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Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

A little over seven years ago I did something that many of those also from the north and western sides of Brisbane would scoff at – I moved to the southside of Brisbane. Oh, the horror of being just that little bit closer to the bogans, apparently, aside from the fact there are people from all walks of life across this city.

But there was something else about moving to the southside that I began noticing and thinking about, not long after finding my first home away from home with a couple of friends. Pasty white young me was in the minority – even in my own little 3 bedroom townhouse in Mount Gravatt East, as well as in the wider complex.

My friends and I spent a year-and-a-half in that wonderful little spot. We were situated nicely between two big shopping centres, which we would frequent more than just about any other place during that time.

When our time was up, we moved to another townhouse complex a little further out, in a suburb called Wishart. The place looked almost exactly the same as our previous residence, yet somehow was not connected.

After having our application approved, and upon meeting with the complex manager, he asked us if we wanted to put a pin on the world map in his office to signify where we came from. I looked at the map and noticed plenty of drawing pins in the Asian countries, but none on Australia. We all shared a laugh at this.

It was a thriving little community and the sights, sounds and smells were indicative of families enjoying their time together, and at peace. I would go on to spend five years there, while the same two housemates completed their studies.

Then, in 2015 came a little bit of a shock. My housemates, international students from Malaysia and Nepal had to return back home. For the first time in my adult life I would have to contemplate living on my own.

I searched and searched for a one bedroom place. The constant disappointment at the cost and poor state of most of these places was frustrating, and perhaps hastened my balding process.

In the end I settled on a one bedroom duplex. The most annoying part of this was that I went from paying $130 a week for a room in a house, with access to a kitchen and living area, to paying $275.00 per week for basically the same privilege. And this time I would not be splitting the electricity or internet bills three ways.

But the most eye-opening part of this journey was moving to within cooee of a mosque, at a time when debate was increasing about the place of Muslims in Australian society. My neighbours in the duplex are also Muslims, from Somalia. We have different schedules but pleasant interactions when we do cross paths.

I have never felt unsafe living in this area in all of my time here, despite living alone. That is, except for one occasion when an overly aggressive neighbour from up the road, who was closer to me in appearance, baled me up and angrily demanded that I get him to mow my yard. I did not give in, and thankfully I have not seen him in a very long time.

At this point I can imagine that some will be thinking about ghettoisation, and that has been something that I have considered over the years too.

There can be little doubt that different ethnic groups do tend to congregate in certain areas of cities across Australia, and that is certainly the case around Brisbane, and I have lived it. We must however give more mature thought as to why different ethnic groups tend to stick together.

Is it not the case that if immigrants were back in their homeland, they would tend to live around people of the same background? Don’t we, the people who were born here, do the same? If you moved to a different country, or as is the case for immigrants in my little area of town, were forced to move elsewhere, wouldn’t you want to be closer to people with whom you have some kind of natural connection?

Perhaps too, part of the problem is us? If we could venture out into these areas more, aside from the occasional culinary journey, we would see that these so-called ghettos are not impenetrable. Australia is not quite like the United States of America, where divisions are so much more entrenched and lead to more widespread conflict.

My experience over the last seven years has been somewhat transformational. I have always accepted difference to a degree, but through my experiences, that willingness to embrace diversity has expanded.

To paraphrase Jimmy Buffett just a little bit, or perhaps not at all, when people seek changes in latitude, perhaps we can respond with a little bit of a change in attitude?

The ALP Might Think the G20 Has an Electoral Benefit, But Tell ’em They’re Dreaming

Prime Minister Julia Gillard formally announced today in Queensland that Brisbane had won the right to host the G20 summit in the year 2014. This was greeted with much appreciation and even gloating from Queensland politicians at different levels of government. Brisbane beat all other cities that put in a submission to be able to host this potentially very lucrative meeting of the world’s 19 biggest nations and the European Union. The event will have some definite positives for the Queensland economy when it is held in November 2014.

Brisbane won the event over the much bigger cities of Sydney and Melbourne, with politicians from both states and including Melbourne mayor Robert Doyle sticking the boot into the Gillard Government over the awarding to Brisbane of the summit.

Both states think that their cities have better facilities and they certainly do, with sizeable airports and convention centre facilities, not to mention terrific accommodation available.

That’s not to say that Brisbane doesn’t, it certainly does and the city has been working hard to develop world class facilities and attempting to grow a reputation worldwide as a true “world city”. The Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre facilities are not to be sneezed at and are well and truly capable of hosting such a large and important meeting of world leaders.

Politicians from both NSW and Victoria and many in the media immediately upon hearing of Brisbane being made the host of the G20 immediately put the announcement down to politics. The ALP Government are finished in Queensland in particular and will be, on recent poll results, all but wiped out if an election were held in the near future.

So, of course it follows that speculation would immediately turn to the move by federal Labor being a so-called “vote-buying” initiative before the next federal election due to be held some time around mid-to late 2013.

But is it really reasonable to assume that Brisbane playing host to world leaders for the summit in 2014 would actually win votes? The answer is almost certainly not.

The event will likely have economic benefits for the economy of the city of Brisbane, bringing in what is estimated to be $50 million for the local economy over the course of the visit by international delegations. Though at the same time, much of the city would probably be in lockdown for such high-level visits so benefits, particularly to retail might not be so high.

On the other hand, hotels will be rubbing their collective hands together with glee at today’s announcement, particularly with tourism, a usually strong performer in the state of Queensland having been hit so bad because of the floods and the Global Financial Crisis

Brisbane having world leaders, including the US President visiting will also possibly have some impact on the broader tourism market, spurring confidence that things in Queensland have returned to a more stable position, but this is less certain and probably of much less benefit than many have been quick to assume today.

The potential too for world leaders discussing possible future business investment in and trade with the Queensland and Australian economy is a very important long-term prospect.

But all this will count for very little when it comes to the ballot box. International meetings of world leaders, though great in their own special way have never actually stayed with the thoughts of voters as potential election winners, or at the very least as the ALP was probably hoping against all hope, vote buyers of some face-saving repute.

There will never be a time when the exit polls say that a summit was any kind of factor in the electoral success of a political party.

Consistency on Rights Please

The Newman Government in Queensland is less than two months old, but already the hysterical claims of a return to the Bjelke-Petersen era have emerged. These loopy claims started just days a matter of a week or two before the election, when it became clear a landslide was on the cards, which did eventuate and was above and beyond the expectations of just about anyone, serious pundit or not.

Alas, these claims have again been unearthed over the last 24 hours with a furore over a tent embassy, this time in a Brisbane park- it’s certainly been quite a year for those types of establishments/protests.

The tent embassy, based in Musgrave Park has been established for just a couple of months and was began as a protest for the sovereign rights of the indigenous people

Today, Queensland Police were dispatched to the park in West End to evict the demonstrators who ignored an eviction order that was put forward by Brisbane City Council ahead of the Greek Panyiri Festival which has regularly been held in the same park that the protesters have occupied.

It is unclear what stance both parties are taking over the matter, the protest group and the festival organisers, with conflicting claims being aired over whether or not the Panyiri Festival administration were happy for the indigenous protesters to remain in the park while the festival goes ahead this weekend.

Like the protest on Australia Day, the demonstration, this time involving a short-term protest, compared to the decades long Tent Embassy in Canberra raises some questions about rights in Australia and whether or not they are or should be limited.

But first to the hilarious claims of a return to Bjelke-Petersen era politics in Queensland. This is utterly ridiculous and should be laughed at. In the Bjelke-Petersen era protesters were barely even allowed to organise before they found themselves the victims of completely abhorrent laws that were so draconian that Queensland, because of its history, has a terrible reputation around rights and freedoms.

Why are the claims of a return to the dark days of the Bjelke-Petersen era ridiculous in this case you ask? Well that has a lot to do with the fact that protesters in this case were free to commence their protest and have been allowed to since March. The protesters were also able to march on parliament, a n0-no under Sir Joh that would’ve attracted arrest.

What is different about this protest is that an eviction order was issued by the Brisbane City Council and this was flouted, regardless of what you think of the rights or wrongs of the lawful direction asking people to move on from the park facilities. Those involved defied those orders, again whether or not they are right or wrong.

This then still raises the question of whether or not rights should be limited.

We have found, particularly in recent years that freedom of speech in this country, an implied, not legally or constitutionally expressed right does have its limits and is at the whim of a subjective test in the courts.

There are many people that have supported the limited right to freedom of speech that we have in this nation. In this stand-off today, what we have are the same people who supported limiting freedom of speech, protesting against a limited right to freedom of assembly.

What this debate requires is some consistency across all fundamental human rights, whether they have been expressed in law or have been implied. If one right is limited, then we should not be surprised if others are too and should allow all to have limitations.

However, rights and freedoms should ideally be absolute or, where practically possible, with little or no limitation which impedes the rights and freedoms of the individual.

One right should not take precedence over, or be held to a different standard as other basic rights and freedoms accorded to the individual in a democracy. Can we please have some consistency on rights across all groups please?

 

Positive Signs on NDIS from the Prime Minister as we Await the Budget

Today in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart rallies were held as a show of support for the policy of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Those who could converged on events in their capital cities with their friends, families and supporters of the cause to put a strong public face to the calls for action in the often neglected and always underfunded area of disability policy. Today the silent  minority, Australia’s largest minority in fact, found their collective voice.

The numbers were propped up in many cities by the presence of politicians of all political colours, with attendees at different rallies around the country including the Prime Minister, Minister for Disability Reform, the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, the Shadow Minister for Disabilities, Attorney-General and others.

It was a red sea of sorts at rally locations around the country. All in attendance were united in the fight to pursue the announced but not yet commenced policy development and implementation of the NDIS which the Productivity Commission has identified as a necessity for so many Australians who receive little or no support  and face barriers of inclusion because of their impairments.

Speculation surrounding the NDIS and the upcoming federal budget has been rife in recent weeks, with speculation mounting that there would be a significant announcement in the fiscal statement on the evening of May 8 on the future of the policy.

Today the Prime Minister announced, at the Sydney NDIS rally that the speculation was indeed true, though, giving us the detail of an earlier commencement of the scheme, but teased us with just how it would be funded, saying we would have to wait for the budget to be told how the quicker rollout would be achieved.

Prime Minister Gillard today announced that the Medicare-like scheme would commence in July next year in four sites around the country, helping approximately 10 000 people with significant and permanent disabilities seek the treatment and care that they need to be able to, in many cases, perform basic daily functions.

The Prime Minister also stated that those covered by the program would double to 20 000 by the following year after the initial implementation of the scheme.

Probably of most importance and central to the delivery of this policy promise, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of the agency to oversee the NDIS. The new body to oversee the delivery of the necessary care and support programs will be called the Disability Transition Agency.

For their part, the Coalition came out in strong bipartisan support again for the NDIS, as they have reaffirmed in recent weeks save for comments from the Shadow Treasurer questioning how the federal government would be able to fund the scheme.

But nevertheless, Mr Hockey reiterated that it was an “extremely important” initiative and that it did have bipartisan support.

Truth be told, the scepticism will probably continue to exist until the budget and even the eventual delivery of the scheme. People with a disability who cannot help themselves and their carers have been let down time after time with piecemeal action in this big and complex policy area and even a reluctance to deal with the issue since de-institutionalisation.

But the budget should and will go a long way to placating many of those who are wary about how the promise will be funded and in any case, the query seems to be more about how it could be funded in what we have been warned to expect to be a tough budget with the government trying to return the budget to surplus.

What is important in the end is that the bipartisan nature of the NDIS continues and there are few real indications that it will not, except perhaps in terms of detailed negotiations on the scheme with the states.

In another 8 days the government will outline just how this essential policy will be funded and further detail on the rollout will be outlined and the Opposition have already locked in supporting any supply bills for the scheme.

The signs are good, but we wait for the detail and the costs.

Councillor Quirk Will Be Elected Lord Mayor and the LNP Will Keep Chamber Majority

It’s election time again tomorrow across Queensland, not for a re-run of the state election so emphatically won by Campbell Newman and the LNP, but for the race to control council chambers and mayoral positions in all urban and regional councils across the state. Most eyes tomorrow will be on the mayoral race in Brisbane with the incumbent Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, seeking to be elected by the public for the first time up against Labor candidate Ray Smith. Polls this week indicate that the results will go much the same way as those in the state election.

This week a poll conducted by research company ReachTEL showed that the contest for the position of Lord Mayor is well and truly over with the current serving Mayor attracting 58% of the polling vote compared to ALP rival Ray Smith who according to the results will be unable to crack 30% of the vote at 25.4%

Even further back in the race in third place is the Greens candidate, former Australian Democrat Andrew Bartlett who has only managed to attract 14.1% of the vote if the results of this poll are borne out on Saturday. The other two candidates, Chris Carson and Rory Killen would poll only 2.6% of the vote for mayor between them according to the ReachTEL survey with a sample size of 1085 participants.

The strong result for Councillor Graham Quirk in the position of Lord Mayor also points to a continuation of the majority held by the LNP, a result achieved by the now Premier, Campbell Newman during the last vote for City Hall positions.

A further polling question in the survey asked respondents whether the recent state election result for the LNP made it more or less likely they would vote for the LNP in the race to control Brisbane. The results show that 66.5% of those who participated in the survey were either ‘more likely’ to vote for the LNP (31.1%) or their position since the landslide LNP win remained ‘unchanged’ (35.4%).

These results point to another unpleasant night for the Queensland ALP machine, the second in just a month and will reinforce the need for soul-searching and renewal within party circles.

The Hide and Seek Poll

This Saturday the 28th of April the people of Queensland will go to the polls again. No, not in a run-off election to decide for certain which side won the recent state election, we already had that burnt on our retinas. No, it’s not to decide the President in a second round election which has been a popular occurrence recently, with East Timor going to a run-off poll and France headed that way next month. Give up? You could almost be forgiven, even if you’re a Queensland local for doing so. This Saturday marks the running of the Brisbane and other city and regional council election’s. As elections go, these local government polls have been part of a barely seen and just as rarely heard campaign.

The vote this weekend will see the people of Queensland return to the polls just over a month after the state sent the most brutal of messages to a long-term ALP Government so on the nose that barely a shadow of the former Queensland parliamentary Australian Labor Party remains in the parliament and even this situation could be bettered this weekend for the LNP with the by-election for the state seat of South Brisbane, vacated by former Premier Anna Bligh well within reach for a buoyant LNP machine that has felled almost all before it.

But the main game this weekend will be the council elections to be held for every council across the state this weekend. The local government elections have lacked in the visibility that the state government election did, with outsiders drawn in to comment and dissect the extraordinary 5 weeks of the historic campaign and the very short election night wait for the result, which was almost not even required, a waste of broadcast time almost.

Advertising for the council election seems to have been almost non-existent, with television campaigns only really ramping up in recent weeks with the two main mayoral candidates, the incumbent LNP Councillor Graham Quirk, the serving Lord Mayor and the ALP mayoralty hopeful, Ray Smith the focus of television commercials.

On the letterbox drop side of the advertising coin there has also been limited material to digest, though “digest” may be the wrong way to characterise what people generally do with political propaganda that finds its way into our letterboxes, forest-by-forest during a political campaign. This may well be a good thing as limited letterbox drops equal less spending on material most people don’t read.

Another feature found to be lacking during the council election campaigns has been the “boots on the ground” campaigning in the ‘burbs by party volunteers and operatives sitting close to the signage of their party’s candidate so as to not breach electoral law. These people appear to have been nowhere near as visible as they were during the recent state campaign nor any other in recent electoral history in Queensland.

Even speeches by the two major players, Lord Mayor Quirk and Ray Smith seem to have been few and far between, although, judging by media releases of announcements by the candidates, perhaps  they have been a victim of a weariness toward political lobbying for votes so recently after the endurance race that was Queensland Votes 2012. Though local media did host one of these events today, just 5 days out from voting day.

These circumstances combined scream out that the population of Queensland are weary of elections, that having one so soon after the state voted to oust the ALP Government, people for the most part just will not care for having more politics thrown at them after having en masse delivered the ALP in Queensland absolute mass devastation.

The lack of seriously vigorous and visible campaigning also points to the result not being a good one again for the Labor Party in Queensland. There just doesn’t appear to be that energy for change in City Hall, that thirst for delivering the reins of council to an alternative power.

Surely too, the recent electoral tsunami across the state has had a strong role in dissuading a struggling Labor brand to commit to fighting a very hard, energetic and tangible campaign.

Party finances so soon too after a highly publicised campaign in the state election have also led to the party coffers for both sides of politics to be drained sufficiently to render any real media blitz severely dehydrated.

Though it may be easy, given the lack of attention, don’t forget to vote in this hide and seek poll in reverse where the winner will be the one that didn’t end up hiding very well from the spotlight. Oh, it could also be the incumbent in situations like this.

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