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Surviving in a mad political world

Weekly column from Council Courier e-newsletter by CEO Greg Hallam on Friday, 4 November 2016.

Local government – all government, really – is not for the faint hearted. It takes resilient people to stay the course.

The week in US politics and, closer to home in Queensland politics, demonstrates that point. Expect the unexpected, even the downright crazy.

The US Presidential election race resembled something from Will Ferrell’s 2012 movie "The Campaign” (a must see by the way).

Here in Queensland we have had the free-for-all over train system stuff ups prompting a raft of dismissals and resignations at the top of Queensland Rail, the Melbourne Cup power blackout at Eagle Farm (sacrilege!), sparking more sackings, a major provincial council being threatened with the sack, and the revelation that a minister of the Crown had not paid her council rates for more than three years.

If little green men turn up at Local Government House I will happily get on the spaceship with them. It couldn't be this mad on Mars.

Public life has grown totally unpredictable. That is thanks to digital disrupters who have become overnight billionaires barely out of school, hackers, stalkers and bomb throwers – literal and metaphorical.

They all feed off the fact that your digital footprint is forever, that the media hype cycle is hourly not daily and that every person on the planet has a smart phone and is able to be a citizen journalist.

Only the toughest, most resolute souls will survive in public life. You need to be strong in your belief system and ultimate goals.

Since the First Test started yesterday let me use a cricket analogy. Let five out of every six balls in an over go through to the keeper. Just play the shots you are comfortable with and aim to last each session as it goes around.

It so easy to get spooked and start to duck and weave given the seemingly random nature of events these days.

The absolute truth is we in local government cannot control the external environment. That is not to be defeatist or acquiesce in our powerlessness.

We can shape our future to some degree, respond to it in our own terms but cannot master it.

Accepting that reality is a great start, as is personal reflection and time out to check the score on the board. Some call it the helicopter hovering above approach. Others with a rugby background like me call it getting our head out of the ruck. It's about perspective.

I will finish with two quotes that beautifully reinforce all this.

The first is from a best-selling business book, "64 things you need to know for now and then" by Ben Hammersley.  The opening paragraph reads: "Writing a book about the future is, in most ways, futile. We cannot possibly construct a narrative that will be true. The world is already too weird."

The other is from the end of World War II, when the then Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley said: "Be sure of what you believe in, and be prepared to fight for it”.

How prophetic for our time. Stay strong and stick to your hard held beliefs. Nothing else makes sense. Keep it simple, but remain flexible on the means to achieving your goals.


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