So you want to be a leader –


Part 4: Knowledge is concerned with what you need to know to succeed in public life. It contains the most eclectic mix of essays. It does not claim to be comprehensive, but includes a selection of topics that contributors and this editor judged would be helpful to your career. Some of the essays ask you to step back a little from politics; to widen your gaze so that it takes in a broader range of subject matter. This serves in part to reinforce a message from Part 3 – that public life includes not just the obvious choice of politics, but many other possibilities. But in the main, the intention is to equip you, a potential new leader, with a broader knowledge that will deepen your understanding of your role in public life.


Peter Acton has an MA in classics from Oxford, an MBA from Stanford, where he was a Harkness Fellow and an Arjay Miller Scholar, and a PhD in ancient history from Melbourne University. He was a vice-president of the Boston Consulting Group for 13 years. He is a fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australian Institute of Management, and a member of the Peter McCallum Research Advisory Board and of the Industry Advisory Board of the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation at Melbourne University. Peter’s book Poiesis: manufacturing in classical Athens was published by Oxford University Press in October 2014. He is founding president of Humanities 21, a group whose objective is to bring academics who work in the humanities closer to the community and especially to business.

Peter Acton’s essay stresses the value of a broad education and perspective in public life. Events and challenges are never unprecedented and we can learn much about the way to deal with them from traditional disciplines like history, literature and philosophy. History teaches how to recognise patterns, motivations and likely outcomes; literature helps us understand how others think and improves our ability to communicate; and philosophy makes us consider some of the most profound questions mankind has been able to conceive as well as helping us to make and recognise logical arguments. Other benefits of a deep familiarity with these disciplines are the respect it commands from others, the ability to make more interesting conversation on a wide range of topics, and never being bored if you have nothing much to do.



Peter Ellyard is a futurist, strategist, speaker and author who lives in Melbourne. He is a graduate of Sydney University (BSc Agr) and of Cornell University (MS, PhD). He is currently chairman of the Preferred Futures Institute and the Preferred Futures Group, which he founded in 1991. He is currently establishing the 2050 Institute. Peter’s work is directed at assisting nations, corporations, communities and individuals to develop pathways to success in a globalising interdependent 21st century.

Peter is a former executive director for the Australian Commission for the Future. He held CEO positions in a number of public sector organisations over 20 years including two associated with environment and planning (PNG and South Australia, 1976-1982) and one with industry and technology (South Australia, 1982–1988) and was also chief of staff of the Office of three Environment Ministers in the federal government in Canberra. He is an adjunct professor at the Curtin University Business School, and is a fellow of the Australian College of Educators, the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, and the Australian Institute of Management. He has been a senior adviser to the United Nations system for over 40 years and has acted as a senior consultant to the UN’s Environment Programme, Development Programme and Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Peter was a special adviser to the 1992 Earth Summit in the fields of biodiversity and climate change, and contributed to the preparation of the framework conventions in both these areas. Peter is also the author of several books including Ideas for the new millennium (1998, 2001), Designing 2050: pathways to sustainable prosperity on spaceship Earth (2008) and Destination 2050: concepts bank and toolkit for future-makers (2013).

In our lives and work there are two things we do all the time that are essential for our future success: we seek to shape the future; and we initiate, nurture and, where necessary, terminate relationships. There are six tools we use to shape the future: leadership, management, planning, design, innovation and learning. Management and leadership play separate roles in this future-shaping toolkit and it is important that we understand this critical difference, as well as how they differently influence how we use the other four future-shaping tools. All of us need to be both resilient future-takers (the effective manager in each of us), and purposeful future-makers (the exemplary leader in each of us).



Malcolm Mackerras AO is visiting fellow in the Public Policy Institute, Australian Catholic University, Canberra campus, and has taught both Australian and US politics at the Royal Military College Duntroon and the Australian Defence Force Academy. For some five decades he has been described as ‘Australia’s leading psephologist’.[1] He has written and contributed extensively to various media on most federal, state and territory elections. He is particularly known for his predictions of electoral outcomes using the Mackerras Pendulum.

On Australia Day 2006, Mackerras was appointed an Officer in the General Division of the order of Australia (AO) ‘for service to the community by raising public awareness of and encouraging debate about the political process in Australia and other western democracies, and through commitment to reform and improvement of the electoral system, and to education’.

[1] Psephology is the systematic study of elections by analysing their results – editor.

In his essay Malcolm Mackerras examines some of the language we use to describe Australia’s electoral and political systems—Commonwealth and state—and deals with some controversies and misunderstandings arising from that language.



Frank Milne is the Bank of Montreal professor in economics and finance at Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada. He received his BEcon (1968) and MEc (1970) from Monash University, and his PhD from the Australian National University in 1975. He has held positions at the University of Rochester, the Australian National University and the Australian Graduate School of Management. He has been a visiting professor at many major economics departments and business schools, including Stanford, Chicago, London Business School, University of Paris, University of Heidelberg and others. He joined Queen’s University in 1991, where in July 2000 he was appointed to his current position.

Frank has published many papers in leading economics and finance journals. He wrote Finance theory and asset pricing (2002), and is co-author with Edwin Neave of Current directions in financial regulation (2005). For many years he has been an adviser and consultant for various branches of the Australian and Canadian governments. He is a regular visitor to the Bank of England. In 2008–09 he was a special adviser at the Bank of Canada.

Far too often, political policy makers are surprised by the consequences of their policy action; a simple policy decision with seemingly obvious consequences can lead to damaging unintended consequences. The careful study of economics reveals the causes of unintended consequences of policy decisions. The economy is not a simple machine that can be adjusted to obtain a certain outcome; it is a subtle social system driven by consumers, producers and investors who can anticipate outcomes and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Any policy maker who does not understand this subtle feedback mechanism will make serious errors. This essay explores some examples of policy errors: for example, US housing policies that encouraged excessive lending; trade policies that wasted resources; and industry regulation that was based on ‘rent-seeking’. The essay emphasises the importance of high-quality, accurate policy analysis.


Professor Flavio Menezes is head of the School of Economics, University of Queensland. He was formerly foundation director of the Australian Centre for Regulatory Economics, ANU. Flavio is the author of over 50 journal articles on the economics of auctions, competition and regulatory economics, industrial organisation, and market design. He co-authored a well-known textbook An introduction to auction theory (2005), and is regarded as Australia’s leading auction expert. He also has considerable consulting experience overseas and in Australia, including on privatisation models for utilities.


Flavio Menezes’ chapter deals with designed markets, and explains what new leaders need to know about this relatively recent field. It is written also for those who would seek to exercise influence in public life, and for all those who think about the key issues of our time such as the ageing population, climate change and how to promote the wellbeing of all Australians in an increasingly globalised world.

The paper reviews research and public policy developments in market design. While this may seem a technical and inaccessible topic, Flavio shows that it is crucial to improving the business of government in the 21st century.


Jeremy Shearmur was reader in philosophy in the School of Philosophy at the Australian National University until his recent retirement. He has wide academic interests, especially in social philosophy and in critical rationalism. Jeremy was educated at the London School of Economics, where he worked with Karl Popper. He taught philosophy at Edinburgh, Political Theory at Manchester and the ANU, and was also Director of Studies of the Centre for Policy Studies (London), and Research Associate Professor at George Mason University.

Jeremy’s publications include: The political thought of Karl Popper (1996) and Hayek and after (1996). He was co-editor of Karl Popper’s After the open society (2008). Jeremy is currently working on a new volume: Living with markets.

Jeremy Shearmur’s essay contrasts contemporary politics and public service with Plato’s Republic, in which the ‘good society’ was one where the rulers were philosophers, or the philosophers rulers; these ‘guardians’ would live a secluded life, would not be permitted to hold private wealth and would determine how a society should be run. While these notions might seem quaint and remote, some traces of them remain in our society, and they may be inhibiting progress.

Jeremy argues that Australia has a reputation for innovation and, in general, for performing in many fields well above its weight. It is a country that is full of ingenious and interesting (if sometimes awkward) people who¾between us¾know an incredible amount. If the country is to prosper, and to work well, it needs to make use of the knowledge of all of us. A key message that needs to be taken on board by our leaders is that they are not Platonic guardians, who know everything, and whose task is simply to regulate the rest of us ever more firmly. Rather, they¾and also, crucially, our public servants¾are just like the rest of us, and are just as fallible. We need to take the social division of knowledge seriously, learn from anyone who can correct us where we have got things wrong, and, above all, give people space to make use of their own specialised knowledge, in order to innovate and thus really show that Australia can be a clever country.



Tim McCormack is professor of law, Melbourne Law School, adjunct professor of law, the University of Tasmania and special adviser on international humanitarian law to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He was an international observer during phase two of the Turkel Commission of Enquiry into Israel’s Processes for Investigation of Alleged War Crimes (Jerusalem, 2011–13). He served as an expert law of war adviser to Major Michael Mori for the defence of David Hicks before the US Military Commission (Guantanamo Bay, 2003–07) and as amicus curiae on international law issues for the trial of the former Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic (The Hague, 2002–06).

Tim was the foundation director of the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law (2001–10) and foundation Australian Red Cross Professor of International Humanitarian Law (1996–2010)—both at the Melbourne Law School.

Despite allegations of there being war criminals among many ethnic communities immigrating to Australia from situations of protracted and violent armed conflict, successive Australian governments of both political persuasions have refused to allocate resources to a proactive investigative process that may lead to criminal prosecutions in Australia. There are many practical reasons to explain the aversion to such a policy, but those practicalities did not stop the Hawke government taking a bold initiative in 1987 to establish the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) within the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department. On the basis of SIU investigations, the Commonwealth director of public prosecutions initiated criminal proceedings against three individuals in South Australia in the early 1990s. None of those proceedings resulted in a conviction, and, ever since, attempts to encourage subsequent governments to recommit to a similar policy have failed. The author argues for a renewed proactive policy decision, while acknowledging the counter-arguments. In doing so he draws out the complexity of choices that one may be called upon to make in political life.


Mark Butler was elected to federal parliament in 2007 representing the electorate of Port Adelaide. His career in parliament has so far included: parliamentary secretary for health; minister for mental health and ageing; minister for social inclusion; minister assisting the prime minister on mental health reform; minister for housing and homelessness; minister for climate change, environment, heritage and water. Since the 2013 federal election he has been the shadow minister for the environment, climate change and water.

Before entering parliament, Mark worked for 15 years in the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU), including 11 years as state secretary, and was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2003 for services to trade unionism. In 1997, Mark was elected president of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) in South Australia, and has been a member of the ALP National Executive and National Executive Committee since 2000. He has also served as a member of several government and private sector boards including the South Australian Social Inclusion Board and the South Australian Tourism Commission.

Mark holds a first class honours law degree, an arts degree and a masters degree in international relations. He lives in the western suburbs of Adelaide with his wife and two children, and is a keen supporter of the AFL team Port Power.

The best political leaders are able not just to deal with daily functions of the job but to lift their gaze to focus on long-term, strategic challenges. Australia faces two such challenges.

First, the ageing of the baby boomer generation significantly affects the age dependency ratio (the number of working-age Australians (15–64 years) relative to the number over 65) and carries obvious revenue and spending implications that have been a concern of treasurers on both sides of politics. But we should resist the temptation to characterise ageing as a problem or a burden to be borne. Older Australians are volunteering, studying, travelling and trying new things as never before. We should rediscover our cultural respect for age, and recognise the contribution older people are making in building the society we enjoy.

Second, climate change—due largely to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels—is already having significant effects on Australia, affecting, for example, the Great Barrier Reef and many communities along the Murray–Darling Basin. Ultimately, this is a global policy challenge. Recent developments in China and the United States—the two biggest emitters—offer hope that in the next few years critical progress will be made in establishing a global commitment to avoiding the most dangerous levels of climate change.