IT takes a special person from inner Sydney who can construct a brief for a minister about an issue in Bourke – but that is exactly how we staff our public servants in Australia. Does it make sense that the Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications Department only has two per cent of staff (53) in regional areas, with the remaining 95 per cent in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney?
Or that the Agriculture and Environment portfolio, home to 9608 staff tasked with understanding the country, only has 1236 (13 per cent) in regional Australia with the rest in the CBD capitals?
This could be why regional Australians wait for three weeks for a doctor’s appointment, have to drive to the nearest capital to get cancer treatment, and getting internet or phone signal requires a high ridge and good luck.
Police say thieves steal what they can see, unfortunately, the more politicians see of Canberra, the more advice they take from it.
Of any state or territory it is only Canberra, home to most of our public servants who compile and write the ministerial briefs, which many a dozy minister sleepwalks through signing, that has voted to create a Green-Labor Coalition.
Only five people (0.08 per cent) in the Health portfolio are employed in regional Australia and none of them are writing briefs for a minister to sign. It’s easy to advocate for wind towers when you never need to live next to one – like the City of Sydney which rather than living beside wind factories themselves, encourages them to be built over NSW farms.
In country areas there is a growing discussion about Australia being powered by nuclear, but not in Canberra where the Green-Labor Coalition government is surveying owners about forcing solar power on tenanted properties.
Nearly 90 per cent of public servants in the Education department work in the three main capitals, with just one per cent (59 staff) in regional areas.
That could be why uni students are being asked to turn in assignments on our need for a global government, while kids are indoctrinated with the idea that we are all inherently racist, male students must apologise for being male and, above all, the planet is dying and we are at fault.
This has a morbid correlation with a sky-high teen suicide rate, and youth mental illness is at an all-time high. Perhaps a more positive message might help.
One in three Australians live in the regions but the people in the departments who are instrumental in governing the country overwhelmingly do not.
The vast majority of the nearly 150,000 public servants who send briefs to ministers who change the culture of Australia, work in either Canberra, central Sydney or central Melbourne. If you told them they would have to live in Julia Creek or Rooty Hill, forget about global warming, they would meltdown all by themselves. Dictating policy from the CBD creates a government of the inner-city for the inner city.
The juxtaposition of this was Wednesday, when masses drove thousands of kilometres to Townsville, where league is celebrated with religious zeal, imprinting a picture of a terrace of impassioned maroons in regional North Queensland to State of Origin memory.
The great new stadium itself is a cultural reflection of North Queensland communities, the other stadium in Canberra, called Parliament House, not so much.
Few of the cheering, booing, swearing maroons would have been able to name half of Australia’s cabinet, but they could name the whole team, where they played, and probably the other side.
In Canberra, their pre-game entertainment is the fascination of the 2050 zero emissions target, but how many driving from Mount Isa to the new stadium were talking about that?
If people could go to Question Time and yell playing advice from the gallery as they did from North Queensland’s grandstands, then what fascinates the mostly grey players in Canberra’s pit might be different.
On Flinders St, Townsville, amid the passion for footy and the pride in hosting the State of Origin for the first time, you did not hear a whisper of the climate conference at Glasgow – and they wouldn’t care unless the stadium of Canberra imposed their world view upon them. But it does and that is the problem.
To understand an issue enough to develop national policy, we must live it. Only a regional experience erases a CBD prejudice.
You don’t play Origin unless you are the best – that’s why tens of thousands turn up to watch and why advertising during the game is so expensive – if the Origin coaches picked their team the way Canberra picked cabinet, the centre would be a plump, little, bald bloke who was owed a few preselection favours.
Origin prides itself on players coming from every corner of the state, bureaucracy picks from a handful of suburbs.
No TV station has a bidding war on Question Time, it struggles to pull an audience even when it’s there for free – maybe it’s because the game they are playing is one the footy fans feel they have no skin in.
On the field they are loud and heard, but to take their issues to Canberra? Nobody listens anyway.