Thursday, 26 February 2009

Real change needed in Legislative Assembly

CairnsBlog columnist, Syd Walker, shares his observations on Premier Bligh's snap election.


The Queensland State election has been called. Election day is March 21st.

This is not a comprehensive round-up… just a few personal thoughts.

I’ll start at the ‘top’. I rather like the current Premier, Anna Bligh. I’ve met her only once, for a very brief one-to-one discussion at one of the former Premier’s moving cabinet meetings. I was impressed. She struck me as a politician capable of actually listening, even to an unpopular message. She didn’t just give a rote response. She gave a thoughtful response. That’s worth a lot in my book.

I’ve never met Opposition Leader, Lawrence Springborg of the Liberal National Party, but he’s been around a while. Actually, it’s his third Queensland election contest as Opposition leader.

I have heard Springborg on the radio and watched him on TV many times. He does not impress me. If he’s more than a reactionary opportunist, he does a good job covering it up. But I’ll keep an open mind and hope he can contribute to raising the level of debate in this State. Surely it’s his last chance to do that as Opposition leader?

Those are the two main party leaders. What of the political parties in general?

I shall likely vote for The Greens and give a preference vote to progressive independents (if any). Beyond that, with an optional preferential voting system which allows voters to number as many boxes as they wish (from 1 to n), I’ll keep my own council for now. Let’s see how the debate pans out and wait for the policy rollout.

The Labor Party, while less reactionary than its LNP opponents, is a rather gruesome machine. A lot of Labor’s MPs are rank opportunists and few seem to have much vision. Typically, they’re ‘business as usual’ managers, with grey suits and green, pink, blue and brown ties, depending on the occasion. This has not been a party of bold and imaginative new initiatives towards sustainable development.

But would the Liberal-Nationals be any better? I haven’t seen any evidence of that so far. Would they be worse? I have my fears.

It’s best to keep an open mind early in the election campaign, allowing plenty of blue screen for pleasant surprises. But if Mr Spingborg and his crew have serious proposals that might appeal to voters with my interests, they’d better share them and fast.

Incidentally, outflanking Labor on environmental policy and other issues of concern to progressives is not an impossible task for a right-wing coalition in Australia. Under Malcolm Turnbull’s able leadership, the Federal Opposition is coming close to doing precisely that.
Queensland needs a credible State Opposition. Above all, the State needs some radically new policies. In Far North Queensland, an isolated geographical enclave some 2,000 kilometers from the State capital, we need a visionary regional approach to develop a resilient, sustainable economy and way of life.

The previous Beattie-Labor Government set up a new planning process for FNQ, which produced its final report a fortnight ago. The plan is a statutory document and represents a major change in the regional planning regime.

When the new regional plan came out, it was barely noticed by most of the community. That’s probably just what the government hoped. No noise means no political damage. Most of the squeakiest wheels had been assuaged in the plan. It was a fix that normalized business as usual, c. early 2009.

The problem is, we need a lot more than that now. We don’t just have a State in ecological crisis; we have economic recession as well. The former could be – and was – repeatedly brushed under the carpet; the public won’t stand for that on the economy.

A State Government with real vision would provide coherent, integrated solutions to both major crises. We’d have a major roll-out of new, low-emissions technology and infrastructure. We’d be taking the first real steps towards a sustainable way of life.

I may be wrong, but I suspect Anna Bligh would not be averse to such policies. Unfortunately, most of her rank and file MPs seem to be a mundane and rather visionless lot. Without energetic, progressive politicians supporting innovative policies at a local and regional level, they don’t get on the Government’s agenda.

Labor is broadly competent to manage business as usual. But in 2009 - more so than before - doing better is an urgent priority.

To do better, we need real change in the Legislative Assembly. From my perspective, the best conceivable outcome at this election would be Greens and progressive independents holding the balance of power. A minority Labor Government forced to negotiate with more enlightened politicians would not be plain sailing. But it would be a sea-change.

It would revitalize politics in Queensland – and might also bring out the best in Anna Bligh. She’s needs more talent in her team.

Queensland’s economic summer wasn’t so difficult to manage. Winter will be more challenging.

PS: I just got a ping-back from Qldelection09.com, which is maintaining a daily list of blog postings on the Queensland election. A great service!

4 comments:

John, Kuranda said...

Hey Syd

Did you see the "infomercial" for Wettenhall on Page 12 of the Kuranda Paper just published. If that's not an election ad I don't know what would be! Interesting fact though is that the deadline for this edition was last Friday at 10am! Now if I were cyncial I would draw the conclusion that he had the tip off - so much for the statement that Premier Bligh was pondering the "call or not to call" question over the weekend! Obviously enough time to get the election ad out, get a letter written, printed, posted AND delivered to us in record time

Back to that ad in KP.
Really great to see what he is hanging his hat on - Safety upgrades for the Range Road - $2.8M - wow - but read the next bit - could that really be for the Range or for roads anywhere in the TRC?

Oh - and the Aquatic Centre. Steve the hero - getting funding not to build - but to assist in the building. Could not he tried a little harder to get some shade cover for the kids pool. And it was great to read that then look at the newly arrived Rate Notice - yep - despite Steve and his benevolence, I still have to pay $18 (half year) for the Kuranda and District Aquatic Centre Special Charge.

And for the record I am a member of the LNP. But also a resident of the Top of the Range part of the Kuranda Community. And proud of our lifestyle in this part of Queensland.

Syd Walker said...

John

Many of the Range Road safety measures are sensible, IMO - although I think there should be much more emphasis on demand management. The sheer size of trucks on the range road is excessive.

Nevertheless, at least Steve Wettenhall and the Bligh Government haven't pushed ahead with the billion dollar plus disaster of the 4-Lane Highway.

I trust the LNP wouldn't either? Trying to carve that monstrocity through World Heritage rainforests which form a scenic backdrop for the northen beaches would probably precipitate the biggest environmental conflict in the history of the region - at a time when we need to be working together on sustainable long-term solutions.

What does the LNP think about rail in FNQ? How about utilizing that chronically under-utilised public asset? That's where I'd like to see some innovative new policies.

We need a transportation backbone for FNQ here that's meets multiple needs, is low in emissions, cheap to run and doesn't groan under the stress. Biggering what we've got isn't the answer. We need to get smarter.

A party that's serious about modern rail would get my attention. How about it?

John, Kuranda said...

Hi Syd (perhaps we should continue this outside Mike's Blog?)

I agree regarding the safety measures. What is lacking though is still real protection for wildlife in and around the creek corridors. I just wish there was someway that we did not need to put out the BE AWARE signs - i.e. there were safe ways for the cassowaries to traverse from A to B. My biggest gripe are the inexperienced drivers (often in hire cars) totally freaked out by the traffic - the trucks, the tankers etc who create driver anghst by top speeding at 40kph. I am the first to admit I find that frustrating.

As for what the LNP would do with the road - I guess with a mega billion dollar deficit - not much for a while would be my logical guess - but in the long run yes something has to happen. Apart from the road itself, there are too many unstable, now naked hillslopes. Another cyclone and half of the Mcalister Range will be in Smithfield and/or Caravonica!

As for the rail, MY PERSONAL VIEW is that we all have a tendency to look at issues in isolation. What is needed is REAL community consultation that takes into account future growth needs, future agricultural needs (and produce distribution from the Tablelands needs to be addressed so so much), and future social needs. On the latter ya just can't cram as much housing into a given area to meet a "need" without looking at the needs of kids, youth facilities,privacy etc. And we then wonder why kids "hoon", why kids feel disempowered etc. Growing up I loved having the odd slanging match with my parents - it's hard to do that with next doors roofline 1.5 metres from yours!

But I do know that Wendy Richardson has talked to fellow up-the-hill compatriate Svargo and CAST. And I do know that FOR ME PERSONALLY a light rail option, or derivation thereof is the way to go. Syd it seems strange to me that here in Queensland we continue apace with expansion in the SE corner, the corner with least water on regular basis, rather than look at developing regional centres along the eastern seaboard. Making it commuter country from Bundaberg south. Plus looking at ways we can have higher speed passenger services from Brisbane to Cairns. And on a roll, regular passenger services between Cairns, Innisfail and what the heck Townsville!

As for the development of the Tabelands (its got water and prime agricultural land) MY PERSONAL VIEW is that its pointless (regardless of whether it be 2010, 2025 or 2031 - is bigger supposed to be better?)to place residential development on food bowl land. Sure look at regional development a tad west from here, but plan a community that has the infrastructre (physical AND social) to integrate with what is already on the Tablelands but which can allow public transport access quickly and regularly with Cairns, with the retail sector there, with the (hopefully) high speed rail service along the coast, with the Airport, and with the brand new LNP hospital built where the community wants, and with room for natural expansion. (So that we don't need to knock part of it down to provide essential new facilities on already cramped site - and that comment was and is political.)

Love to say more Syd, but as I said perhaps this is not the forum. Mike has my email address and my permission to provide it to you, if you want.

Syd Walker said...

Thanks John. A very thoughtful response.