currently taking place in the Australian media over whether the Prime Minister should have curtseyed when she met Queen Elizabeth.
I will not go into the issue of whether or not one should curtsey to royalty or not, or into the issue of Australia "becoming a republic". (It is one already.) However there are issues about good manners, setting an example and leadership here. These things are even more important if you happen to be someone like a Prime Minister.
Our Prime Minister made a major error of judgment the other day -or she deliberately set out to cause a problem - or she will do whatever it takes to keep her job. It still has the potential to be a disaster for all concerned.
The problems started when a fourteen year old Australian boy was arrested in Bali for drug possession. Now there are all sorts of rights and wrongs and issues with that but the situation has been made much worse by the media - and by the way in which our government has handled the situation. They went public and they went public very loudly indeed. Oh they said all sorts of things about not interfering in Indonesian affairs etc etc but they have been doing just that.
And then our Prime Minister did the unthinkable. She 'phoned the boy and spoke to him. She has talked to the boy's father as well. She claimed she was "showing her support". It was perhaps the worst thing she could have done.
No doubt the tactic was supposed to show her as a good, caring person who was concerned about the plight of a child caught up in a dreadful situation.
The Foreign Minister also weighed in. He used to be Prime Minister before he was uncermoniously dumped in favour of the present one. He would like his old job back. There is rivalry between them. He claimed to be working with the Prime Minister on this one and said that she had his "fullest support". Perhaps.
If, as they almost certainly do, the Indonesians feel under any sort of pressure from Australia they will not react positively. You do not interfere in the internal affairs of another country, particularly a country like Indonesia. They have their own code of conduct. It is not the same as ours. They do not like it to be questioned. We do not like ours to be questioned either. Australia or the boy who has been arrested will pay dearly for this. Perhaps they both will.
The Prime Minister was trying to shore up her dwindling support. The Foreign Minister was trying to undermine it - while appearing supportive. They both know that telephone call should not have been made. Using the boy's situation to achieve their own ends has shown they are both unfit to hold the positions they hold.
That call was bad manners, making it public made matters much worse. It set a poor example and showed a lack of leadership. Real leadership would have involved working quietly behind the scenes. It would have involved very discreet high level negotiations along the lines of the "yes, he was caught, he has confessed and we understand your position...given his age can we negotiate for him to serve his punishment here in Australia?" That may still happen but it is going to be much more difficult - and may end up costing Australian taxpayers dearly.
Good manners cost nothing. They show respect for other people. They show leadership. They allow us to respect ourselves.