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"One thing I can tell you," said the cashier at the bookstore, "there won't be any books like that written about Scott Morrison." She was talking about Troy Bramston's excellent biography, Bob Hawke: Demons and Destiny, piled up in a stack nearby. A lot has been written about Hawke but not much of it comes close to Bramston's work. It's not just the story of a brilliant but flawed man but an fascinating exploration of our national story, which has had The Echidna muttering "Oh, I remember that" on too many occasions. And the bookstore woman was right. It's hard to imagine Scott Morrison garnering as many words or interest. Hawke was all about legacy; Morrison, he said himself, was not - unless you count the cost of what didn't happen during his tenure.
So it was no surprise to read about the ANU electoral study which found Morrison and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce were the most unpopular party leaders to go to an election since 1987, the height of Hawke's popularity. That dubious honour was last held by John Howard, who, Lazarus-like, went on to become one of longest serving PMs. The remarkable thing about the study was the observation that Joyce and Morrison were particularly unpopular with their own voters. Like it or not, leaders matter.
Anthony Albanese is already displaying hints of Hawke in his leadership style. He's talking about the need for a discussion about prices and incomes between business and labour - an echo of the prices and incomes accord of the 1980s. He's dialled back the rhetoric in foreign affairs, talking about the need for dialogue with China, while standing firm on the sanctions on Australian exports. He's keen to repair the relationship with France, an important player in the Pacific. He's big on reconciliation with First Nations people. He's presenting himself as affable and authentic and there's a palpable sense he wants to bring people together rather than divide them. Consensus 2.0, perhaps?
The ANU study also sounds a warning to politicians. It found young people were more likely to vote along policy rather party lines. The old tribal, Holden-Ford/Liberal-Labor dichotomy of Australian politics seems to be in retreat. We saw that in the election result. Red, blue, green and teal - it's staring to look like a rainbow.
The way forward for the country, for the Albanese government, is to bring these different viewpoints together, to have informed conversations rather than slanging matches. There's much to be learned about how to do that in Bramston's book.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Does Anthony Albanese remind you of Bob Hawke a little? Would a prices and incomes accord get us through this inflationary period? What's your fondest memory of Bob Hawke? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Australia is not in a wage price spiral at the moment because real wages are running behind inflation, said Employment Minister Tony Burke. He does not believe a decision by the Fair Work Commission to lift the minimum wage by 5.2 per cent, just above inflation, will have an inflationary effect on the economy.
- Thousands of Qantas staff could be given bonuses to share in an expected return to profit, but the airline has flagged fare increases to cover rising costs. Chief executive Alan Joyce said the national carrier's fuel bill would be $1.7 billion higher next year compared with pre-COVID levels.
- Wollongong Art Gallery has removed the name of one of its most generous benefactors from its rooms after discovering his history as a Nazi collaborator. But the regional NSW council has ruled out selling or breaking up a collection of 100 Australian artworks donated by Bronius "Bob" Sredersas in 1978 that makes up the foundation of the gallery's holdings.
THEY SAID IT: "I just said to myself, 'If you're going to become prime minister of this country you can't afford ever to be in a position where you can make a fool of yourself or of your country', and I never had a drop for the whole period I was in parliament." - Bob Hawke
YOU SAID IT: "Very disappointed in Sally McManus' remarks about 'boomers'. People who are employed to effect change should stick to the issues and stop using divisive labels. Why didn't she just say that the financial crisis today is different from the one in the 1970s and explain why. I thought we were done with the meaningless marketing one-liners." - Jennifer
"I am a baby boomer. My parents believed that the government owed them a pension because they paid taxes. Yet, like many, the taxes they paid would not have covered the cost of retirement. However, most baby boomers I know have some sort of savings, either superannuation or own investments and are not fully reliant on government pensions or handouts. When the baby boomers pass away, their assets will be inherited by the current generation, restoring many struggling families who have overcommitted themselves in mortgages." - Michele
"I was born in 1998 so take my opinion on boomers with a grain of salt. I understand the term 'Boomer' as more of a mindset, of agnotological self imposed ignorance that just so happens to be associated with baby boomers and rise of the internet. In the same that the insult 'Karen' doesn't apply to every woman, Boomer doesn't mean everyone in that generation. There's also probably an element of Sally trying to recruit younger generations into the union movement by participating in the generational culture wars. But I agree, it's disappointing to see the union movement figurehead stoop that low." - Connor
"I am a boomer. I started work in 1972 and retired in 2019. I paid taxes every year. I made my first plane trip when I was in my early 50s. I am on the age pension and have a very small amount of superannuation that I am continually dipping into. I own my modest three bedroom house in a country town. I finished paying it off when I retired. I count myself lucky for this, as I could not afford one now. And I feel sorry for the young people of today. I like to think I am a typical boomer but, deep down, I think most boomers are not as well off as I am. Some people in every generation are wealthy. Most are not. Like boomers." - Brenda
"I think Sally's 'clarification' was okay. It's all part of the fun of the media grab for an outrageous quote or headline. She used it and it got some of the attention she was after to help make her point. Let's not get hung up about it. Let's face it, we cop worse from two of our three children, the oldest approaching 40 himself now and regularly highlighting the advantages we 'boomers' have had and still have as he perceives it. He certainly benefited from it growing up." - Chris
"My husband and I are both boomers born in 1947. We did not have it easy. The focus on house prices then distorts the picture. The prices seem low now but the interest rates when we bought were 17 per cent. We saved a deposit by living in one room at my parents house. After we bought a house it took years of both of us working full time (with pre and after school care costs) and what my younger daughter calls 'poverty food' to pay down the debt." - Helen
"The OK boomer nonsense of recent years s----- me to tears, as say, does criticism of Queenslanders per se. I read Sally McManus's statement yesterday with just a little shudder, but it would take more than that for me to be negative of her. It is really pleasing and satisfying to see her apology and explanation." - Peter
"As an early boomer I'm frankly tired of the seemingly never ending tirade against us. Yes, many of the world's issues can be laid at our feet but not all of them. Many mistakes were made in genuine ignorance and we possibly need to address those. However, the view that we're all wealthy and comfortable is misguided at best. I for one at 71 am still working. I don't own a home and have my income topped up with a part pension. I believe I still have something of value to offer the country. Please let's just wind the rhetoric down for the sake of all people." - Tony
"Harden up guys. I'm a boomer and find The Echidna ranting about boomer shaming laughable actually. Just like the confected outrage about Bandt and the flag. Apparently it's not even a new thing. It's a gotcha follow up to the risible 'one country one flag' outrage. Why not engage in policy debate instead of wasting your editorial on the optics. PS Wages matching CPI isn't necessarily inflationary." - David
"Speaking as a wealthy, retired boomer, living in a house that's way too big for me and my boomer wife, using our well earned super on unnecessary travel, expensive restaurant meals, mid-life crisis sports cars, house renovations, hobbies, spoiling our grandkids, I can see where Sally's coming from. Except I started my working life at 17 with no money, no Bank of Mum and Dad, a mortgage with interest rates of 17 per cent, and, soon to follow, a wife and three kids to support. Childcare? Who could afford that! What Sally's saying is that workers deserve a share of our amazingly still growing economy. And she's right, they do! And no wealthy Boomer, including the Governor of the Reserve Bank, should say otherwise!" - Daniel
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