We Need Our Political Leaders To Be Okay With Risk
Politics|Jul 17, 2020

We Need Our Political Leaders To Be Okay With Risk

In The Face Of The Coronavirus, Our Pollies Could Learn A Lot From Taking Risk.
Caroline Di Russo

I like risk. I’ve always liked risk. It keeps you sharp. I run my own businesses, and it is the risk that puts a rocket up me every morning. And when I say risk, I mean weighing the pros and cons, making a calculated decision and then putting a plan into action – hopefully to reap a reward. I don’t mean base jumping with a plastic bag.

Fact is, there are no sure things in life. And most sure things tend to be, at best, thoroughly underwhelming.

Why am I raising this?

Well, the world has been turned upside-down in the past six months. We were enjoying summer, going to the pub and reading about some virus that was doing the rounds in faraway Wuhan. Fast forward a bit, and the whole country is in various stages of COVID-19 restrictions, security guards are shagging people in hotel quarantine and the economy is tanking so fast it’s almost impressive.

To be clear, I am totally supportive of the initial shutdown. We needed to get our hospitals ready, understand the virus better, get a testing regime in place and try to keep our community safe. The news out of China and Europe was pretty terrifying and no one wanted that happening here. Our federal and state governments moved quickly to put health and economic measures in place. It all moved very fast. And frankly, everyone did a very decent job with the information they had at the time.

Save for a slight *cough* relapse in Victoria, we have this virus pretty much under control, and our domestic economy is starting to reopen: we can go to the pub, the gym and have 100 people over to celebrate an Italian baptism. It’s not back to normal but it sure beats being stuck indoors making sourdough and not being able to hug your loved ones.

That said, it is hard to un-scare a scared populace. And I know that the virus is still present in places around the country, but we can’t hide behind mum’s apron forever. We have to take some calculated risks to get the economy at least hobbling along while mitigating the risks of the virus overwhelming our health system. We still need to protect the vulnerable until such time as we may (or may not) have a vaccine. There is no easy answer and no ‘sure thing’ solution.

So, we need our political class to take some political risks, whether that be speeding up the opening of our economy or implementing law reform to help business get back on its feet. The political class is notoriously risk adverse so this is a huge ask: it’s difficult to assess risk and plan a strategy when your entire existence revolves around taking as little political risk as possible. Enter stage left, leadership with a side serve of courage. If we are all in this together, it won’t hurt for our politicians to lose a little skin and have a slightly smudged chapter in their inevitable memoirs. There is more to serving this country than polishing your legacy. Just have a crack.

And for business owners who managed to hold it together, it’s time for us to also take some risks. Consider alternatives. Recalibrate the way we do things. Sometimes in business we get stuck in habits and we are so balls to the wall that we don’t stop to analyse how and why we do certain things certain ways. During the shutdown, I spent time working on the fundamentals of my businesses – I changed a few things and maintained others. If nothing else, this process distracted me from my regular liaisons with the fridge. And while it may all feel very uncomfortable, this period presents an opportunity for businesses to do things better and rise from the ashes. Obviously, without actually ‘phoenixing’ as that will get you pinged under the Corporations Act. But you know what I mean.

I don’t want people to get sick, but I also don’t want us stuck in a slow drawn-out economic recovery. We need to find some middle ground, take some risks and hopefully reap some reward.