I really miss my dear old dad. Regular readers will recall we lost him about a year ago on the morning of his 96th birthday. It was a good innings.
But he did tell me he would live to 100 so his passing took me by surprise because he’d never let me down before. And what I have missed most over the last 12 months is the great wisdom that comes with great age. He was born two years after the end of World War I and battled on with a single mum through the recession. He married very young, worked hard all his life in saw mills and brought up a family mostly as a single parent.
Ninety years of living counts for a lot and creates insights that can really cut through.
My dear old dad was a John Howard supporter despite his Labor background. He trusted him and that was quite an accomplishment on the part of both of them.
About 10 months before the election that Howard lost, I was sitting in the garden with dad one Sunday morning up in the mountains and he said “ you know son, I think he’s been there long enough”.
He wasn’t the only one. The people had stopped listening, but the politicians and the pollsters hadn’t worked it out. Yet my dear old dad nailed it in a handful of words.
And so with stock markets tumbling this week, confusion reigns and sage advice is sought.
“I told you that would happen,” says Charlie. And indeed, he did and we had made our preparations for the downturn based on his predictions.
Charlie’s lifetime of experience is invaluable and as I have said before, he hasn’t missed a major change in 20 years. But this time he says that Australia in 2018 is presenting conflicting signs. There are indications of both standstill and acceleration. Consumer spending is weak and our federal government pollies are saying it’s full steam ahead. This is where I need my dear old dad.
Countries need uncommon wisdom when they face great dilemmas.
George Washington was an incredibly intelligent leader and people listened to him most of the time.
In his farewell address the great US President turned on partisan politics. He said “it agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms” and “enfeebles public administration”.
Washington warned that party politics would overpower the people’s control of their own government. Two hundred and fifty years later we can see the wisdom of age in those remarks.
Right now the clarion call is “jobs and growth” and the government brags about the creation of 403,000 jobs in the last year. Fair enough. It has been a good effort.
But people are worried in the land where my father came from. Work opportunities are lopsided across the country. Many of the jobs are not the jobs for the future and often leave people underemployed.
I must declare an interest here. I’m the chairman of the Jobs and Investment Panel for the Victorian government where the job story is positive. Jobs in Victoria have largely come from professional, scientific and technical services, with construction and the retail trade following up.
In NSW, which also created many jobs, the growth has been in health care and social assistance. The industries in New South Wales which lost the most jobs have been manufacturing, professional, scientific and technical services, the jobs we want.
The truth is that the growth of our economy currently is the lowest of all in Asia Pacific and nowhere near as high as it needs be.
But Charlie says that we need to be positive. He warns that we shouldn’t start to convince ourselves that things are going well when they are not. People aren’t earning enough, and they simply can’t keep up.
Canberra Politicians aren’t helping.
My dad stopped listening to the federal politicians some time ago. He didn’t like all the spin, negativity and party-political mouthing off that filled up the TV news services, so he used a very clever technique for filtering the medium. He’d turn the sound off and just watch their lips move. He did the same with the football.
The state pollies are OK, they are close to the people. George Washington helped build a great nation and I think he’s one of the wise old folk we could go back to and take note of. Politicians need to understand that people stop listening to them when they are yelling at each other. I can well imagine my dear old dad saying “Son, they’re just talking about themselves and not us”.
We need smart generations, but they need to be clever enough to realise the value of listening a bit more to their elders.
I suspect the readers of this column have seen it all before.