I had a momentary flashback as I went down to my local shops to get the papers this morning. There on the footpath were people with some election campaigning posters, including a Liberal Party one with the word HOWARD across the top in big letters. After spending all of last year hanging out for the federal election to be done with, the sight caused an instinctive churning of horror in my guts for a second or two, until I remembered about the Brisbane City Council elections coming up in March.
The Liberal Party candidate for my ward of Central is a woman named Vicki Howard (my apologies if I got the first name wrong – I can’t find any details on the Liberal’s website and I was too distracted by her last name), although not surprisingly most of the Liberal’s campaigning material will focus on their Lord Mayor, Campbell Newman. This will be doubly so in Central, which is one of the safer Labor wards, which I’ve just been moved into following a redistribution.
Labor’s incumbent candidate, David Hinchliffe, also had his signs out this morning. Interestingly, his signs just have a huge photo and the word Hinchliffe across the top. No mention of the Labor Party and not even a mention of the ward of Central. The material I got from his campaign worker for Labor’s Mayoral candidate Greg Rowell also contained no mention of Labor, apart from the small authorisation at the bottom. Even the colours were blue and yellow and green – not a sign of the traditional Labor red. By contrast, the Liberal’s signs show their standard party logo. (I should note for the benefit of out of town readers that Brisbane City Council’s official colours are yellow and blue.) I’ve also had two separate fliers from Cr Hinchliffe in my mailbox this week, so I presume the major parties have decided it’s far enough out of the holiday season to start putting politics in peoples’ faces again.
Brisbane has the unusual scenario (unusual for Australia anyway) of having been run basically as a sort of grand coalition between Labor and Liberal for the last three years, with a Liberal Mayor alongside a Labor majority. As I understand it, it hasn’t been a formal Coalition, more of a power sharing arrangement, which even has the oddity of a Liberal councillor formally being leader of the Opposition, even though there is a Liberal mayor and also a couple of Liberals in the Civic Cabinet. But it does create a difficulty come election time, as it is hard to distinguish which party has actually been responsible for the things I don’t like (or the ones I do for that matter).
Water is shaping up to be the big issue at the Council poll. In my view, the Council has a mixed record in this area in the last few years, but even there it’s been hard for me to tell which party has actually been responsible for the things I do and don’t agree with.
I’ve whinged before about the Council’s obsession with building a pile of tunnels and bridges (collectively called TransApex); a very expensive way of guaranteeing an increase in car traffic, while continuing to do far less than could be done on public transport. However, while this has been most enthusiastically pushed by the Liberal Lord Mayor, it has only gone ahead because it was also supported by the Labor Councillors. In addition, the state Labor government has been pushing the tunnels as keenly as anyone.
See this post from last year for more on the tunnel, road and car obsessions of both local and state government, even while they all cloak themselves in nice rhetoric about reducing greenhouse emissions – including the quote from now Deputy Premier Paul Lucas, celebrating a 58% increase in road funding, that “we can’t get much more car friendly than this”.
Of course, we say the same at the recent federal election, with Labor and Liberal falling over each other to promise the most in road funding, while barely mentioning the words “public transport”, let alone rail. Quite how this fits with all the talk of targets to reduce greenhouse emissions escapes me.
Of course, in one sense one can’t blame the major parties for this. No doubt they are just reflecting what the majority of the electorate wants – some comfort that something is being done about climate change, without actually causing any individual inconvenience. Governments have always pushed the myth that more and more roads are the solution to traffic problems, and I don’t see any sign of an end to this endless tail chasing.
Having said all that, I quite like David Hinchliffe, who has been in Council now for many years. He seems to have a good sense that supporting a local community is about more than just delivering services. He’s done a lot for the cultural vitality of the inner city area, strongly assisting and promoting the arts – although I wish he (and the Council) would do more to help preserve and promote the history of the area, which is still blithely ignored and bulldozed and paved over with unnecessary frequency.
He also seems to me to have made more effort than most to try to enable the retention and creation of affordable housing in the area, which apart from the basic justice issues involved, also helps maintain diversity and character within the local community.
The tunnels (and the bridge) still suck though.