In each country, there are individuals with extreme power. People who sit at the top of their respective governments and dictate the direction of their nation. Unfortunately, these individuals aren’t always the best leaders. These leadership flaws become evident in unknown circumstances. Instances where the leader must adapt to a new situation, has limited guidance from the people around them and must make quick but effective decisions.
The last week has demonstrated a clear difference in leadership between influential political figures. Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern share many similarities in their rise to power in their respective nations. They were both elected within their parties just before a general election and were elevated to these positions after the failures of their predecessors to win popularity. The other main similarity is that they have both experience terrible tragedies and hardship in the last 12 months.
As I stated earlier, it is through hardships and unexpected events that the true qualities of a leader are revealed. This is where the differences between Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern start.
After the White Island eruption, Ardern went straight to where the need is. She didn’t wait, she didn’t do other things first, she went straight to the scene. Moreover, she didn’t stand there, talking about policies or coming up with excuses. She stood there silently, hugging those who needed it and radiating warmth to the people affected.
Australia’s current bushfire crisis has caused immense damage to homes, flora, fauna, and has cost the lives of six individuals. Scott Morrison has been vocal in his support for local communities and his kind words, but this has not been fully reflected in his actions. Months after the fires began, he visited the NSW Rural Fire Service to thank the firefighters and receive the latest updates. He goes, but he doesn’t go often, let alone instantly. Instead, the government spent the last week of the year debating religious discrimination and asylum seekers.
The other key difference is through how each leader campaigns. Ardern campaigned with relentless positivity and a raft of policies. Whereas, Morrison utilised fear and uncertainty to campaign for perceived threats to religious discrimination and the importance of border security to stop 200 people from entering the country.
Ardern followed through on her reform agenda. The government banned all new permits for oil and gas exploration and has launched a $100-million green investment fund. She has also increased wages for low-income earners and has improved funding for healthcare.
Contrastingly, Morrison’s reform agenda lacks substance. There are no reforms to assist those who are sick, vulnerable or improve the position of Aboriginals. Morrison’s government has left the honeymoon period and are now stuck. It is down to Morrison as to how they will move forward.
Mr Morrison and other world leaders have much to learn from the actions of Jacinda Ardern. With masses of evidence of the physical harm to Australia’s people regarding the bushfires, the mental illnesses building up across a greatened community under stress, the practical problems of firefighter exhaustion and pressures on small businesses who have freed their employees to battle blazes, Morrison responds with excuses. What is the excuse? Australia only contributes 1.3% of global emissions.
We are doing enough, right?
If Australia surrendered to this self-declared helplessness, it would never contribute to solving any shared problem. That 1.3% is small, but combined with all the other nations, it is an enormous number with a high potential for change.
Furthermore, Morrison’s fear of radical policy change is becoming less drastic by the day. The raging fires, drought and water shortages are slowly changing attitudes in Australia. This provides Morrison with an opportunity to lead. To transform Australia’s politics as well as it’s economy and climate policy. Champion an economic opportunity for Australia to lead in one of the most significant growth sectors of the early 21st century.
Morrison can learn from Ardern and could secure economic and climate advantage for Australia, further ensuring the stability of the Liberal party into the future. The politics of complacency can succeed against the realities of intensifying fires, drought, water shortages and climate change for a while, but no forever.
Global leadership is difficult. There is an incredible number of factors, and at the end of the day, politics is still a popularity game. Regardless, Jacinda Ardern has set an example of leadership that all world leaders can follow, even if their countries are different. This is an example directly to Scott Morrison but also to Donald Trump, newly elected Boris Johnson and other leaders as we enter a new decade.
A decade where actions will speak much louder than words.
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