NCA NewsWire
NCA NewsWire

Premier’s boast made me ashamed to be a Queenslander

When the history of the pandemic is finally written, will it mark 2020 as the year in which the federation that was Australia died?

Very likely. The concept of Australians united in a common cause, fighting the good fight for the greater benefit of all is threatened, trashed by a bunch of small-minded premiers more suited to backwoods USA than a modern, forward-thinking society.

When you have a premier boasting that Queensland hospitals are only for Queenslanders, not for people from New South Wales or anywhere else in the country, you know you have a problem.

When I heard that utterance from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, I was embarrassed to be a Queenslander.

Once upon a time, we were treated as a national joke. We were banana benders, country hicks who lived in funny timber houses on stilts with ­toilets in a sentry box at the bottom of the yard.

Queenslanders were regarded as different, the butt of jokes that made us defensive and created a large chip that we carried on our collective shoulders. The attitude was "I'm from Queensland - you got a problem with that?"

Sydney was a city of bright lights and Melbourne the nation's cultural hub, while Brisbane was a dusty, sprawling town where everyone went to bed at nine o'clock and Sunday was a day of rest.

 

Former premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen (left) with ‘minister for everything’ Russ Hinze
Former premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen (left) with ‘minister for everything’ Russ Hinze

 

When you travelled interstate and people asked you where you lived, you'd change the subject.

We had redneck politicians such as Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Russ Hinze, whose antics were a satirist's delight. "Southerners" shook their heads and wondered how it was that we voted for these corrupt cowboys.

I was born in the Mater Mothers' Hospital at Herston, have spent most of my life in Queensland and truly love the place, which is why I am so saddened by the desperate, politically inspired attempts to haul us back to the past and cast us as a separate tribe, to be seen by others once more as the hillbillies from the Deep North.

We are Australians. It says so in our passports, and attempts to build a metaphorical wall between us and the rest of the nation are as cynical as they are appalling.

It makes a mockery of the call to arms that "we're all in this together".

The message that is being propagated now is that we're out to save our own skins and for all we care, the rest of the country can go to hell in a handbasket.

"I would rather be facing it in Queensland than anywhere else in the world," the Premier crowed last weekend in referring to the virus.

How about "I'd rather be fighting it in Australia than anywhere else in the world?" I believe that we feel tremendous empathy with our fellow citizens elsewhere in the nation.

Our sympathies lie with those who have lost relatives, jobs and for the moment, their liberty, but you wouldn't know it from the posturing of the Premier.

Rather than offer sympathy, we are seen to be perched on our side of the border and giving the finger to the rest of the country.

In times of national crisis in the past, we have all rallied in defence of our fellows and our country.

 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday. Picture: David Kapernick/NCA NewsWire
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday. Picture: David Kapernick/NCA NewsWire

 

I see little evidence of this spirit of fraternity in the daily political propaganda broadcasts from George Street. Rather I see the "mate against mate, state against state" ethos of State of Origin matches.

When Roman senators wanted to strike fear into the heart of the ­population they would cry "Hannibal ante portas" - Hannibal is at the gates! ­ Attempting to foster a fortress mentality is an old political ploy.

If you can convince people that the enemy is at the gates, then the hope is that they will rally behind you and see you as a great and fearless leader.

In a local context, the hope is also that while we are peering over the battlements, we will temporarily ­forget the scandals, obfuscation and aversion to public scrutiny that have so marked our state government for the past three years.

We are seeing this played out now. New South Wales and Victorian residents are portrayed as the enemy while Premier Palaszczuk, a latter-day Joan of Arc, raises the sword of righteousness and drives them back across the Tweed River.

It need not be like this. We are not, as much as our politicians might like to believe it, simpletons. We realise that this is not about them and us. It's about all of us - a nation.

State of Origin might work well as a marketing ploy designed to get more people to watch a football match than would ordinarily do so. It has no place in our relationship with the rest of the country.

The attempts by Palaszczuk and others to spread division and distrust will, I think, be viewed harshly by history.

We stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Australians.

Any suggestion to the contrary is an insult.

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Premier's boast made me ashamed to be a Queenslander



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