Where are the Leaders?

It’s not often that I write a political blog but after a robust discussion with my daughters over dinner I thought that it was about time I put pen to paper. Almost every night I see all the candidates from both the republicans and democrats being paraded across the television…..and I’m in Australia!

To be fair, Australia is also in an election year and our screens are filled with politicians kissing babies, making promises and almost completely ignoring fiscal responsibility. So although this article uses numbers from the USA….trust me when I say that Australia is relatively similar.


So, what can politicians actually do to bring budgets back into surplus, pay off debt and do all the things they expect you and I to do at home? Well, not much actually…..unless they are prepared to tip over the applecart and show some real leadership.

I came across this little pie chart (see below) which really sums up the economic situation quite nicely. It basically said that 84 percent of the budget goes to keeping the lights on in social security, defence, health, debt interest and various tax credits.

USA BudgetIf my maths is correct this leaves 16 percent for potential cuts without the country either going into bankruptcy, riots on the streets or a foreign power invading only to discover that everyone’s dying of some health issue. So what’s in the 16 percent that all of the candidates are so boldly claiming that they can use to “fix the economy”?

Optional items such as; veteran’s benefits, transportation, science, education and research etc. You know, the stuff that actually makes the country work.

So unless, a politician is prepared to tackle some of the big ticket items then deficits will continue to be left to our children. For instance, I’m actually a strong proponent of a nice stable society where people aren’t rioting in the streets because they are starving but I don’t believe in a free lunch.

In Australia, we have something called unemployment benefits. They are a big chunk of our social security budget and are designed to help people that lose their job until they find another one. The problem is that we are now experiencing multi-generational unemployment where the grandparents, parents and children have all been unemployed and have no desire to get work. This is costing the country and really needs to stop as its unsustainable.

If society is paying you money so that you can live, then in my opinion you have a debt to society. Assuming that the person is physically and mentally capable then there are many local tasks that can be conducted by this group of people to help them gain some pride from working and contributing. It’s picking up litter, pruning trees, planting gardens helping out at an old folk’s home. The list is endless. As a society we cannot afford to continue to pay people that do nothing. It will take real leadership to make a change to social security that is both compassionate and realistic.

How about defense…..this is a touchy subject but one that is important. The USA spends just under one third of the total global defence budget and three times more than China, nearly eight times more than Russia and twenty-four times Australia. Before we demand the dismemberment of all of the armed forces due to the enormous wastage we need to stop and consider a few things.

USA Military SpendingFirst of all, the armed forces do an incredible amount of good for society. Although it may blow stuff up the vast majority of its budget is spent on training individuals and giving them a sense of pride. The armed forces are REALLY good at training….they’ve been doing it a long time. We could always put the long-term unemployed into special units called “homeland training” where they can learn basic life skills. Decreasing the rate at which guns and bullets are used isn’t a bad idea either.

Now we have the other biggie in the budget…..health. I know that I’m going to tread on a few toes here but in my opinion healthcare needs to be universal. We have an obligation to each other that means that your level of healthcare should not dictated by your ability to pay. In addition, like all industries, there should be a free flow of health care goods across borders to help reduce the costs of medications and services.

I have no idea why there isn’t mass demonstrations in Washington and Canberra over the fact that the same drugs in Cuba and Indonesia cost a fraction of what we pay. A person’s ability to pay does not give the seller of a monopolistic drug the right to charge incrementally more.

The most important thing that needs to be done to the health budgets of western nations is an allocation towards prevention rather than cures. In other words, spending money on getting the population healthy will reduce the need to spend money on lifestyle related health issues. You’ve only got to look at some of the Eastern countries that have country wide daily exercise programs to realise it’s a good thing.

John F KennedyThe problem is that politicians don’t seem to talk about the big budget items or come up with creative solutions for a better country. Too many of them have forgotten JFKs words, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Sure, he didn’t always get it right but he put out a vision of a better nation.

What most politicians seem to be doing is banking on continual growth and pushing off the problems to the next generation. I’ve got a message for you…..perpetual growth is impossible and the next generation has had enough.

So as people’s of two western democracies, USA and Australia, let’s exercise our right to express ourselves and demand some vision from our leaders. I want a prime minister that has a big audacious goals that aren’t easy but well worth it. I want a leader that is more about investing into the future than robbing it blind.

I look at the daily dose of American debates on the television and I have no idea how my friends in the USA are going to vote. It all seems to have degenerated into a slanging match and the winner will be the person that has the least amount of mud stuck to them. Demand something more from the candidates and ask them to tell you about an American utopia that they have a vision for.

Wouldn’t it be great if our countries had leaders rather than pollsters telling the politicians what to say and how to act? I also want a media that is less concerned about the next sound-bite and more interested into a person’s character and vision for our countries. I feel sometimes that in an effort to sell another advertising spot that the truth is being sorely neglected.

So I’m sitting down with my daughters and discussing what real leadership truly is and I get an epiphany. It’s providing vision in a caring way that inspires a nation to great heights. I then turned to my daughters and said, this is what you need to try to create in your own families in the years to come….


Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.



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Saturday musings - What's an Australian Christmas?

For those you that don’t know I’m actually from Melbourne, Australia. If you have no idea where that is (and downunder doesn’t count) then find China and go a long way south. If you can’t find China, then look for South America and head west. If you can’t find South America then I give up….!

One of the peculiar aspects of our lovely planet is that it’s tilted at 23.5 degrees and this is what gives us our four seasons. This is very unlike Uranus which is slanted at 97.77 degrees, which means the planet basically has two seasons.


So why am I giving you both an astronomy and geography lesson? It’s really simple, when the northern hemisphere is in the midst of winter, Australia is experiencing summer. In fact, it’s not uncommon for us to be having 40 degree days (that’s Celsius). For those of you that have no idea what’s Celsius, Google provides a cool little converter that will allow you to quickly work out that 40 degrees Celsius is 104 Fahrenheit (click here for the calculator). Why anyone would want to use Fahrenheit is still a mystery to me…..but I digress.

Strangely, we still sing “Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh” even though there isn’t any of the white stuff around. Many Australians have actually never seen snow and presume that it’s just a myth. For heaven’s sake, frozen ice falling from the sky in summer! The first thing we would do is scoop it up and chill some beer.

As a bit of an aside, the kings in the carol “We three Kings” were most likely from Iran not China. It just so happens that “We Three Kings of Iran We Are” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.....and it would probably be a bit politically incorrect for the wisemen from a modern Muslim nation to bow down to the founder of Christianity (yes, I know that Islam wasn't around at the birth of Christ so let's just agree to not go there.....)

So back to my Australian Christmas. After we’re all sung out with carols, we then proceed to dig into a nice hot turkey and ham for Christmas dinner. I only have one thing to say about a hot dinner on a hot day……thank goodness for air conditioners.

I remember fondly the day when we bought our air conditioner. The salesman told us we needed a unit of a certain size….I immediately bought the one that was three times his recommendation. So when I say that we don’t have snow in Australia during our summer my living room could possibly be the one exception.

And then there’s the family Christmas party. For many people just reading that last sentence sends a chill down their spine (not due to my AC). The family Christmas party is where you are forced to catch up with relatives you haven’t seen in the last twelve months. There is a really good reason why you haven’t seen them in that long……it’s because most of them are a bit strange.

The party is the place where aunties plant slobbering kisses on your cheek, little nephews terrorise the dog, grandparents smell kind of funny and you’re introduced to a sibling’s new partner. In Australia we’ve solved the dilemma of how to escape this travesty of injustice…..it’s called the BBQ.

The “men” seize a cold beverage, retire to cooking the meat and talk about the cricket (this can take a long time). Cricket bores me to tears but it’s better than the option inside.

The problem with you northern hemisphere sufferers is that you don’t have a BBQ to escape to when the hordes descend. You’re stuck inside with all and sundry with no place to go as you’re surrounded by all that white stuff. BTW, I don’t count going to the bathroom multiple times for twenty minutes each a serious “Great Escape” attempt.

At the end of the day when some well-meaning relative offers you yet another serve of Christmas pudding you let out a little groan and casually slip a notch out in your belt. It’s at this time that the little ones end up behaving more like an orc pack from the movie “The Lord of the Rings”. You see, it’s present time and the darlings are salivating for their preciouses (said with a Golumn like voice).

Paper goes flying every which way and then you end up unwrapping your gift. It’s quite disturbing when you have the thought, “please may it be socks” run through your mind. I’ve had friends receive a very special spice rack from the same person three years in a row and another present with someone else’s name on the bottom of it (got to love regifting). The best one I heard about was a gift of wire coat hangers…..haven’t you always wanted wire coat hangers?

I’m pretty easy to please, I’d be happy with almost anything edible but I think that it will be my lot in life to receive something like a book that the giver has always wanted. Before the wrapping paper has hit the floor they’ve got their clutches on the present and promise to return it one day. I’m still waiting.

When I look around the room, despite all of the painfulness of the day there is a sense of reckless joy. Let’s face it, my auntie’s kisses weren’t really that bad and I’ll ending up smelling like my grandparents one day so I’d better get used to it. The talk about the cricket was inane but also kind of pleasant.

I’ve come to a really big conclusion. If you want a really good Christmas then my advice is to come to my house in Australia…..remember that it’s just to the left of South America. It’s got to be a lot more fun than shivering half to death in all that white stuff.

Merry Christmas!


Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face.
Click here to arrange time with Michael
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I had a lot of fun writing that post.....I hope that people realise that it was a lot tongue in cheek and for just plain good fun!... Read More
21 December 2014
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