What do you believe in? What would you give up your political career over, rather than compromise?
If politics is the jousting of social clubs, then a politician can be anything on any day, which is a little dangerous. Have we now such a greater fascination with form over substance that it has really become a quasi thespian frolic devoid of Lincoln, Churchill and Julius Caesar.
Are we just minnows usurping the space that would be better returned to the page three babe in a bikini? Is that who we are, a people who as a nation are owning less but owing more?
There has got to be a political spine that the nation stands on, a set of principles that hurt because you stand by them: family as traditionally proposed, even if it's not your personal reality; small business, the farmers and the shops, despite the lubricious entrapment of economic policy, a policy that has a tendency to favour the large over the small and in many instances the external over the domestic.
The mining boom is waning, prices are falling, our debt is rising and our economy cannot put its hand to an international champion that is domestically owned. BHP Billiton is majority foreign-owned, Rio Tinto is not even based here any more. There is no international agricultural champion that is Australian-owned.
If GrainCorp is purchased by Archer Daniel Midland, we will have yet another impediment to becoming the agricultural powerhouse of South-East Asia.
Under the current conditions, our debt, both public and private, is higher than it ever has been and getting worse, so our economic bible has taken us to a peculiar religious experience.
Our belief in a global rule book is going to be challenged by a new Asian reality that gives scant regard to wishes but exploits our weaknesses.
Our terms and conditions will be just ours, as seen this week when Yancoal stepped away from its Foreign Investment Review Board conditions.
After a mining boom we should be flush with funds, instead we are $258 billion in gross debt and conducting an increasingly desperate search for what will take the place of mining. Maybe live exports, because we have excelled there!
China is creating a deeper pool of offshore liquidity as it moves to replace the US dollar as the global reserve currency. That is a global game-changer and, if we are not fully versed in all the ramifications of that massive power shift, we will be at a long-term strategic disadvantage.
All this is happening but what is the political debate about? Kevin Rudd managing the process of how Rudd got rid of Julia Gillard, a slew of new ministers from treasury to agriculture with little or no expertise in their new portfolios, a tawdry attempt to politicise indigenous recognition when nothing but bipartisan goodwill has been shown on this issue thus far.
What we can take out of the indigenous recognition issue is, in the history of humankind and economics, benevolence takes a back seat to greed. This is the reality of human nature which we ignore at our peril.
Europeans basically dispossessed and exploited the resources that had belonged to indigenous Australians. In a more complicated form, that process is still at foot but it is just being conducted by different parties in a more clandestine form. It is naive to think a policy desire that relies on international relations can be delivered to the detriment of that specific external nation.
Here is my point: when you look at the deeper issues, the more relevant issues that are vital to our nation's future today, they are not the ephemeral issues that Rudd appears to be engaged with.
Rudd has not changed. He is a man of media, earnestly delivered with sometimes flawed and brash statements.
Whether he has the competency to guide our nation over the longer term is unlikely on previous form.
Barnaby Joyce is the Nationals' Senate leader and the opposition spokesman for regional development, local government and water.