ROGER SCOTT. Writing from the ‘Blue Ribbon’ north.

Queensland has delivered a killer punch to the Australian body politic, not for the first time.   

My wife Ann and I worked on the hustings over several weeks, convinced that this was an election which could possibly deliver an outcome with long-term benefits.   But Queenslanders led the way in putting first a narrowly-defined version of self-interest.  This could be expressed in dollar terms, appealing to those retirees who received amounts, however small, when they visited their tax accountant or discussed the impact of future changes on their housing investments with their financial advisers.  The ALP’s energetic, highly effective campaign in our constituency of Ryan touched large numbers and generated the biggest swing to the ALP in the state, but not enough to go close to unseating the LNP parvenu.

Octogenerians will remember Joh and his capacity to create surprises like abolishing death duties to attract interstate immigrants;  younger people will recall Campbell Newman and his thumping win reducing the total of state ALP parliamentarians to single figures,  relying on a manifesto of privatisation and public service cuts.   In 2019, we have just had a marketing guru offering warnings against the need for change, in the form of policy-free negativity which put an exaggerated price on every desirable social reform.   The LNP bunting nationally was mainly coloured red, identifying fake news  about “ALP lies”  on hospitals, schools and child care.

Here in Queensland Morrison was also able to tap into widespread scepticism about climate change, based on entrenched disbelief of experts when they contradicted religious fundamentalists or commercial priorities.   Holding up a lump of coal in national Parliament  may have led to ridicule elsewhere but it created a gut-level response for people outside Brisbane who grew up on a mineral-rich diet.  Some farmers might worry about water resources but there was little enthusiasm for putting small birds ahead of the heavy machinery which once provided a magnet for workers.   So the union movement was heavily conflicted locally, reflected in results of seats all up the coast.  Job opportunities trumped climate change.

And we will doubtless hear more of that last verb.   Trump was the obvious inspiration. This was a campaign where a self-proclaimed messiah with his invisible team of apostles and a temple full of bankers confronted a bunch of do-gooders.   Unfortunately goodness was perceived to come at too high a dollar price.  Perhaps Queenslanders saw a latter-day Joh personifying their preference for resisting change.  On the front pages of all the compliant newspapers, Morrison identified his success as “miraculous”.  Ann speculated that the nature of truly Christian ethics suggests that the good Samaritans lost out to the money-lenders.

Yours in sadness,

Roger Scott is an Emeritus Professor of Public Administration in the University of Queensland and former Director-General of Education in Queensland.  He was the inaugural Director of the TJ Ryan Foundation in Brisbane.

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4 Responses to ROGER SCOTT. Writing from the ‘Blue Ribbon’ north.

  1. gregory clark says:

    I was a Queenslander, 60 years ago, raised just 30 miles away from Pauline Hanson’s Ipswich shop. But even over that distance of time I can understand the voting mentality. They do not like intellectuals from the South breathing down their necks. They put the practical ahead of the theoretical, fortunately – particularly something as theoretical as climate change where minuses seem exaggerated and pluses ignored. And they are impervious to foreign policy issues, unfortunately.

  2. Marcello Milani says:

    Hi Roger,

    I too am in Ryan. I was a young punk rocker in the mid-late ’80’s. I well remember the Joh era. The police as an arm of the state – I experienced this first hand. The blackouts during the SEQEB strikes – my local priest was arrested for being on the front lines – banning of the right to strike or protest and so on.

    Campbell Newman ran and won as a throwback to those times. Fortunately he only lasted one term. The advent of predominantly Labor government here since Joh’s demise has been a wonderful thing. However, Queenslanders seem to derive some perverse pleasure in proving that “we’re different up here”.

    On Saturday all the information we had seemed to point to the idea that the Greens or Labor might have a chance, however slim, to win in our traditionally LNP electorate. As my wife and I left our local Polling Place she commented to me that it seemed like most people were asking for how to vote cards from the LNP people there. The Greens were trying, but I didn’t see any Labor people handing out how to votes. The only red signage I could see was LNP “The Bill you can’t afford” signage. It concerned me.

    I also suspect that Bob Brown’s convoy (which I initially thought a great idea) helped to unite the normally antagonistic mining and agricultural voters here. Perhaps an own goal?

    I find myself agreeing with your analysis. And I too am greatly saddened by the result. And just when people were thinking that maybe Queenslanders aren’t so crazy after all?


    • roger scott says:

      Thanks for your comment, Marcello. I am sad that your polling booth was understaffed by the ALP. We were at Ironside School where a team of seven of us was very busy up until dusk, around 5.00, having erected competing red signage the night before. Our experience was that the younger people who turned out seemed to fall into two categories, Greenies delighted to be able to participate after enrolling for the same-sex plebiscite and others celebrating being old enough to vote but woefully uninformed and making their mind up in the queue. I agree about the Bob Brown caravan.

  3. Nigel Drake says:

    “The Price of Progress is the Pain of Change.”

    Too high a price for those obsessed with money, too much pain for those accustomed to feather-bedding and too much change for those who fear the need to adapt to new circumstances.

    Greedy, lazy and cowardly people.

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