Our culture’s deep need for ethics in public & political life

Our culture’s deep need for ethics in public & political life

Last month, our CEO Rachael Wong had the honour of emceeing the inaugural Tim Fischer Oration on Ethics in Public and Political Life at Parliament House in Canberra.

The event honoured the life and contribution that the late Tim Fischer AC, former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, made to this country, and sought to encourage Australians to protect and promote the common good through ethical attitudes and action in public and political life.

Former Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon John Anderson AC, gave the inaugural Tim Fischer Oration where he spoke about the factors behind Australia's political division, cultural breakdown and intergenerational inequality. He offered various solutions to our current condition, encouraging collective courage, personal responsibility and truth-telling. This was followed by an engaging Q&A session with journalist Chris Ulmann. Following the event, The Australian published an edited extract from Anderson’s reflection.

You can watch John's address here: 

You can also watch and read Rachael’s introduction below:

“I am excited to finally welcome all of you to the inaugural Tim Fischer Oration on Ethics in Public and Political Life. The event will be bi-annual and honours the life and extraordinary contribution that Tim Fischer made to this country. I believe there are over 500 of us here tonight with tickets completely sold out, which is a fantastic response to a launch event, and I think a testament to Tim’s legacy, as well as an indication of a deep desire to see more of what Tim gave this country play out in our current public and political landscape.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Tim, but by all accounts –  the Vietnam veteran, former leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister under the Howard government, Australia’s first Ambassador to the Holy See, and a man with a list of far too many other accolades and achievements to mention – was a great leader and a wonderful human being.

Serving more than 30 years in public life, Tim was a man who is remembered as humble, generous, honourable, respectful and courageous; who cared deeply for others and was committed to doing what’s right even in times of great challenge. One moment where this was especially pronounced, was following Australia’s devastating Port Arthur Massacre in 1996, where Tim helped to drive landmark reform to gun control laws, despite how unpopular this was in his rural electorates.

His great virtue and character earned him the respect and love of all Australians, both from his people in the country, as well as those in the city.

In other words, Tim was the kind of person with the kind of values and virtues that we desperately need more of in public life today.

As Australians, we are fortunate to live in one of the freest, safest, most prosperous countries in the world. But we cannot take this for granted.

Both here and globally, our cultural moment is one that is marked with division, the inability to engage and disagree respectfully with one another, and an over-zealous focus on self and the individual, both at the public and private level. Such a state of affairs is counter-productive to the Australia we are proud of and is a threat to the freedoms and values that we hold dear.

Tonight’s event highlights the need for more leaders and public figures like Tim Fischer. Those who will bring together rather than divide, who will model respect and compassion in public discourse, and who seek to serve others with integrity and fairness.

It is also an opportunity to give thanks for the blessings we have because of leadership like Tim’s, and to encourage young people to protect and promote the common good through ethical attitudes and action in public and political life. And not only in public and political life, but everyday life as well.

The tone set in public and political life shapes culture, but it is also the product of culture, which we can all positively impact, thereby helping our fellow Australians to flourish and driving our society forward.”