A legacy of spin

My dear former Premier, Peter Beattie,

How’s life on the other side of the world, mate?  It appears to be getting to you because I noticed in an article you wrote the other day that you’ve forgotten a few things about life back here in the Sunshine State. Yes, that’s right: the Sunshine State. Much better than that dreadful moniker you imposed on us: The Smart State. What a joke! After all, how smart can we be when our teachers are forced into grading students with a letter between A and E because if we gave them a numerical positioning they would get their noses out of joint and either be overly competitive or unable to cope? That kind of smart just doesn’t sit well with us Aussies or have you forgotten that our dislike of bulls-it is a national characteristic here?

That’s why we breathed a sigh of relief when you left centre stage, mate. It wasn’t that we didn’t like you. We still do. You’re a bit like Gough Whitlam: lovely bloke, but thank god he’s no longer got the reins of power. You see, Peter, your love of spin – and we all admit you are a master at it – kind of spoiled things for us. For years you spun a web of delusion that conned us until it was just too late to escape the mess. Now we are paying the price for your legacy.

A big part of that is your chosen successor: Anna Bligh. She is not actually a bad person, either. But we hate her as Premier and the day she gives us the chance to vote at the next election, we all know what is going to happen. We have gone beyond the anger that spawned your predecessor’s imagery of people waiting with baseball bats on their verandahs to exact vengeance. We are just tired of the whole charade. We don’t believe a single word that comes out of our state government and we just want it to be over. You will no doubt be pleased to know that we are not overly enamoured of the Opposition, either, but there’s no way we are not going to give them a chance when the time comes. Of course, if they don’t deliver then we may move beyond just baseball bats and really hurt them. But that’s in the future. You were the one who prompted us to look to the past but in doing so you let some skeletons fall out of the closet. That, too, was one of your failings: you never knew when to let go, did you?

So, your remembrance of things past appears affected by the smog of LA. For instance, you said the election of a Labor administration twenty years ago was the start of proper funding for education, health and human services after 32 years of neglect under the conservatives. How dreadful must the American health system be that you think it is better than the one you left us behind (Mr Health Minister for many years!)? Have you forgotten that your predecessors gave us a free health system that was, in its time, the envy of many states and nations around the world? True story! Today’s model is a shambles that even your federal colleague, Prime Minister Rudd, is thinking twice about taking over. It was your side of politics that wrecked it, Peter, and we are not going to let you off the hook without paying the price.

As I said, you never did know when to let go. So it was that you reminded us that two of your Ministers were jailed for corruption (and the difference between them and your predecessors was?). But you tried to wrap yourself in the mantle of integrity and that’s always a dangerous thing to do, Peter. A bit like old Joh used to say: beware of getting one foot caught on the fly-paper. You profess that your Minister allegedly misled a parliamentary committee but justice was served because state parliament dealt with it – something that could not have happened under earlier administrations. But, Peter, it was your mob – Anna in particular – that dealt with this Minister’s circumstances by passing a law giving MPs the right to lie to Parliament! Your lot actually entrenched this in legislation. And you reckon other people were corrupt!

You also cling to the delusion that other Australians continue to flood into Queensland. Sorry, mate, but they have woken up to the reality of your supposedly Smart State. They get the news, they know how bad things are and they are voting with their feet and staying away. Again a true story. Our nett migration gain is coming from people escaping elsewhere in the world. Aussies have substantially given up on us and your cherished memories of ‘Mexicans’ flooding across the border are like the lingering ghosts of Christmas past, old mate.

Frankly, Peter, you are as relevant today as old Joh. You spin the good times but we’re left to deal with the appalling congestion that makes LA gridlock look good; hospital waiting times that make death seem preferable; an education system in which youngsters still can’t add up or write properly; and an arrogant, corrupted administration in which cronyism is entrenched. Can’t blame you for wanting to stay in LA, Pete. It’s better than the legacy we have to put up with every day here.