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4 March, 2021

OPINION: 'Cut the crap and do something'

A more direct and honest message would start with: “Cut the crap. Get off your collective fat arses and do something. Enough talking. Regional Australia, especially Queensland, has had enough. Get fair dinkum.”

I should write a letter to all Australian politicians but the chances of it getting past their minders would be very slight.

A polite letter would begin, “Stop flapping your lips.” A more direct and honest message would start with: “Cut the crap. Get off your collective fat arses and do something. Enough talking. Regional Australia, especially Queensland, has had enough. Get fair dinkum.”

And it would continue, “For decades we’ve been flooded with white papers, green papers, beige briefing notes and colourless promises about regional development. The time for bureaucratic reviews, assessments, feasibility studies, investigations, working groups, listening tours, and the rest of your shite rhetoric is over.”

While I apologise for using that language, it is well known that country people know if it looks like bullshit and smells like bullshit, it probably is bullshit. We don’t have to taste it to decide.

Unfortunately, bureaucrats know where to strategically position bullshit so that politicians step (wallow) in it and spread it far and wide.

For too long “polite conversation and political discourse” has achieved sweet FA, so now it’s time to get down and dirty and start fighting — and swearing mildly if necessary.

I’ll scream if I hear one more politician, business leader, industry body spokesperson or big-noter say we have to get rid of all the “tapes” — red, green, blue, or rainbow.

I should emphasise that my “tape” comments are not aimed at bureaucrats. That’s because bureaucrats design and manufacture, and control and enforce the use of, all coloured “tapes”.

Therefore they can never be accused of being part of the lynch mob wanting to get rid of the offending material that can quickly strangle an idea soon after conception or simply tie it up long enough for it to wither and fade away.

Bureaucrats run government. Unfortunately too many passive politicians are happy with this arrangement.

There are some politicians with guts, determination, and more than a slight tendency towards self-destruction, but they are few and far between. They are the ones regional Australia needs to hear from now.

For as long as many of us can remember, politicians of all persuasions have been promising regional Australia “development” — turning inland areas into major production zones and arid regions into lands of milk and honey.

But bugger all has actually happened. Some cosmetic changes dealing with immediate problems maybe, but tangible, productive results are as rare as logic in a climate change debate.

Where’s the infrastructure needed for this type of development? After several decades of ideas and promises, speeches and sermons, flag waving and finger pointing, where’s the detailed proposals, let alone the basic planning, for major infrastructure projects?

I know everything takes time but the best part of a century? We don’t have the luxury of working on “bureaucratic time”, which is similar to Hawaiian time but much slower.

Can I throw in a few words that have been bandied about over the years when politicians have been discussing regional Australia: The food bowl of Asia; drought-proofing Australia; Bradfield Scheme; flood-proofing major highways; inland rail?

Have you heard statements such as, "The North provides Australia’s economic future. A strong North is critical to our national security and prosperity. Northern Australia is the engine room of Australia’s economy”.

Sound familiar? Yep, and it’s being churned out again, this time as part of the promotional material for the annual Developing Northern Australia Conference, a gabfest that’s been going nowhere for a long time but getting there quickly.

It must be fun to attend. Why else would hundreds attend year after year to hear the same shite spewing from different mouths?

Darwin in August 2021 should be great. A bit like the Melbourne Comedy Festival but not as serious.

“Rebound and Resilience: Leveraging the North’s Potential for Australia’s Recovery” is this year’s theme. How brilliantly original and appropriate for these pandemic-plagued days.

“Recovery” is a bureaucratic buzz word that pollies love using. It makes them sound like they’re doing something, or at least planning to do something, without actually doing anything but print glossy brochures.

You might remember the Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia published in June 2014. No? I’m surprised.

That Green Paper informed the White Paper titled Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, published in June 2015.

“Hooray,” shouted the peasants.

Only taking 12 months to turn a Green Paper into a White Paper must be some sort of Commonwealth record. The authors were probably awarded a Public Service Certificate of Merit.

But wait, there’s more. On 19 August 2020, just five years and two months later, came the news: “Through the Our North, Our Future White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, the Australian Government has been putting in place policies to unlock the north’s potential.”

“Hooray, hooray,” screamed the peasants.

But wait, there’s more. “The Office of Northern Australia is actively leading implementation of the white paper and the northern agenda. We’re collaborating closely with over 14 departments and agencies from the Australian Government and northern jurisdictions through the Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australian governments.

“Together we’ve delivered 45 out of 51 measures, and are on track toward full implementation.”

“Hallelujah brother and glory to God whoever She may be,” chanted the peasants.

If you are a masochist who thrives on bureaucratic bullshit, or if you want to waste an hour or so of your life, read that document.

It’s practically devoid of any tangible evidence of anything being achieved. Oh yes, plenty has been done by hundreds of very busy bureaucrats, but details of achievements are as scarce as hairs on the top of my head.

An example of a “delivered measure”: “A pre-feasibility study on a potential rail line between Mount Isa and Tennant Creek was examined.”

I wonder when the feasibility study will be done or did the pre-feasibility study decide it was only a brain fart anyway and will be ignored for another few decades?

And: “The 16 feasibility studies and three water resources assessments funded through the White Paper have been completed.”

Not an extra drop of water has resulted but the studies and assessments have been completed and probably filed in a bottom drawer in the bowels of a department, never to be seen again.

Maybe I’m being unfair when I single out this “delivered measure” but it’s a gem: “A northern Australia themed regulation repeal day in March 2016. Delivered: The Australian Government takes immediate and ongoing action on Australian Government regulations considered as red tape, rather than waiting for a specific repeal day.”

Huh? Say that again. No, on second thoughts, please don’t. My head hurts.

Oh how I love this one: “Fostering business-to-business links with Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. Delivered: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade fostered business-to-business links for businesses in northern Australia. Projects include a semi-arid dryland cropping data centre project in Indonesia, business registration and licencing to improve the productivity and business skills of cocoa farmers in Papua New Guinea, and improving business credit to promote private sector growth in Timor-Leste.”

Can someone tell our pollies we voted for development IN northern Australia, not NORTH OF Australia.

Politicians are at their best when they can announce funding for this and financial support for that.

I live for the day we see an achievement — finalisation of an infrastructure promise in rural Australia.

It’s time we demanded action and call out verbal diarrhoea — better known as bullshit — when we see it.

Under My Skin

Introducing Skinhead, a self-described “old hack” who retired from the workforce but cannot give up writing about his favourite subjects — things that really get under his skin.

He will be a regular contributor to The Rural Leader and readers will soon get to know where he stands on a number of issues.

Skinhead suffers from a medical condition colloquially known as SOL. Regular bouts of this common infliction are induced by some public servants, most politicians, and all governments.

Because of this, those three “scars on the democratic landscape” will feature regularly.

After “a lifetime in provincial newspapers, two lifetimes in government media, and on parole for a while in the pursuit of happiness”, Skinhead will be presenting readers with some, down-to-earth, common sense, and thought-provoking opinions.

Sometimes he gets serious but where possible he gives his views in a humorous style. As he says, “Life is too short to waste on serious stuff.”

Don’t miss reading Skinhead because he won’t miss any subject he takes aim at.

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