As a speechwriter, I’m especially pleased because of the commitment that Malcolm Turnbull made in his doorstop speech on Monday afternoon. At the core of his pitch for the Prime Ministership was the ability to deliver a speech.
This is what Malcolm said:
We need a different style of leadership. We need a style of leadership that explains those challenges and opportunities - explains the challenges and how to seize the opportunities. A style of leadership that respects the people's intelligence, that explains these complex issues and then sets out the course of action we believe we should take and makes a case for it. We need advocacy, not slogans. We need to respect the intelligence of the Australian people.
You betcha. For years now we’ve seen complex arguments reduced to pious slogans: Better Schools! A New Way! Real Solutions! Stop the Boats! And we've seen by that wooden, dogged look on their faces that too many political leaders are trying to remember and parrot their lines rather than marshall and express their arguments. That was certainly the case with Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard. It was disappointing and frankly insulting. Not to mention boring.
Even in this brief excerpt from Malcolm’s address we can see him – hear him – thinking. He starts with explain those challenges and opportunities, judges it to be inadequate, and then expands the phrase to explain the challenges and how to seize the opportunities. He is adjusting and refining his language as he proceeds. Like Shakespeare’s smartest characters, he is over-hearing himself. He is aware of the impact of his words on his audience as he delivers them.
His face is agile yet relaxed because what matters is not avoiding a slip-up from the script, but making sure his ideas are fully and accurately conveyed. Yesterday in Question Time the new Prime Minister continued to press his commitment to quality communications, chiding Labor for its slogans and zingers.
The Labor Party has already decided to turn these words about the importance of this new style of leadership into an argument that the Turnbull Prime Ministership will lack substance. On the contrary. Any leader who cares about explaining his Government’s policies is, in my view, one who must care deeply about substance.
To explain your policies, to advocate for them, is to be held accountable. You are taking the people into your confidence. You are giving them some deeper understanding of the trade-offs you will be obliged to make on their behalf in order to get good and necessary things done.
None of this means that we should expect, or require, JFK-style inspirational speechmaking, although Malcolm has already made it clear that optimism about Australia’s future will be a cornerstone of his tenure.
Rather, we can expect thoughtful, balanced speeches that genuinely grapple with the complexities of life in 21st century, and how we manage them.
I think it's an exciting time. How about you?