###ALEXANDER DOWNER JOINS IN CONVERSATION WITH ALEX MALLEY
Sunday 4 December at 10:00am
On the next episode of In Conversation with Alex Malley, Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK, Alexander Downer, reflects on his considerable political career, including the self-doubt he experienced when becoming leader of the opposition Liberal Party, and the horrific situations he faced as Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.
On becoming Leader of the Opposition in 1994 – a position he occupied for less than a year – Downer confides: “I was shocked at the fusilladed abuse that came my way for everything. I was just too inexperienced for the job. I simply wasn’t mentally prepared for it.
“When I think of the attacks there have been on everybody from Tony Abbott to Julia Gillard, to Kevin Rudd and John Howard, in varying degrees, these people have been well-equipped to put up with that.”
Downer’s record 12-year tenure as Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs was riddled with significant international tension and tragedy, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, war in Iraq, the Bali bombings and the devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in South-East Asia.
“There was quite a list of experiences that I had that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and hopefully most politicians will never experience these kinds of events,” he says.
“Going to Bali after the Bali bombings, we had a horrific situation in March 2007 where some people who were travelling with me in Indonesia went ahead on a commercial flight which crashed, and some of them were killed, and others injured.”
The third-generation politician also shares his perspective on what it takes to be an effective political leader.
“You need experience in politics to be good at politics … So just to take someone who is the CEO of a major company and think she might or he might make a great politician, don’t be so sure, they might be absolutely hopeless at it, and this has happened through the years.
“One of the things that I would say about being a politician is it’s easy to respond to the media rather than thinking about ordinary people.”