Rick Farley A life with a lesson for us all

I am a person who needs to be surrounded by good friends to truly relax and find it almost impossible to take 5 when I am left to my own devices

So this Christmas I am determined to break that mould. My front verandah has become my new best friend along with Amazon Kindle and Netfix and Crackle and iTunes

A Google search told me the best TV series of the Year was House of Cards.

I have been fascinated by Rick Farley since I read his 2003 Australia Day address so on my iPad Kindle I am reading his biography ‘A Way Through’

What a contrast my choices of verandah entertainment has been

House of Cards is indeed brilliant but so dark. Kevin Spacey as Congressman Frank Underwood Machiavellian personality is just so evil.

I wish he was an anomaly but we all know there are people in the real world just like him with no empathy, conscience or remorse and believe everything should revolve entirely around them and their quest for power no matter who or what they have to crush to quench their thirst.

Some eerie quotes from the series

Power is a lot like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source the higher your property value.

Choosing money over power is a mistake almost everyone makes. Money is the big mansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after ten years. Power is that old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who does not see the difference.

Now according to the web President Obama has said of House of Cards and Frank Underwood (who will resort to murder, sexual impropriety, blackmail, fraud and a litany of evils to grease the legislative process).

“I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient….. this guy’s getting a lot of things done”

I would prefer to think the President has been misquoted or spoke in jest

The most poignant part of the series1 for me is the last episode when Frank’s wife Claire (who can do evil pretty well herself) asks Frank what legacy will they leave on the world and he can’t give her an answer.

Such a contrast to Rick Farley who also spent a considerable amount of time in the world of politics.

“In this era of adversarial politics and campaigning there are lessons to be learned from his life, his capacity to get everyone talking to one another, and to agree on a compromise” Natasha Mitchell ABC Radio

“Farley brought competing interests together, listened deeply and patiently, worked from clear principles, helped people to understand each others’ perspective and to find common ground, and often delivered results that everyone could live with. Farley usually negotiated deals that represented real progress, but more importantly, that left a legacy of better relations between competing interests. Invariably, he earned the respect, trust and admiration of those he worked with.” Andrew Campbell

Rick was a city boy who is his own words was

shaped over a long time by a very diverse group of Australians – cattlemen, farmers, conservationists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I thank them all for the education they have provided me. It also has been shaped by over 25 years in the political and public policy arena, which represents both the best and worst of our national endeavour.

As his 2003 Australia Day address shows, Rick had a big picture vision for agriculture in this country and was 100% committed to Australia being the great country it deserves

So I perceive my country now to be a bit lost; still not managing change equitably; searching for its place in the world; looking sometimes for simple truths and solutions which no longer exist – in the middle of a cultural vortex and not quite sure of the exit point.

In that situation, it seems sensible to me to look to the bedrock of our nation, the points that can ground us and give us stability. In my view, these distil down to our country – our land and waters – and the nature of our relationships with each other.

Unless we use natural resources in a sustainable way, we are mining the future. Unless the relationships between our citizens are respectful and inclusive, we are a divided and diminished society.

To me, these are the defining features of Australian culture and identity. Together, they can unite our communities, build resilience, and create a firm foundation from which to meet the ever-increasing challenges we face.

By any measure, we are not caring properly for our natural resources.

We automatically imported European systems of agriculture, based on wet, fertile landscapes, and unsuited to our fragile soils and rainfall patterns. Australia’s wealth depended on agriculture and mining for a long time, and without sufficient knowledge about the long-term results, we went hell for leather……

The tasks before us obviously are enormous. Farming systems will have to change; further adjustment in the farm sector is likely; rehabilitation will take decades and will be impossible in some areas; public and private costs will be huge; new regulatory systems will have to be introduced; and a vast amount of political and social capital will need to be invested.

But unless we do it, in my view we will limit our future as a nation and as a society. Our economic, social and even our spiritual security will inexorably be diminished.

Sadly Rick Farley is no longer able to grow his legacy but eleven years later what Rick said in 2003 is just as relevant today

There is a golden opportunity here – to come together in an act of national will to create a priceless legacy for future generations; to cement part of the foundation for a modern Australian culture and identity. One that builds on the past, but can deal with the new realities we face.

I never met Rick Farley but I am honoured to be working side by side with people who knew him and respected him and I for one will be working hard in 2014 (25 Years of Landcare) to celebrate both his vision and inspire others to make it their mission.

In Andrew Campbell’s article “Whatever happened to brave leaders” he says

Rick Farley … was gifted in speaking truth to power, in cogent language that political leaders and their constituents could “get”. How we miss those clear, far-sighted voices in debates over how best to share the water resources of the Murray-Darling Basin. How we miss their ability to understand and empathise with all sides and cut to the essence, to find a way through to a better place.

In Rick Farley we lost a real national leader, one of the most significant Australians of the late 20th century.

There are indeed lessons to be learnt from his life. Rick Farley may be a “one of” but surely a team of people who aspire to achieve his vision could have a red hot chance This makes me ponder perhaps the most pressing thing wouldn’t you agree is that we (agriculture) identify and nurture the next generation of Rick Farleys?

2 thoughts on “Rick Farley A life with a lesson for us all

  1. Thank you for highlighting the legacy of Rick Farley. I would love to hear more about his work and life. Anyone who can take a group of at times, unusual ‘bedfellows’, weld them together through productive, genuine dialogue to move together towards the betterment of all is pretty incredible. Sounds like he didn’t ‘mince words’ but honoured people by walking in their world and looking from their boots..
    We will never find a Rick Farley again;Sounds like he was a sum of many experiences and personality traits, but I am sure his life story must illustrate skills that we can all learn from. I would love to hear more from people who were affected by his decisions and I think this is a book I can’t wait to read.
    The next young leaders are out there I am sure, and perhaps they aren’t the ones we sometimes immediately look at. But if we identify them, let’s nurture them and give them the chance to be the negotiators and welders of the future.

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