I’ve been on the road all this week, which has made it harder to update this blog (and also harder to achieve my goal of reducing my greenhouse emissions in the election year). On Sunday night I flew into Hervey Bay, meeting with some people working with multicultural issues and helping newly arrived migrants and also catching up with a seriously injured service person and his family who I had tried to support a couple of years ago. From there I drove across to Maryborough, meeting with people about housing and welfare issues.
Then I drove up to Bundaberg, where I met some more people working on housing needs. I also announced our House of Representatives candidate for the seat of Hinkler. The new boundaries for this seat are rather strange I must say. Instead of Bundaberg being the heart of Hinkler, the city is now on the northern edge of it, meaning many surrounding communities that link to Bundaberg are in a different electorate. Instead the seat now goes further south, taking in Hervey Bay, and dividing it from Maryborough, which is basically a sister city to Hervey Bay (indeed, the two cities will probably soon be forcibly amalgamated by the state government).
I then flew back home to Brisbane and drove out to Ipswich for a public forum on Workchoices on Tuesday night. There are a lot of these forums happening around the place at the moment. This was the second one I’d been to, not overly well attended compared with the previous one, and not attended at all by the local Liberal MP. I gather the Libs are boycotting all of these forums, which I think is a bit poor, regardless of the fact they are orgniased by trade unions. I also got a good reminder of why the Ipswich Motorway is such a major issue for the people out that way, as it took me about hour and a quarter to make the journey from the centre of Brisbane to the centre of Ipswich.
The following day I was up in Cairns, lending support at a meeting of Queensland Indigenous people looking at where things might go next on the stolen wages issue. I travelled from there down to Melbourne – stopping off in my office in Brisbane for a few hours along the way – where I will be until Saturday. I’m having meetings on a range of things while I’m there, including attending a dinner tonight to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the Democrats. It will have a number of former Democrat Senators attending, and it should be interesting to catch up with some of them. It will be an interesting follow-on to last night, when I had dinner with former Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser.
I’d been trying to meet up with Malcolm Fraser for some time to hear his views on Indigenous issues, as he has been active in that area and has some good networks with a range of Indigenous people. There was a bit of irony in meeting him the night before a Democrat dinner, as some might argue Fraser was a key person the Democrats were formed to fight against. Certainly antipathy at the time between him and Don Chipp was a part of why Chipp quit the Liberals and helped form a new party. However, that was a long-time ago, and as I noted at the time, Fraser had the class and dignity to attend Don Chipp’s funeral last year as a show of respect for what Chipp achieved. The Democrats have evolved a bit since that time, and of course the ‘Liberal’ Party is almost unrecognisable from that which was led by Fraser in the 1970s and early 80s. It was fascinating to listen to someone who is of the few people left with direct experience in the Menzies government, and it was also good to hear his optimism about the potential for significant improvement in the situations facing Indigenous Australians, despite all of the failures to date.