Richard Flanagan: where is leadership in Australia?

Tasmanian writer and 2014 Man Booker prizewinner Richard Flanagan is one of Australia’s most gifted public speakers. It is not surprising that one of our most successful authors crafts a beautiful speech, but he is also a man with a lot to say about many small-l liberal values we should all hold dear. In every speech or significant interview he has conducted in recent years, we are struck by his decency, common sense, his honesty, and sense of humour. Like all articulate public intellectuals, he prods us to think about the world around us and forces us to take a stand, even if only in our own minds and in our own time.

This week, in a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra, Flanagan had Australia’s politicians, parliament, leadership and sacred cows (Anzac Day and democracy to name a couple) in his sights. "There are no saviours of democracy on the horizon,’’ he said. "Rather, around the world we see a new authoritarianism that is always anti-democratic in practice, populist in appeal, nationalist in sentiment, fascist in sympathy, criminal in disposition, tending to spew a poisonous rhetoric aimed against refugees, Muslims, and increasingly Jews, and hostile to truth and those who speak it, most particularly journalists to the point, sometimes, of murder.

“And yet this new authoritarianism is resonant with so many, acting as it does as a justification for rule by a few wealthy oligarchs and corporations, and as an explanation for the growing immiseration of the many.’’

To see a recording of Flanagan’s speech, click on http://www.abc.net.au/news/programs/national-press-club/2018-04-18/national-press-club:-richard-flanagan/9672524. Or you can read a full transcript courtesy of The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/apr/18/richard-flanagan-national-press-club-speech-full-politics-black-comedy

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