I am sure you have had more advice from your colleagues, staff, opponents, newspaper editors and the shock jocks than you could wish on your worst enemy. Nonetheless, I want to say three things to you.
One, hang in there. Until this week, when, under extraordinary pressure, you committed the foolish act of criticising our High Court judges, until now you have been quietly recognised as a level-headed strategic thinker.
The only two outcomes if you step aside are an election campaign – the last thing this country needs given its present moral compass – or an Abbott minority government. You shouldn’t be afraid of the latter, but you must not give into the temptation that the Australian people should get what they deserve: the victory of greed and selfishness over compassion and community.
Two, stop rushing for the quick fix. Look to the long term future, beyond the 2013 election. If you can bed down not only a carbon tax but the emissions trading scheme it foreshadows, if you can build the National Broadband Network that will create jobs and offer Australians a new level of independence at work and at home, if you can slowly craft and cement achieveable plans for a high-speed rail link in south-eastern Australia, you will have done your job well. Government by the people for the people does not mean government for the focus group or radio personality or next election alone; it means deep-seated change and founding the future.
Three, reignite the debate on values. Set out two or three core values – beliefs, morals, standards – you and your government advocate. No, not the ones you think we want to hear, and certainly not those proposed by Alan Jones. Put these values into practice.
A pretty good one would be ‘love your neighbour as yourself’, and there’s enough history in the Labor Party to overcome the trash and corruption that you’ve inherited. You could even take a leaf out of the old Liberal Party’s book and propose that men and women should be responsible for their own destinies on the level playing field of market forces, then drive the Parliament to ensure everyone has an opportunity to walk on to the playing field in the first place. Education, health, immigration – you might help us discover that happiness does not come from the acquisition of goods and ever-larger houses, but from the ability to lie down at night to sleep with a smile on one’s face.
What’s the worst thing that could happen? You lose government, but you have your self-respect. You might even find you win back the respect of your fellow citizens. Some of us are looking for reasons to join a political party, but finding none. Meanwhile our democracy desperately needs some vision to ensure we are ready to face some of the greatest challenges humans have ever endured in the coming decades. Who knows, if you led Australians to a new spirit of adventure, if you led the nations of the Asia-Pacific region in a fair policy on refugees, if you built relationships at home and abroad built on charity and hope not fear and self-loathing, who knows, you might just stop the boats.