the Blackhawk, the relocation of the unit from Amberley to Townsville and its transfer to Army, 5th Aviation Regiment in 1989 and Number 86 Wing from 1994-1995. He was also Commander Integrated Air Defence System from 1999-2000.

Air Chief Marshal Houston has wide staff experience having served on the Joint Operations staff at Headquarters Australian Defence during the Gulf crisis of 1990-1991. He was the Director Air Force Policy during 1992-1993 where he negotiated the establishment of the RSAF Flying School at RAAF Base Pearce. He also served at Headquarters Australian Theatre from 1997-1999 as Chief of Staff, and Head Strategic Command from 2000-2001.

He was promoted to Air Chief Marshal and assumed his current appointment as Chief of the Defence Force on 4th July 2005 after four years as Chief of Air Force.

He is a graduate of the Flying Instructors Course (1975), RAAF Staff College (1985), Joint Services Staff College (1990) and the Royal College of Defence Studies in London (1996).

In 2008, Air Chief Marshal Houston was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, having previously been appointed a Member in 1990 and advanced as an Officer in 2003. In 1980 he was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Angus Houston and his wife Liz, who is a teacher, have three sons.

With over forty years of distinguished service to his country it is wrong that in the final months of this man's career he is being vilified in public. No one man can change a culture that has been hundreds of years in the making.

I have been in this culture for 40 years myself having joined the RAN in1963, served there for twelve years and then the RAAF for nine years and the Army Reserve for a further three years. Since leaving active service I have been working in the service community as a volunteer welfare officer for the RSL.

Service men and women are a cross-section of the Australian community. The values we see in the ADF are the same values we see on any street of Australia.

How do you think one man can change Australian culture?

Many service men and women are recruited from regional centres (lack of employment makes the ADF an attractive career path).

The attitudes we see are the same attitudes we would recognise from any football or netball club in Australia, although in my opinion the people who volunteer their service for Australia are generally above average.

So if we want to change our service culture, begin by changing Australia's culture. Australia's culture may be tending towards destructiveness especially when it makes scapegoats out of heroes.

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