Leadership the pressing issue for the campaign ahead

WE RETURN for 2013 full of energy and optimism and a continuing admiration for editors, those great leaders of newspapers.

WE RETURN for 2013 full of energy and optimism and a continuing admiration for editors, those great leaders of newspapers.

The current editor, who we have always referred to as editor number six, is an enthusiast for the job. As always, I have with me assistants who help with the column; long-time readers will be familiar with Charlie, the wise old sage who understands the numbers and the economy better than anyone (including all the economists - of which he is one).

He picked the GFC two years in advance and helped a lot of people, including me, to be in a better position than we might have been in 2008 when the financial world started to shake.

We also have Louise, the highly educated and widely read woman of letters, who Charlie simply regards as the high priestess of the nattering classes. She thinks he's just a bean counter, to which Charlie's response is that she is a loquacious sesquipedalian.

As always, Wilcox, the clever cartoonist returns.

But back to editor number six. He has reflected over the summer and seems to like what we do and said that while the column has always been about media and marketing, I can write about anything that I see as important. We're all very glad about that because as our many followers know, I do anyway.

This week it is easy. With the Prime Minister calling an election for September 14, the issue of leadership will be front and centre. People might like to think that other particular issues should dominate, but the central question for any democracy is ultimately the quality of leadership.

It's a brave PM to call an election in the middle of the football finals. Obviously, the backroom boys in the Labor Party think that Hawthorn will be playing on that day so about half the Liberal Party will be distracted and might even forget to vote.

Over the summer, I read two books, nearly from cover to cover which is not a bad effort from me as I usually flick through them, which annoys Louise no end.

One was about Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor. I don't think I'm the only one who's come to the conclusion that both Wallis and the duke were loopy and probably it's just as well he abdicated. His brother did a much better job as king, also producing Elizabeth, a monarch who exemplifies the qualities of leadership.

And he produced a story line for the great movie, The King's Speech, for which Geoffrey Rush was nominated for an Oscar.

The other book was more interesting: Pulitzer Prize-winner Jon Meacham's work about Thomas Jefferson (above on Mount Rushmore). Jefferson might well be considered the greatest of US presidents because he was able to unify the fragmented leadership of a nation emerging from the trauma of civil war, perhaps the most destructive circumstances any country can face.

Jefferson showed many great strengths. He fought the English, helped hold a diverse nation together and successfully negotiated with the French in the Louisiana Purchase, where the young US nation took full control of this region of the North American continent.

The Jefferson book reminded me of the publication of Keating's timely contribution to the national debate in which he made the simple and powerful point that the most important aspects of leadership are imagination and courage.

This excessively long election lead-up is sure to expose the depth of the leadership capacities of both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

I hope that both of them can rise to this challenge because our country desperately needs a leader with the wisdom of someone as great as Jefferson; the imagination to recognise the genius of humanity and the possibility of discovering the undiscovered, and the courage to lead the people.

One thing that Jefferson could observe, wherever he might be right now, is that calling an election this far out is a certain way to slow the economy. I hope it's worth it.

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