This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning till the end of the election. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
President Lyndon Johnson was a sadistic bully who loved barking orders at fearful underlings while sitting on the toilet. He was a crude misogynist known for shoving his hands up women's skirts in full view of his wife. He was a racist with a massive ego and an even larger inferiority complex.
But he remains admired and respected by many for reshaping the United States with a bold agenda of unprecedented civil rights and social welfare legislation.
Prime Minister Bob Hawke was an abusive alcoholic and sex addict who carried out repeated affairs behind his wife's back. She in turn privately questioned if the judges had been stoned when they gave her husband the Father of the Year award in 1971. Hawke was profane, vain, coarse and arrogant and many close to him feared his volcanic temper.
But he also opened the Australian economy to global competition by reducing tariffs and floating the dollar. He launched Medicare and outlawed sex discrimination in the workplace and became the most popular post-war leader in Australian history.
So does personal character really matter if a leader gets things done? Do we really care if a political leader suffers from personality flaws like the rest of us - as long as they deliver on their promises and are seen to have a firm hand on the steering wheel?
The character of our political leaders has emerged as an important issue in the lead-up to next month's federal election, with Scott Morrison's credibility coming under repeated attack from within his own party. "People who know him well have all come to a common view that he cannot be trusted," Labor leader Anthony Albanese said this week.
We may live in a world of greater scrutiny and different moral standards compared to the eras of Johnson and Hawke. But it's a little too easy to suggest that the character defects of both those men would have prevented them from winning office these days given Donald Trump's triumph in the 2016 presidential election.
Instead, political psychologists around the world have been studying why we vote for certain leaders for decades and have identified three unsurprising attributes voters look for - integrity, competence and authenticity. We also tend to be attracted to candidates we think share similar traits to ourselves.
It's called "personality congruence" and many studies show that while we are attracted to leaders who look and sound like us, we also expect them to be more extroverted and determined to push through an agenda.
Which is probably why our faith in politics is at such an all-time low. The problem these days is not the personality defects of our leaders. It's their inability - and reluctance - to get the big things done.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Who was Australia's greatest Prime Minister? Why do we seem to have so few visionary political leaders now? And would you prefer a personally flawed leader if they made Australia a better place? Send us your views: firstname.lastname@example.org
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: A Senate committee recommended that a Royal Commission be held into Australia's response to the Covid-19 pandemic. United Australia Party chairman Clive Palmer said his party wanted to see home interest rates capped at three per cent for the next five years and a 15 per cent export licence imposed on iron ore exports to help pay down Australia's debt. A nationwide survey of more than 10,000 people by the #OurDemocracy campaign found 96 per cent supported the establishment of a federal anti-corruption while 98 per cent said they wanted truth-in-political-advertising laws to improve voter trust. And the PM's plans to call the election for either May 14 or 21 now depend on a High Court hearing that will challenge his intervention in the NSW preselection process.
THEY SAID IT: "Do you know why I have credibility? Because I don't exude morality." - Bob Hawke.
YOU SAID IT: "More independents? Sure. Then we'll be at the polls every five minutes. There is no such thing as an independent." - Alan.
"Climate change is the most important issue that we face. I will be voting independent or greens. If we spent the money on mitigating climate change instead of defence we would be well on our way to net zero." - Gunnar
"All this focus on the Independents wanting real climate action...the Greens have been vocal about the need for many, many years. They are the force for change." - Janet.
"Climate is absolutely at the top of my priorities, together with achieving a just transition to a low carbon economy, secure housing for older women, replacement housing for victims of natural disasters and returning the federal parliament to a culture of honesty and integrity, fairness and respect." - Gayle.
"We are at the mercy of Queensland and the extreme right. We need respect and integrity back in politics." - Jo-Anne.
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