Lead, don’t take the easy way out
Over the last few weeks, parliamentary proceedings in Australia have been dominated by debates (if one can call them that) on the price of petrol. In the process, the public has been treated to the unedifying spectacle of a government and an opposition squabbling over a GST cut on excise which, if passed, will reduce the price of petrol by the princely sum of 4 cents per litre. A cut that will sooner than later be swallowed by ever rising oil prices.
Rather, than lead – in this case by telling the truth about hard choices that face us – politicians continue to take the easy way out by looking after their own short-term interests (i.e. the next election). Hence the fixation on cutting petrol prices, even if by only an insignificant amount. The truth is we need to look at long-term solutions such as improving public transport and fuel efficiency while also looking at alternate energy sources. All hard yet necessary options which, if implemented, might well irritate the electorate. Incidentally, regarding the first point, anecdotal evidence suggests that soaring petrol prices have already pushed more people into public transport, thereby putting further strain on an already creaky system. Addressing that, for a start, would be more productive than arguing over a 4c price reduction.
In the words of Ross Gittins, a Sydney Morning Herald columnist – our pollies are too gutless to give us the bad oil . And there lies a lesson in how not to lead, because Gittins is absolutely right: our politicians aren’t leading, they’re taking the easy way out.