It is a time in world affairs where there is very little to inspire, to believe in, or to get behind. The news politically, economically, socially and even environmentally seems so much of the same-old, same-old. It is a time of uncertainty, worry, miasma and disaffection. Or so it seems to this commentator.
This column makes a point to look for and to congratulate good men as it runs across them. See last year’s post "Well Done, That Man!" Every now and then we espy some small signs of hope, progress and downright goodness that should not go un-recognised.
Mal Brough is a good man.
It was Mal who prevailed upon John Howard to do something about the state of aboriginal people in NT and QLD. He was at the time the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs. Though there may be different positions on whether the intervention was too heavy handed or not, Mal should be praised for realistically taking the bull by the horns and trying to clean up what was a shameful situation up there in the top end. Doing some significant good for the country and the aboriginal people.
The Queensland Liberal Party is known as the Pineapple Party, and Mal fell afoul of the factional infighting that went on in that party recently, prompting Aussie sub-editors to write headlines stating that he had gotten “The (B)rough End of the Pineapple.”
What really inspires is that, now out of politics altogether, Mal continues on full-time, working for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders for free, because he believes in it. Always has. It was never about political capital for him.
‘Twiggy’ Forrest is a good man.
Twiggy has no sooner managed to get the first boatload of Fortescue Metal’s iron ore onto the high seas (by building his own railway line to Port Hedland, breaking the Rio Tinto/ BHP duopoly in the Pilbara), than he forges an alliance amongst the mining companies in WA to deliver 50,000 jobs to young aboriginals in the area. Thereby effectively breaking the welfare dependence cycle that is at the heart of many of the problems.
There is a development theory that states that the effective change agent will be a persuader, a mobiliser, an influencer and an entrepreneur, and probably an national of the host country. Well cometh the time, cometh the man. So impressed!
These two guys would make me proud to be an Australian (if I was one).
Somewhat less impressed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and their recent sponsorship of “Banking Services for the World’s Poor.” This seems to be a spin-off of the Muhammad Yunis, micro-credit initiative which won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
There may be some issues with Bill and Melinda’s latest billion-dollar sponsorship:
- The telecommunications infrastructure in most developing nations is not sufficient to support efficient banking services.
- Countries with exchange controls and non-convertible currencies tend to route all foreign aid disbursements though the Treasury, where a lot of it seems to get lost/ muddled/ re-routed.
- Due to corruption and insufficient audit, even local banks seem to wind up as money-making schemes for the branch manager. When you notice that the clerk at the Forex desk owns a tourist company with ten Land Rovers in his spare time, then you have to wonder.
- If the difference between the official rate and the black market rate is sizeable, then you just know that a lot of poor-but-bright people are going to go into black-economy arbitrage in the back streets and cafes.
- In an environment of raging (20%-plus) inflation and frequent devaluations, anyone coming into a bit of money is better off spending it immediately on something that will hold its value. Building products are often favoured: concrete blocks and roofing iron seem to be one of the best hedges against inflation. No-one would leave their money in the bank.
- People’s behaviour is based on expectations and it takes a long time to change expectations.
Bill seems to have a Western rich-man’s view of it all. Surprising, he has always seemed more canny than that at the helm of Microsoft.