Another candidates’ forum and yet again no Liberal Party representative attended. This forum was on Higher Education issues at the University of Queensland, in the heart of the electorate of Ryan. Despite being won briefly by Labor as a result of a by-election protest vote at the start of 2001, this seat is Liberal heartland. It currently has a margin of a little over ten per cent. There has been some murmurings that Labor may be an outside chance due to some local factors and the so-called Rudd Wets phenomenon, and Labor’s candidate, long time human rights activist Ross Daniels, should certainly appeal to this type of constituency. Interestingly, Ryan also has the highest proportion of voters in the 18-29 age range of any electorate in the country, at a fraction under 30 per cent – nearly three per cent higher than the next closest seat of Herbert – so if this age group has swung away from the Liberals in greater numbers as has been suggested, it will have the biggets impact in this seat. However, I’ll still be very surprised if Labor comes near winning this.
Among the other Ryan candidates attending was an Independent named Charles Worringham, who also has a campaign diary/blog which is worth a look. Ross Daniels also has a blog, although it appears to me to be constrained by the tighter message discipline field all major party candidates face. Just to display a bit of partisan spruiking of my own, the Democrat candidate at the forum, Dr Jim Page, gave a good presentation,– although you don’t have to take my word for it, you can look for yourself at this link. I especially liked his point suggesting that Plato wouldn’t get a job in a modern university. All the speeches from the forum were taped for the YouDecide website, so you can check them all out there.
I also released a package of measures relating to Indigenous Affairs. You can read the full details here and the media release I issued here. It was the first major package I released for the campaign, in keeping with my view that we should put issues affecting the First Australians first. Last election, neither major party leader even mentioned Indigenous Australian in their main campaign launch speech. Nor did they bother participating in the release of their party’s Indigenous Affairs policy, leaving it to junior members of their ministerial team. Until we get leaders prepared to show the necessary commitment and take personal responsibility for giving priority to this most important of issues, our political processes will continue to fail Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
I finished off the day by attending ANTaR Queensland’s inaugural ‘Close the Gap’ Indigenous Health award at state Parliament House. It was awarded to Dr Noel Hayman, who has had enormous success in increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who access Primary Health Care services both through Community Health Centres and through Queensland Health. This applies as much in urban areas, like the Inala region where Dr Hayman is based, as it does in remote areas which are the focus of most of the coverage on Indigenous health issues. Like almost all the success stories in indigenous health, it has had heavy engagement and input from Indigenous people at local level, rather than been centrally devised and run by government. By contrast, another recent report from the Audit Office has shown yet again that the so-called ‘whole of government’ reforms to delivering services to Indigenous community have delivered dismal results.