Governance report card

An end-of-year assessment of performance is one of those neat little tricks used by media outlets to make their chief newsmakers squirm. Why they want to impose heartache on the very people who provide the bulk of their bread and butter is a quirk that aligns quite closely with the mental profile of a sociopath. But whoever said the media were nice people?

Still, they have performed what they see as a public service in assessing the performance of the Government and the Opposition and allocating gradings for their efforts. That these results are released on the same day that matriculating students across the state receive their own end-of-school performance assessments is just one of those nice coincidences so favoured of the media. Synergistic if not sympathetic, perhaps?

So it was that the government of the day (Anna Bligh and her Labor Party) and the Opposition (John-Paul Langbroek and his Liberal National Party) were deemed to have delivered a fairly poor performance over the past calendar year. And quite a year it was with Anna becoming the first female party leader in Australian history to win an election. One hopes she can remember every cherished nuance of that celebratory evening because it’s all been downhill since then.

In early 2009 Queenslanders were fed up with Labor administrations which had governed for 18 of the past 20 years but had no faith in a lacklustre Opposition and wondered if a new woman at the helm might change things sufficiently to reinvigorate an otherwise moribund state.  Sadly, just like those who believe in Santa Claus, their dreams were dashed. Anna had no magic wand. Indeed, she most often seemed as ineffectual as her opponents (only a few of whom, it should be noted, were actually in the Opposition).

As Anna became a figure of fun for her penchant of featuring in every evening’s news bulletins wearing a hard hat (the public was supposed to assume it had to do with infrastructure projects but it was really just a safety measure against attacks from within her own party), so her popularity slid. The initial support for her femininity soon gave way to frustration that gender provided no discernible difference in ability to govern a modern state. Her ham-fisted administration was as clumsy as those of her predecessors. The only thing saving her was a comparable inability of the Opposition to rise above entrenched stereotypes of whining negativity and maladroit political manoeuvring that simply undermined any faith that they could do better.

Queenslanders started to get angry. They had no time for the Opposition but they knew it was the government they had just re-elected that was serving them slops for dinner. They had to eat it and they were desperately annoyed that they had put this cook in the kitchen. Their frustration simmered and it continues to do so.

There is a current impasse in state politics in which the majority of the population wants to be rid of the government. But they know their lifestyles and financial security depend on whoever operates the levers of power and they will not surrender frustration to futility. Their last, desperate, hope is that the LNP can get its act together and provide evidence it can be an intelligent, decisive and strategically-oriented government.

Regrettably for all concerned, the next scheduled election is not due until 2012.  This period gives both sides fair opportunity to lift their performance. Heaven help either or both if they don’t.

And so it was that The Courier-Mail gave Premier Anna Bligh a C and John-Paul Langbroek a C+ for their efforts over 2009. Millions of Queenslanders are watching the performances of these two leaders with rare scrutiny (that they wish they didn’t have to be bothered with, it must be said) in the desperate hope that one or the other rises to the challenge and offers real hope for the future. Neither should be under any illusion that the wrath that will accompany a negative assessment will be either light or misplaced and it will flow to all those who surround the leader.

The gladiators are in the arena and the lions have been loosed. Both need to survive in order to eventually face our thumbs-up or thumbs-down assessment. They should be very aware that while we like our entertainment we do not suffer fools gladly. And, unlike the media, ours is the ultimate assessment.