Imagine you were asked to complete the statement ‘If I was Prime Minister for a day…’ what would you say?
It is a very interesting task. It gets you thinking big. It got me thinking big.
So in honour of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2019, I thought I would share with you my response to that statement and I encourage women, men and children to reflect on what they would say too. It can make all the difference to the choices we make in life and business.
In November 2014, I was invited by the then Federal Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson to attend the Women in Business Round Table event at 4 Treasury Place where the Federal Government Cabinet meet when in Melbourne. This event consisted of approximately 30 women from different walks of life and professions; several representing industry bodies, senior women from large corporates, several from N4P organisations and a smattering of women leading various innovative businesses, consulting firms and initiatives such as myself.
Bruce wanted to hear about our take on business in general, including small business and women in business. Everyone had the opportunity to speak and share their ideas and thoughts on said topics. There was much discussion.
However, the conversation became really interesting when Bruce asked each of us to complete the following statement ‘If you were Prime Minister for a day…’
I was placed about three-quarters of the way round the table before my turn came to speak. So while waiting for my change to speak, I recalled the saying: "A politician only thinks about the next election; a statesman thinks about the next generation' and listened to each woman share her answer.
There were some really good ideas, but what struck me was that many of the ideas were focusing around eliminating red tape, middle management initiatives and short-term solutions. There was very little that was visionary or focused on the long term; no overarching purpose that could lead us to a better future. There was very little that was inspiring us to unite behind a bigger cause and calling us to work towards something better. In short, nothing Statesman/woman like. So as it got closer to me, I debated whether I should share my thoughts and my vision for our country. I was also doubting myself. Should I speak up? Will I look like a fool if I do? I felt a mixture of intrepidation, anxiety and excited anticipation.
By way of background and in preparation for my response, I have had the privilege of working for over 35 years across many, many industries (government, semi-government, N4Ps, private and publicly listed organisations ranging from industrial, media, health, science, banking & finance, sport, education, manufacturing, professional services, etc.) which has given me many insights about how business works and taught me a lot about the many domains and systems that we live and work within.
I also read and study a lot about science, psychology, sociology, ethics and philosophy, environment, business and so on. Whenever I express any views, opinions, insights, research and experiences, I always endeavour to do so with a solid base of evidence and facts underpinned by fairness and respect. I'd also had a little bit of practice writing my fair share of letters to politicians expressing both my frustrations and visions, ideas and suggestions for our nation.
As I contemplated my response, I was also acutely aware that I was far from declaring myself a stateswoman or someone who has it all worked out, but I knew I was not alone in my desire for a better future and better leadership for us all and I knew this was my OPPORTUNITY to say something and be heard.
An OPPORTUNITY presented itself, so I decided to go out on a limb and risk making a fool of myself.
Here is my response.
“If I were Prime Minister for a day I would rethink the vision for Australia and stop our descent into 3rd world status by relying only on mining and tourism for our future wealth.
Here is the vision I would take to the people of Australia and invite them to participate in:
- Become the world leader in Renewable Energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave technology, etc.) and be the epicentre of technology innovation, education and high-end manufacturing; be the world’s role model in running an integrated renewable and clean energy society that can flourish and thrive now and for the long term.
- Become the world leader in agriculture technology and production: we are 1 of 16 nations that exports food to the world, and so is Israel who is tiny by comparison. Israel uses amazing agricultural technology to grow food in arid environments. Australia is only scratching the surface in this area. Imagine what we could do if we harnessed our amazing talent and made this a reality?
- Become the world leader in health care and care for the elderly and disabled. We have and amazing health care system combined with talent and ideas coming out of our universities, communities, start-ups and the CSIRO.
- Become the world leader in multiculturalism and healthy democracies. We are already there regarding multiculturalism, but we need to make more of this by embracing this amazing strength as a society. We need to be great role models and stop any decent into marginalisation. We need to continue to embrace difference and diversity as our strength as a nation and create integrated societies that can flourish and evolve to include everyone. (See the wonderful work by Kate Raworth on Doughnut Economic.)
Australia is like Goldilocks – we are not too small or too large - we are just the right size in term of population wise to make real and effective change and become the role model of the world in how to live as a sustainable, peaceful and prosperous society.
This is what I would do if I were Prime Minister for a day.”
I got a hearty round of applause, and when I looked at Bruce Billson, his eyes and mouth were wide open. Make of that what you will.
Having attended a recent Australian Leadership Roundtable "The Future of Power: Future Leadership" lead by Victor Perton and the Future Business Generation launch event led by Parrys Raines as well as joining the Future Business Council led by CEO James Wright and now one of FBC’s board members, I know there are many more people, much more skilled than myself, who want to and are creating a better future for us all.
So what would you do if you were Prime Minister for a day?
Go out on a limb... From there we’ll see that proactively bringing positive initiatives, good ideas and solutions to society and engaging in productive, open, collaborative conversations can change our world for the better and land us the right opportunities to lead and live better every time.