By Glenn Dyer


Was there anyone from News Ltd, PBL or the Howard government in the audience at the Sydney talkfest yesterday when former US president Bill Clinton was interviewed by one-time journalist Bob Carr? If so, what did they think of Clinton’s comments about “yes men” (here’s an AAP report and a few quotes):

The former US president has urged Australian business and government heavyweights to select advisers who are allowed to argue the toss with the boss.

“Surround yourself with a team of people who have strengths you don’t have,” Mr Clinton told a Sydney leadership conference by video link from the US.

“The greater the pressure of the job, the greater the temptation to be surrounded by people you feel completely comfortable with, people who think like you do.”

“You have to learn to look in the mirror and say, ‘What am I honestly good at, and what am I not so good at?’ and go and get people who are good at what you are not so good at. You have to encourage people who disagree with you.”

“You have to let people feel they can fully speak their mind and never be hurt by that, never be delegated to some outer chamber.”

Let people “feel they can fully speak their mind and never be hurt by that”? That could be a very dangerous career tactic inside the Australian Government or at Australia’s biggest media companies. Can you imagine these kind of speaking-your-mind comments inside those organisations:

At the Howard government: “Er, um, PM, I think Amanda Vanstone should resign because she failed in Immigration. And so should Phil Ruddock because of even greater failings. Ministerial responsibility, PM.”

At the Federal Opposition: “Kim, you’re doing a brilliant job!”

At News Ltd: What would happen to the career of a journalist who accurately reported the News Corp annual meeting last Friday?

At PBL: “Excuse me Mr Packer, what are we doing about the fact that gambling damages the community and hurts people?”

At John Fairfax: “Why should Fred Hilmer be paid $4.5 million when the company is slowly going out the door backwards, and why should David Kirk be paid a golden hello of more than a million dollars, chairman?”

Fully speaking your mind is a fine theory, Mr President, but it isn’t one designed to succeed in the upper echelons of Australian politics and business.