Friday, 23 January 2015

Election 2015 - Being Cashed Up

It's taken until the second last week of the election campaign, but I finally have a piece of literature from my local LNP candidate, Leila Abukar.

I like that the LNP has pre-selected a woman of Somali origin for my local seat, but it's depressingly familiar (no matter which party you talk about) that she's been nominated for a seat they are unlikely to win.  The LNP won Yeerongpilly in 2012 by a very slim margin, and within a year their succesful candidate, Carl Judge, resigned from the party in disgust.  He is running this year as an independent but it seems almost certain the seat will return to Labor.

Still you can't accuse them of skimping on her campaign.  We've been reading about how much the LNP has out-fund-raised Labor and this is evidence right here.

All Labor could afford on behalf of Mark Bailey was an ordinary, old-fashioned letter.  Enclosed in Abukar's letter, on the other hand, is a glossy, carefully crafted four-page A4 brochure and a fake "how to vote" card which encourages me to just vote 1 for Abukar and leave the rest blank.

Leila AbukarThe whole package is testament to the advantages of being able to pay serious money to a PR firm, as well as the benefits of incumbency.  Bailey's letter makes a rather silly claim about the primacy of his commitment to the local community, without actually promising anything concrete.  Abukar's brochure, on the other hand, is a carefully crafted message balancing her party's state-wide agenda with a leaven of local content.  The words "strong" and "stronger" appear 23 times, including 11 times on the front cover.

The inside includes a central spread which sets out the LNP's five key messages: "growing a four pillar economy", "reducing crime on our streets", "tackling the cost of living", "fixing up our local schools" and "revitalising frontline health services".  Embedded in these messages, half-hidden as it were, is a criticism of the previous Labor government.  If schools need to be fixed they must previously have been broken; if health services need revitalising they must have been ailing; if crime needs to be reduced it must have been allowed to grow.  Three years on, the LNP has not yet milked every possible vote out of the perception of Labor misgovernance.

A sidebar presents us with a matching set of five "local" initiatives branded as "my action plan for Yeerongpilly".  Like Bailey's critique of the LNP's impact on the electorate, this list shows just how thin the veneer of localism is.  The first and last initiatives are essentially the same - installing flashing lights at two local schools as a road safety initiative.  The middle one also involves lights, this time on a local sports field.  The second and fourth initiatives are not local at all,  One is a State-wide program giving kids vouchers to pay for sports cub membership. The other is a State-wide fund to lower electricity prices by taking on the cost of solar energy subsidies, making power utilities more profitable for their intended private sector buyers.  This subsidy for big business is cleverly disguised as a cost of living measure.  Overall the list is slightly more substantial than Simon Finn's wheelie bin stickers but hardly exciting or groundbreaking.

The back of the brochure contains four endorsements of Abukar by people I've never heard of, but who I am intended to assume are local residents.  They tell me that she is an "amazing person", "an outstanding, hardworking and compassionate member of our community", "an inspiration" and yes, "a passionate local champion".

I've never met Abukar personally.  Even though I'm slightly doubtful as to the locality of her referees I have no reason to doubt that she would be a hard-working local member should she unexpectedly get elected.  I would love to see a Somali woman elected to our parliament to dilute the dominance of middle-aged Anglo men.  But I won't be voting for her.

Like Mark Bailey, her local loyalty will always come second to her party.  Her party, in turn, is firmly loyal to the big end of town.  In the name of "economic growth" they have dismantled the State's climate change response, authorised reef dredging, extended the leases of their sand-mining donors on Stradbroke Island, promised expensive infrastructure items to support a marginal coal mine in the Galilee Basin and weakened our industrial relations system.  At the same time they have cut human services, ridden roughshod over the judiciary, neutered the Crime and Misconduct Commission and waxed hysterical about bikie gangs.  If we re-elect them, they will transfer public assets to their business mates in the name of "budget repair", leaving a structural budget problem for their successors.

I'd love to see better safety lighting at our local schools, but not at that price.

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