The Shovel’s Power Page
Power means subtly different things to different people. For some, it’s being able to create genuine and lasting change. For others it’s being able to build a chicken coop in the middle of a global pandemic.
To get a better understanding of what power is all about, we interviewed some of Australia’s most powerful leaders, past and present. Here’s what they told us …
Kevin Rudd: “Power has never really interested me all that much. In fact, in the 2,962 or so days since I was viciously stabbed in the back by my own party (2,963 if you count the night of the initial betrayal), it’s really not something I’ve given much thought to.
But if pushed to think back on my days as Prime Minister, I’d say it was my ability to relate to ordinary Australians that, ipso facto, made me influential.
There’s nothing quite as powerful as being able to share an anecdote about a sauce bottle with some bogans at a BBQ, and then effortlessly translate that same anecdote into a range of languages for more sophisticated audiences.
It’s about being open-minded too. People say I was difficult to work with, but I never found that”.
Paul Keating: “There are Prime Ministers who exhibit greatness, and there are Prime Ministers who show humility. But rarely do they mix the two like I did.
The problem is there’s no leadership anymore. No guts. When I was Prime Minister I oversaw 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth. But you just don’t see that kind of bravery anymore.
The thing is, power is about more than being the smartest or the loudest. It’s about bringing people on a journey. Explaining things. I’ve been explaining my achievements for decades, and believe me, it’s powerful stuff”.
Pauline Hanson: “Rather than always talking about the powerful elites, how about we talk about the people who don’t have a voice in this country? White people. Where is their power? For too long we’ve been silenced in Australia. And I intend to use my speeches in Federal Parliament, my stunts on national media, and my regular morning spot on Sunrise to continue to remind people of that”.
Scott Morrison: “Well look, I’ve addressed this issue before and, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to provide a running commentary on the ins and outs of what really is just Canberra Bubble stuff. The fact is it’s a matter for the states, and – no sorry Andrew, like I said, I’ve already addressed this issue – let’s change the topic to something that ordinary Australians care about. Go Sharkies!”
Richard De Natale: “With great power comes great responsibility. Which is why I chose to join the Greens and avoid both”.
Barnaby Joyce: “A lot of people would say power is being able to call for the tightening of privacy laws on the same day as inking a six-figure sum for a national tell-all interview, without any sense of irony. But really, it’s having the balls to stand up in front of the media to blame your fuck-ups on your girlfriend”.
John Howard: “How I used power and influence is for others to judge. But I will say this. If you can bore your opponents, if you can bore your colleagues, if you can bore the Australian voters, and then continue to bore all those people, day after day, month after month, year after year, even when it seems like it’s time to talk about something new or at the very least start a new sentence … well then eventually you’ll wear them down and they’ll just lose the will to live. It’s unfashionable, but I’ve found it to be very effective”.
Tony Abbott: “I believe, as many Australians do, that true power comes from a higher, more celestial place. There’s not a significant decision I have made, nor a challenge I have faced without first seeking guidance from above. I’m talking of course of Peta Credlin.
Sure, I wonder what we could’ve done differently to extend our time as PM. Put more flags out during speeches. Said ‘death cult’ just that little bit more. Peeled the onion. It nags at you. But, as Peta once told me to say, “Real power is thinking for yourself and doing things your way”. We certainly did that.
Julia Gillard: “The thing I’ve learnt about power is to never bloody mention it. You tell people their electricity bill is going to go up by a couple of per cent and ‘bam!’ you’re out of office”.
Nick Xenophon: “What’s the secret to building and sustaining power in the cut and thrust of Australian politics? Two words: novelty props. There’s no issue too complex, no subject matter so sensitive that it can’t be successfully solved with an oversized tricycle, a live cow and a camera crew.
Want to hear more about my thoughts on power and influence? Meet me in Rundle Mall at 11am. I’ll be the guy in the kilt holding a piglet”.
Malcolm Turnbull: “I’ve found that to rise to power in this country it helps to have a broad range of views (in my case often extending as far as Milsons Point, or even Manly on a clear day).
But it also requires having confidence in one’s own abilities and intelligence. To gain the respect and trust that’s essential for effective leadership, one need not necessarily be the smartest person in the room (‘room’, of course, coming from the old English ‘rum’, itself of Germanic origins). But it certainly helps”.
Peter Dutton: “To seize power takes ambition, determination and intelligence. And I certainly have both of those”.