Friday, October 2, 2009

The Queensland "Blight"

By reading the letters to the editor in major Queensland newspapers, talking to people in the street or shopping centres it becomes abundantly clear that the majority of Queenslanders are far from happy with the Bligh government for a variety of reasons. What do you think? - Werner

Following is an article by Mike O’Connor, published in the Courier Mail 21.9.09.

Only the truth will save Bligh.

WHEN you find yourself in a hole, accepted wisdom dictates that you stop digging; unless you are a politician, in which case years of conditioning urges you to shovel evermore frantically.

No further evidence of this Pavlovian response is needed than the reaction of Premier Anna Bligh to the release of opinion polls which showed her standing in the eyes of voters sinking faster than an Ipswich house built on a disused coal mine.

Rather than wonder at the cause of her unpopularity, the Premier and her minders decided that what was needed was a public relations campaign that would, at considerable expense, explain to Queenslanders how mistaken they were in believing that she was an unsuitable person to occupy the high office.

It did not occur to this intellectual powerhouse that the reason the Premier is held in low esteem is because people have had a gutful of public relations campaigns and are hoping against desperate hope that, for once, someone will tell them God's honest truth.

Indulging in yet another exercise in misrepresentation can only further infuriate and alienate them.

Australians put up with a lot from their politicians. They expect them to be economical with the truth and to put their own interests first and second, with the electorate trailing a distant third. But there is a limit to this tolerance and the Bligh Government has reached it.

People didn't like it when, as an opening gambit, she rewarded her predecessor Peter Beattie with a $300,000-a-year job in Los Angeles after he had declared he would not accept a government position.

No degree of public relations manipulation that claimed he was the best person for the job and Queensland desperately needed a trade representative there was going to convince people otherwise. She was not being honest and it showed.

Giving her husband a comfortable $180,000-a-year government job was another blunder. The public relations strategy was to proclaim that, once again, he was the best person for the job.

Perhaps, conveniently, he was but it looked like she had simply created a nice job for her partner and pumped another $180,000 a year into the Bligh household budget.

The public nodded and filed the information away. Taking a free holiday in the Sydney harbour side mansion of a person closely connected with a company that won millions of dollars in state government work was a mistake. The public relations campaign to justify this, swung into action - the person in question was a friend of the Premier. There was no conflict of interest.

Like her husband's appointment, it was a matter of perception. It looked bad and the people looked at each other and nodded and filed it away. An admission of misjudgement would have been accepted and forgiven by voters as proof of human frailty, but none was forthcoming.

Truth has become a casualty of an obsession with public relations. Bligh wants to build the Traveston Dam and goes on the public relations offensive, suggesting we'll all die of thirst if it isn't built.

"The State Government has given the green light to Traveston Dam," she said, adding that the final decision now rested with Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett.

This was not true. Her own Coordinator-General, Colin Jensen, had said there needed to be a lengthy process involving thousands of conditions, which needed to be met before he could give his approval.

The dam is a long way from being given the "green light", so why attempt to mislead people? The truth would have served her better.

Last week, a government public relations exercise announced that Professor Geoff Masters, of the Australian Council for Educational Research, said the Government's proposed "flying squads" of teachers had the potential to lift achievement levels in state schools.

Masters, in fact, had said no such thing and was surprised when he found the remarks attributed to him. On the contrary, he said that such squads could be a superficial response to the problem of numeracy and literacy and likened them to "putting on a fresh coat of paint".

Once more, truth was cast aside in favour of the public relations strategy.
There was another flurry of public relations activity when it was revealed Bligh was to appear on the television program, Master Chef.

She said she had accepted because she wanted to use the program to promote Queensland produce.

There isn't a man or woman in the state who believes this. They think she is hoping that by appearing on a popular TV show, she will somehow improve her political stocks.

The truth, once more, was denied. It's not only the big ticket deceptions like asset sales that are eating away at her standing, but the succession of smaller deceptions, which point to an inability to tell the truth.

It's not too late for Bligh to substitute honesty for public relations in her dealings with the people - but it soon will be.

* * * * * *
Lemon picker.

A Queensland woman applying for a job picking lemons in Tasmania seemed to be far too qualified for the job.

The foreman frowned and said, "Look, I have to ask you this; have you had any actual experience in picking lemons?"

"Well, as a matter of fact, I have!" she replied, "I've been divorced three times and I voted for Anna Bligh."

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