It took me a while to work out just who Kristina Keneally reminded me of. It wasn’t until the ‘Minister’s Unlawful Act’ Sydney Morning Herald headline on Monday Oct 19, with the photo that accompanied it.
I know there’s a big difference between acting unlawfully and being corrupt – isn’t there? – and I’m not suggesting anyone in the party is corrupt. But I do remember a certain premier whose mention in the media, in nebulous or dubious contexts, always seemed to coincide with ‘Aboriginal unrest’ in Redfern so that the ‘race riots’ would always be the leading item on that night’s evening news. (How did the citizens of that Sydney ghetto know when to ‘riot’? Did increased police presence result in arrests for activities to which said police normally turn a blind eye, or which that self-same presence incited?) Then, as now, as any time since the Rum Rebellion, it’s best to fall back on that classic escape clause: “it’s the whole system that’s corrupt; has been from the beginning – ever since the Rum Rebellion!”
But I’m in no position to suggest there could be a better way to govern the state of New South Wales, with – say – better transport and healthcare. The reason I’m blogging about this is because Keneally can sound chirpy and enthusiastic in radio interviews. And she looks anything but, in the photo that accompanies the article, declaring that her ‘unlawful act’ happened to “scupper” some “7200” homes that were to be built in the Hunter Valley. Is she sad because she couldn’t build the homes? Shouldn’t she be sad that she couldn’t also provide the infrastructure to those homes? Lack of infrastructure is a major problem in New South Wales.
I know people my age who grew up in the Western Suburbs of Sydney who have lost significant numbers of friends in their teens and 20s, mostly to drink driving. Not me. I’m from the Northern Beaches, the insular peninsular. Most of the people in my graduating year of high school survived – because when we did young people things, we had public transport to bring us home in the early hours. We were also closer to better equipped hospitals. While the degradation of the healthcare system has levelled the playing field, mediocrity should never be the equaliser to strive for. Nor should 7200 new homes full of motorists – particularly in a time when wars are fought for oil. Wasn’t it interesting that Australia finally went in to bat for East Timor when the other option was allowing a Muslim country to control that nation’s oil. Admittedly, we don’t seem to care that we’re spilling into the ocean and causing untold damage to vital resources. (Our oceans are over fished, often illegally; in some poorer countries, precious fresh water sources are artificially salinated in order to farm prawns for western consumption.)
What I find interesting about the photo of Kristina Keneally is that she looks as glum for the houses she couldn’t build, as Morris Iemma often did for any number of reasons – mostly because he was given the reins of a party that was expected to lose the next electiion, so nobody really needed to follow this particular leader. Iemma resigned from office when his party wouldn’t allow him to sell off the state’s electricity in order to fund transport infrastructure to all those houses that were never scuppered – lawfulness of the action of having development passed, notwithstanding.
Will Kristina still sound chipper on air? Eyes glazed like a 9-to-5 drone who has to spend two hours either end of the work day commuting, smile banished like unwanted children who can’t bear to admit to unloving parents that they don’t want to be babysat by creepy Uncle Touchy…
If she doesn’t quite look dead inside yet, she’s certainly well on the way there – as though she’s realised her idealism and optimism have not only already begun their inevitable deterioration, but that significant and irreparable erosion has already taken place. Like it has in the souls of the people who have to live in the homes that weren’t scuppered. Like it has in the state’s transport and healthcare that continue to fail not only the underserviced inhabitants of unscuppered house, but most of the citizens of New South Wales.