Where is the courage from our leaders?

Amazing the things you learn from Year 7 homework.

Harassed into helping my daughter with an English assignment on the theme of courage this weekend, we brainstormed what exactly that word means.

After a lot of whine (hers), followed by a lot of wine (mine), we agreed that courage means overcoming fear to do the right thing.

And as my daughter defined her terms, I realised that this 11-year-old girl already comprehends the necessity of a moral compass better than most … at least judging by the news headlines.

Because all weekend, I've been wondering how our leaders can be so stupid that they don't realise the right thing to do.

But as I read through that Year 7 homework, I understood that, actually, they do know precisely what the right thing is … they just don't have the courage to do it.

Let's start close to home, how could our country's leader choose not to join the Women's March 4 Justice?

The protest marches were held across Australia yesterday as the outcry against violence against women, sexual misconduct and misogyny echoes across the country, with the nation's focus on the march at Canberra's Parliament House.

 

March 4 Justice rally walking through the streets of Brisbane CBD. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
March 4 Justice rally walking through the streets of Brisbane CBD. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

 

Every member of federal parliament was invited to attend, but both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack immediately replied they would be too busy to attend.

Mr Morrison told the media on Sunday he would not go because "when you're prime minister in Canberra, it's a very busy day".

Patronising much?

Meanwhile, Minister for Women Marise Payne said she would only receive a petition from the protesters, which includes demands for independent investigations into cases of gendered violence and the full implementation of the Australian Human Rights Commission's Respect at Work report, "via correspondence" rather than in person.

After harsh criticism, both offered to meet up to four of the protest organisers in the Prime Minister's office on Monday afternoon. Organiser Janine Hendry rejected that offer, saying: "We have already come to the front door, now it's up to the government to cross the threshold and come to us. We will not be meeting behind closed doors."

 

Organiser of the Women's March 4 Justice protest rally Janine Hendry, in Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Organiser of the Women's March 4 Justice protest rally Janine Hendry, in Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

 

Damn right. The rage being felt by women across this country is precisely because all of these things keep happening quietly, privately, behind closed doors … where justice is never seen because it never occurs.

It's so obvious that the right thing to do for the Prime Minister is to step outside and stand with these women - and the men who are supporting them - to show that there is action behind the talk of stopping violence, sexual misconduct and misogyny.

Would he face criticism? Would there be cries of hypocrisy? Would it be uncomfortable? Heck yes. But doing the right thing is not meant to be the easy thing.

I've done my homework (or at least supervised my daughter's), I know that it takes courage. And the PM has proved himself a coward by choosing power over people.

But perhaps he, if not we, can take comfort in the fact that he is not alone.

Over in the UK, women flooded London's Clapham Common after a police officer was charged with the murder of 33-year-old woman Sarah Everard.

Clutching flowers, candles and signs, mourners were deemed to be in breach of COVID-19 restrictions, even after the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton herself visited the vigil earlier in the day - not even wearing a mask.

Despite their peaceful assembly, a swarm of police officers - from whose own ranks the alleged murderer belonged - violently clashed with mourners in a bid to enforce COVID rules.

Those present filmed and photographed the police response, with harrowing images showing women scuffling with officers and being pinned to the ground, handcuffed and dragged away.

The actions of the police have been widely condemned across the UK, except - of course - by police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick.

Indeed, she is resisting calls to resign over the scandal and doubled down on the police crackdown, insisting that "unlawful gatherings are unlawful gatherings".

That's not bravery, but the definition of cowardice - throwing your sisters under the bus to save your own skin.

So while my daughter's homework may well be done (and hopefully done well), my work isn't.

I will not sit idle, or behind closed doors, to silently watch as the world continues to ignore women's pleas for help.

I will stand up for what is right and call out what is wrong. I will show my daughter - and my son - what courage is, because our leaders will not.

Why Coast needs ban on border closures

After a year of all being in this together, it's time we are all actually together.

And that means a ban on border closures.

I dread to tempt fate, but it does seem we have Covid under control. Yes, there have been small-scale scares since Melbourne mastered its mass outbreak, but now we're in a position where cases are consistently negligible, vaccines are being (slowly) rolled out and the Federal Government is literally paying us to travel interstate.

Concerts like Byron Bay Bluesfest and Blues on Broadbeach are back on … and yet other major events are still being cancelled, including all 2021 School Sport Australia National Championships.

The reason? The looming danger of border closures.

As School Sport Australia announced: "The complex implications caused by the possibility of sudden border closures while teams were out of their home state, weighed heavily on the Board's decision.

"Several Education Departments are not yet prepared to endorse interstate travel for students and staff.

"This is making it challenging to confirm existing Championship hostings and impossible to secure new dates to reschedule the 27 events on the School Sport Australia calendar for later in the year."

Those poor kids. You don't get many chances to compete at that level, and now they've lost two years.

And this is just one example of the one obstacle that could undo all of the progress we have made.

Mayor Tom Tate himself yesterday implored Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk not to be 'trigger happy' when it comes to closing Queensland, because too much is at stake now.

While Mr Tate said he was 'jubilant' at the federal announcement to subsidise half-price airfares to struggling tourist towns, he said the Queensland border had to remain open if the initiative was to work.

"Keep it open … give us certainty and confidence," he said.

"The will of Australians is that there should be no borders in between us. I know she's (Ms Palaszczuk) being advised by the chief medical officer but, what do they say? Don't be trigger-happy."

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

He's dead right. If we want people to book holidays in our city and support our tourism industry, we have to ensure our door is unlocked.

The constant open/closed status of our states seems to me just another argument to do away with states altogether. Throughout the pandemic, public health could have been just as well managed by identifying and isolating hot spots, rather than a quarter of the country at a time.

Of course I'm absolutely grateful to live in one of the safest cities in the world, but some of our state's responses have erred on the side of overkill. While other states such as WA seem to see isolation as an opportunity for political point-scoring.

We're at a point now where we know how this pandemic works and we have some fiercely effective weapons to fight against it.

The last thing I would want to do is to risk public safety, but we're at a point now where we really need to weigh the consequences of our actions.

Are we more likely to be negatively affected by the Covid infection itself, or by the continued estrangement from friends and family, by our inability to plan for the future, and the consequent financial damage that inertia brings?

This is not a new argument, many said from the start that lockdowns and border closures cause more harm than good. That seemed a dangerous gamble to take in early 2020, but now the pandemic playing field has changed.

Life is returning to normal … except the expectation that this country can remain open and united.

We must face the fact that the threat to public health is no longer our most imminent danger.

If we want to not just survive but thrive, we need to guarantee open borders now.

LAST WEEK: COAST ROBBED OF OLYMPICS JOY

I feel like we've been robbed.

Remember back in 1993 and that iconic 'the winner is Sydney' moment? The announcement of Australia's successful bid to host the 2000 Olympics managed to go viral even in those simpler days when the internet was just a sinister sparkle in a troll's eye.

It was a moment of national celebration, elation and joy.

Fast forward to just over a week ago when southeast Queensland woke to the news that our region has been named the 'preferred bid' to host the 2032 Olympics.

I mean, sure, it's not a done deal … but it's a pretty frigging big deal.

Not that it seemed that way.

Even international news sites were a little startled by our lack of care factor. "There was no fanfare. No iconic announcement," was the summary from the (US) ABC.

Chief Rod McGeoch (C) & Premier John Fahey in Monte Carlo jump for joy as Sydney is announced winner to host 2000 Olympics.
Chief Rod McGeoch (C) & Premier John Fahey in Monte Carlo jump for joy as Sydney is announced winner to host 2000 Olympics.

While there's still time to salvage our reputation as a sports-mad party-loving city (assuming we win the official bid), I can't believe that - so far - the Commonwealth Games has the Olympics beat when it comes to buzz.

And I'm not just talking about the announcement - or lack thereof - itself. Conducting my own one-woman survey, I'm shocked by how many people's reaction can be summarised in one word: meh.

There are concerns about cost, concerns about disruption, arguments that our focus should be placed elsewhere. And I understand that … but it's the Olympics! On the Gold Coast!

Look, maybe this downer demeanour is due to the fact that an official announcement has not yet been made, maybe people are still (understandably) in Covid-mode … it's hard to get excited about an event eleven years away when we're still in the midst of a pandemic.

But that hasn't stopped me - except for when I realised that I'll be 55 by then.

While many have hailed the Gold Coast's Comm Games success as a key factor in our region progressing to the point of 'preferred bid', I'm wondering if it's also responsible for our apathetic response.

NSW Premier John Fahey (L) with Rod McGeoch in Monte Carlo after Sydney won Olympic Games 2000 bid in September 1993. General Sport
NSW Premier John Fahey (L) with Rod McGeoch in Monte Carlo after Sydney won Olympic Games 2000 bid in September 1993. General Sport

Because as awesome as the Comm Games were as a seamless, professional event, we kind of failed in the festive factor. And while we inherited some fantastic pieces of infrastructure as part of its legacy, we also missed a few tricks.

So let's take a look at what we can learn - positive and negative - from the 2018 Commonwealth Games:

1. It's all in the delivery

See above. I distinctly remember the moment on November 12, 2011 when the Gold Coast was announced as host city. There was a watch-party assembled in the Broadwater Parklands where revellers danced, cheered, hugged, and cried as the announcement was televised live on big screens. It was a moment of hope for our town, which was still struggling through the after-effects of the GFC. The Games were billed as something to work towards, something to believe in - and that's precisely how we should view the Olympics.

2. Perfection is boring

The trains ran on time, the sporting facilities were spotless, the volunteers were amazing - but the atmosphere outside the actual events was … non-existent. Businesses were told it would be a boom time but residents stayed away and it was a bust. The ghost town scenario has since been the subject of analysis, and the summary is that we over-hyped expectations to the point of scaring the people away from the party. Sometimes, less is more.

3. Building a Village

The Athletes Village at Parkwood was always pitched to later become a hub for affordable housing. Ultimately it became a build-to-rent project called the Smith Collective, which features long-term rental units and plenty of retail and facilities. But what it lacks, according to reviews, is actual affordability. True affordable housing offers sub-market rent, not five-star facilities. The units may be considered a great price for what you get - but apparently it ain't cheap. As our city spirals into something of a housing crisis, what a pity we didn't stick to our initial vision, especially as so many of the project's tenants - international students - have now left the country.

Ultimately the Commonwealth Games was our debut on a limited global stage, and now it looks like we might get the opportunity to take it to the next level - in terms on infrastructure, investment and pure spectacle.

So please, Gold Coast, if we all get behind this bid we can only finish in front.

 

LAST WEEK:

DEAR God I am tired of the excuses.

More than that, I'm ashamed of our behaviour as residents of this beautiful city who seem to think that it's for our eyes and enjoyment only.

Every day on community social media pages I read of distraught residents and families searching for somewhere to live in the city they have called home for years. They are living two families in a one-bedroom apartment, they are couch-surfing, they are living in their cars … because we do not have enough houses for all the people who call the Gold Coast home.

It's not good enough.

This property boom has seen affordability disappear like a midnight dream, while tenants are being locked out due to rising rents or landlords taking advantage of this sellers' market. Meanwhile, the new arrivals keep coming to the city, many armed with wallets fattened by southern capital salaries, leading to an unsettling tension between 'us' and 'them'.

Again, I read it all on the community pages where every desperate soul pleading for a room to rent must prove their GC local credentials lest they be howled down as the source of all property problems.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

So I literally breathed a sigh of relief this week when I read in this paper that the State Government will form a taskforce to tackle the Gold Coast and southeast Queensland's population explosion.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles announced the formation of a planning team which will have a mandate to ensure there is enough new development to deal with the growth.

But how are they ever going to change the hearts and minds of residents who are busily slamming the door shut every time council seeks to house its own people?

First council targeted Biggera Waters, Southport West and Labrador as development hotspots, but last month backed down after backlash from residents.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate during a press conference. Picture: Tertius Pickard
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate during a press conference. Picture: Tertius Pickard


So this week Mayor Tom Tate revealed council was preparing to target Kirra, Coolangatta, Palm Beach and Bilinga for high-density development, saying the southern Gold Coast was best positioned to cater for the population influx because it would surround infrastructure such as the light rail Stage 4 extension to the airport at Coolangatta.

To which Palm Beach councillor Daphne McDonald declared her suburb would be "lost" if it was to be forced into high-density living, with children kicked "onto the streets to play".

"It's ludicrous because you need to have a balance between development and community space and parklands," she said.

"What we are already seeing with high-density development is that there is no open space and kids are forced to play in the streets."

Which is interesting considering that one of the most high-profile high-density developments in Palm Beach, Sunland's Magnoli, actually donated a quarter of its site as a public park for local residents to enjoy.

There's grass, covered picnic tables and a brand new playground, all sheltered from traffic and open towards the surrounding neighbourhood streets.

When I visited it was being heavily patronised by young families from nearby homes … none from Magnoli itself.

That's not to say that every development or developer is such a good neighbour, but council could certainly make sure that this is the way of the future.

Cr Daphne McDonald. Picture Glenn Hampson
Cr Daphne McDonald. Picture Glenn Hampson

Rather than locking the door against development, let's find a way to make it something that benefits the whole suburb. And then let's not keep that suburb all to ourselves.

I'm no fan of over-development, but I'm also not a fan of homelessness. Let's steer clear of either extreme and find a way to settle in the middle.

The fact is that our growing pains are not going to go away, no matter how much we ignore them … indeed, they will literally wind up on our own doorstep.

I've asked before and I'll ask again … to all those residents who have lived here for years but don't like the way the city is changing - what will your children or grandchildren do?

If we don't develop homes for them, where will they live? It won't be here because they won't be able to afford it - it's just the simple economic principles of supply and demand.

So do you have room in your heart and your suburb to make way for them? Or is this city only for the wealthy, the elite and the old?

To me, that is a far more frightening vision of the city's future than high-density developments.

That's why it's time to stop making excuses and start making solutions.

Originally published as Where is the courage from our leaders?



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