Notes on Leadership

I thought it sensible to throw together some brief notes on leadership for two reasons. First, because of the Australian federal election, leadership is clearly in the public spotlight. But second, and for more long-term reasons, leadership is a trait that will never go out of fashion. We will always need more leadership, as many people lament, and more genuine leaders. All shapes and sizes The first thing I learnt about effective leaders is that they come in all shapes and sizes. By the time I hit 30 I had worked for the Australian aid program in Fiji, the UN […]

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12 Self-Leadership Lessons from a US Supreme Court Justice

As very much a non-lawyer, and non-American, I’ve always admired Clarence Thomas – the United States Supreme Court Associate – from afar. Thomas, now 70 years of age, has spent almost three decades in the Supreme Court. His ascension to this position, despite a bitter early-1990s confirmation hearing, reveals very little flamboyance but a strong commitment to humility, discipline and building skills. Indeed, there were many less public times, early in Thomas’s career, where things amounted to make or break. Rising from genuine poverty and segregation he committed to finishing a formal education, and shedding his enchantment with activism before […]

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Asia is hardly confused by Australia’s Monarchy

It’s often said that Australia needs to become a republic because of our lagging reputation in Asia. Many republicans lament that our institutional attachment to the British Monarchy puzzles northern neighbours, implying an old-world ‘Anglophile’ attachment that tugs on our standing in the region. “With the economic and political balance now shifting to our part of the world,” writes Wayne Swan in Project Republic, “the idea of an Australian head of state who resides in London seems anachronistic in the extreme”. Swan, to be fair, wrote these words in 2013 – a climactic time for the Gillard government’s Asian Century White Paper. […]

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What can international aid learn from sport?

With this year’s upcoming Australian federal election, the Australian Government’s recently released Sports Diplomacy Strategy – Sports Diplomacy 2030 – will no doubt very soon fade into the background. The Strategy, released in February 2019, received a modest but commendable amount of public attention, positively highlighting the contribution of sport to aid and diplomacy. It builds on a 2015 document – a “pioneer in the field” according to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne – that used sport to maximise Australia’s linkages with the region, enhance economic opportunities and strengthen the communities of near neighbours. As a former Australian Youth Ambassador […]

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Political risk: what it is and how to deal with it

It’s reasonable to think that, with the ascendance of free market capitalism and growth in the number of democracies, political risks to cross-border business investments or exports would have abated. Indeed, since the early 1990s, many governments – even the undesirable ones – have worked hard to attract international investment, pursue pro-growth policies and seek workable environments for businesses to operate within their borders. But the reality is that firms of all sizes, whether exporting or setting up operations abroad, continue to face significant challenges from the political arenas they’re exposed to. Typically these ‘political risks’ fall into categories of […]

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Vale Jack Bogle: a reminder of values and capitalism

Given the recent passing of investment legend Jack Bogle, I thought I’d share some notes I’ve taken from his work over the years. Bogle founded the Vanguard Group but, much more importantly, invented the ‘index fund’ – a way for everyday low key investors (like myself) to invest in the stock market as a whole versus trying to pick individual stocks. “I rank this Bogle invention along with the invention of the wheel,” said Nobel Prize winner Paul Samuelson, “the alphabet, Gutenberg printing, and wine and cheese: a mutual fund that never made Bogle rich, but elevated the long-term returns […]

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16 Real Tips for Young Public Servants

Part of the reason why I wrote my book – Winners Don’t Cheat – is because I wanted to write to myself ten years ago. This was a time when I was turning around a ‘slow start’ out of high school, slowly improving my studies as part of an international relations degree, and thinking more about my career and building skills. In a similar theme of reflection, I thought I’d share some advice that, looking back to my early years in the Commonwealth public service, would’ve helped me get off to a better start. Landing your first proper job is certainly a time of […]

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The grand agreement: Indigenous Australians and the Monarchy’s Promise

At the 1998 Constitutional Convention, despite the scores of eminent Australians in attendance, far and away the most notable speech was by Neville Bonner. Bonner rose from hardscrabble beginnings – literally born under a tree in northern New South Wales – to become a federal Senator for Queensland. He was a very proud Aboriginal man but, in a manner that confronts assumptions, was conservative in his politics, disposition and philosophy. This put him in lonely company, especially given the activism of the 1960s and 70s – the era of Bonner’s political awakening and ascendance. By the 1998 Convention he had […]

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