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Look to ordinary Australians for inspiration, not our parliamentarians

Date

Instead of whingeing, let's make time to excel in our own workplaces.

ONE of the 52 weeks of 2013 has already gone. With only 51 to go you need to get cracking if you want 2013 to be a great year. You may kid yourself that we are still in the holiday season, which is fine, so long as you realise your competition might not think that way and winners certainly do not.

I read once that Aristotle Onassis said he used to start earlier than his competition and finish later, which gave him a head start on them. Just an extra half hour in the morning and an extra half hour at night, every day, devoted to your career or your hobby gives you almost an extra work day a week. That's 52 days or about 10 normal working weeks a year. Imagine 10 working weeks when the rest of the world, or your competition at least, stops, and you get to run around and get ahead.

Perhaps you are having trouble getting started because you are suffering a bout of post-2012 blues. It was a lousy year in many ways, not the least of which is the fairly low regard in which our Federal Parliament is now held.

Australians used to joke about whingeing Poms but I fear we have adopted that rather unattractive trait as our own. True enough the Federal Parliament did not cover itself in glory in 2012. I am not defending that.

It is interesting that so many people who are happy to sink the boot into parliamentarians do not appear to have tried to excel in their own work. We have a new class of people who appear quite happy to be critical of others for not meeting the excellence bar.

That the Parliament is deemed by many to have underperformed does create an air of despondency. After all if the government keeps wanting to make it harder for those with more, what's the point in busting your gut to get kicked in the guts? If the government can't control its spending and has failed miserably to save for a rainy day you might well feel a bit dorkish playing Mr or Mrs Scrooge with your own finances.

The answer is simple: Do not look to the Parliament as an example of what is good in Australia. Australia is much better than a quick look at our question time would have you believe. Australia is richer, stronger, better, more productive, more innovative - I could go on - than our Parliament. We are made of better stuff.

Just look around you for oceans of inspiration. Take the coppers who go out every day into uncertain streets to help keep you and your kids safe. Decent men and women who are at risk and every year we lose some.

Then there are the volunteer firefighters. Normal citizens volunteering in very risky situations to help their community. Sadly, we lose some of them, too. Volunteers are everywhere. Visit a hospital and see volunteers, sometimes called "lavender ladies" doing their bit to help others. In every community in so many different ways Australians give time to help each other and their community.

Even in the lives of those who do not take on dangerous roles or manage to give time as volunteers we can see examples of goodness, decency goodwill and determination that will inspire.

Take Deb, the hairdresser whose kids have, sometimes with tough love, been taught the value of hard work, of earning their own money and telling the truth. Deb and the thousands of mothers like her are the heroes producing the next generation of decent Australians. Parents of spoilt brats please take note.

Then there's Angela, the small-business proprietor who, having had a brush with breast cancer in November, is back doing some work in late December. As she says to customers surprised to see her: "You have to get on with it."

Oh, let's not forget Con, her business partner who, with a minimum of fuss, puts in whatever extra hours are needed to keep the show on the road in her absence. Moaners, groaners and hypochondriacs please take note.

Of course I need to mention Jeanette, another small-business proprietor who leaves a note by the register in the cash sales area to remind herself that she overcharged me last time. Seven months later I walk in to be greeted with "Gee, sorry we overcharged you last time, we'll knock it off the bill today." Greedy business people who fail to follow the "do unto others'' rule please take note.

Then there are all the people who work in fairly low paid jobs with little other reward. They look after our kids, our elderly and in so many industries that without them would just shut down. Professionalism and pride in a job well done are not the province of the lucky, the rich or the well educated. Elites please take note.

Yes, I hope for a higher standard in our Parliament this year. No, I do not look there for inspiration. I look around at the Australia that is much more than that and much better.

Everywhere we can see examples of hard work, decency, frugality, generosity, goodwill and determination. With 51 weeks left this year, I will use these normal Australians as my inspiration. Look around, you'll see great Australians everywhere, that'll get you going.

Amanda Vanstone was a minister in the Howard government.

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