Dec 4, 2012

Posted by in Queensland Politics | 0 Comments

Queensland comes of age

Queenslanders are at a loss as to how to define themselves currently.


Once we used to accept, and later came to revel in, the perception of ‘southerners’ that we were rednecks. And we were – by their standards. Which is why we could be comfortable with ourselves.


But World Expo ’88 started to change it all. It began a transformation of Queensland. Yes, all sorts of factors were in place to stimulate change but Expo both summarised and stimulated seismic shifts in how we saw ourselves.


Agog at displays of advanced technology and imagined ways of life showcased by eager participants of Expo, we recognised other possibilities for Queensland’s future. Subtly, it dawned on us that if we could actually make this global event work – and work really well – then we were not, after all, the embarrassing country bumpkins pilloried so regularly by our fellow Australians. We had always believed they were wrong but it was SUCH a relief to finally have some proof. The realisation was cause for deep, if still suppressed, satisfaction.


So, we embraced the possibility of a new future for the Sunshine State. And nothing would ever be the same again.


In the warm afterglow of the unexpected legacy of Expo, we realised it was time to re-evaluate many things. Especially that man, Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, and his seemingly self-bestowed role as Premier for Life. Glimpses of potential new realities in the make-believe worlds on display within Expo made us aware that our actual future was utterly dominated by an anachronism. In the heady excitement of imagined futures, we overcame our fear of change and decided to embrace it.


So, we let Joh go. Rather vigorously, it should be said. Yet, when the sky did not fall in, we learned that while change is inevitable, a certain degree of control is exercisable. Suddenly, we recognised that the ballot box of democracy gave us power. We learned, experientially, that even deeply-entrenched habit is not necessarily permanent.


In doing so, we emerged chrysalis-like from teenagehood into adulthood. Oh, it was scary at first but we quickly grew into our new skins.


Over the past two decades our Queensland persona – both out internal notions of self and our externally-processed image – has changed considerably. We remain the butt of many jokes but, hey, no more so than Tasmanians or New Zealanders. Realistically, we have no cause for complaint.


But we do have trouble sometimes accepting who we now seem to be.


We are no longer caricatures. We are, mostly, modern professionals living in a metropolis, region, and state that is largely as good as anywhere on Earth. We are truly and significantly privileged despite Nature’s frequent assaults.


Still, we are mystified to find that today’s Queensland is not paradise. Oh, no, not by a long shot.


Like teenagers learning to cope with nocturnal emissions and the onset of periods, we are finding that maturity comes at a price. Bugger! Sure, no-one promised us a rose garden but we still thought, initially, that we could smell something quite alluring. Ah, the gaining of wisdom carries so many painful lessons.


We have learned that inwards migration is not just a pat on the back but a pain in the backside. We appreciate, now, the seeming impossibility of maintaining essential infrastructure so that it keeps pace with development. We have learned that there are precious few easy options. We are re-learning the perils of credit.


We are cranky because so much went wrong under Labor when it really shouldn’t have. We gave Labor the rounds of the kitchen but now we are starting to have doubts about this new mob. And we’ll be ready to kick them in the backside, too, if they don’t shape up to our expectations.


Funny how the ‘grumpy old’ syndrome kicks-in when you keep having to make tough decisions. Elasticity, it seems, is the privilege of the young and the naive. Queenslanders, today, generally seem to have finally lost that raw innocence and bright optimism that so characterises youth.


No, we have not sunk into cynicism and despair but we realise life is tough and no-one but ourselves can make it any easier.


We see the horrid schemozzle that is politics on the national stage and it revolts us, no matter where our political preferences lie. This is not what we thought Australia was supposed to be like.


The rose tint of Premier Campbell Newman has become a somewhat red-rimmed and bleary-eyed alternative reality which is still there when we wake up each day. Scary, but not as bad as the psychedelic asylum in which the parliamentary remnants of Labor are incarcerated, though. Their perpetual bleating that we never did anything wrong and our state has gone to the dogs in the short time since the LNP seized control is simply pathetic. In a world of uncertainty one thing is for sure: Labor leader Anna Palasczuk will never rule this state.


How our future will play out is anyone’s guess. But one key element has changed. We have.


Queenslanders are different today. We have grown up. We are not thrilled by it but we accept it as inevitable and will deal with it. Just as we will deal with leadership that does not meet our expectations. Nothing is as it was before. A new era of people power will define a new era of Queensland.



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