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Politicians, pandemics and pork barrelling

Australia is unique in being a country, a continent and a former convict settlement.

At present, the latter part of our background seems to be the dominant feature.

Apart from officer’s wives, the earliest females to arrive here from England were largely from lower-class backgrounds – often prostitutes already – and were seldom treated well.

Existing First Nations women were also ill treated, and largely regarded as available to the first man to lay his hands on her, so that existing patriarchal attitudes were reinforced by settlers from convict and non-convict backgrounds alike.

I arrived in Australia from the UK on New Year’s Day 1971, when Joh Bjelke-Petersen was already entrenched as Premier of Queensland, and, whilst much of his biography in Wikipedia might not be 100% accurate, it is still politically enlightening!! Joh retained power through issues such as malapportionment which gave country areas influence to a greater extent than was justified by their proportion of the population.

In late 1986, two journalists, the ABC’s Chris Masters and The Courier-Mail‘s Phil Dickie, independently began investigating the extent of police and political corruption in Queensland and its links to the National Party state government.

This resulted in the Fitzgerald Inquiry and the last link will provide those, less well-informed about Joh’s period of corrupt government, with some clues as to why I raise this period of corruption in Queensland in an article about today’s pork barrelling!

The current situation with regard to the pandemic, and the immediate chaos in NSW, added to the PM’s distinctly different – and highly political – treatment of the health care processes in Victoria (highly critical) and NSW (golden standard – prior to now!) – are highly reminiscent of the political attitudes towards Joh’s antics in Queensland.

Just by way of explaining why I am so critical of the current sexist attitudes of Australia’s male politicians – in September 1954, having passed the necessary entrance exam, I started studying for a BSc (Special) Mathematics at what was then the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London.

The main College building was adjacent to the Royal Albert Hall (as can be seen in this photograph – taken during its construction) where the graduation ceremonies were held.


Image from imperial.ac.uk


As the last link demonstrates, just before I enrolled, the student numbers there were about 1500, divided between the 3 foundation colleges (Royal School of Science, covering natural sciences – including mathematics), City and Guilds College (C&G) (covering all areas of engineering) and Royal School of Mines (covering mining, geology, earth sciences, etc).

During my time there, the student population was clearly, given the subject choices, predominantly male. I believe there was one female student in Mines, 3 in C&G and, in my year’s maths group, there were 6 among a total of 30 students. Total number of female students was about 150, and we were all treated with courtesy and respect!!

Now simply Imperial College, London, and issuing its own degrees, it ranks in the top 10 world universities, it has expanded significantly and now includes medicine among its specialist areas, and has been involved in the vaccine development for COVID-19.

So, as a young woman, I came from an ordinary, middle class family, I passed the 11+ exam, went to a government Secondary Grammar school, and, having passed IC’s own entrance exam, as well as gaining the necessary A Level results, I received a grant from my County Council to cover my university fees and travel expenses – I lived on the outskirts of West London and commuted to College via the London Underground.

Just to clarify – neither of my parents had qualified for university, both were/had been Civil Servants, my mother in particular saw education as really important for girls as well as boys, and insisted on supporting us to the full.

Enough of the personal, but remember, England’s history goes back much further in time than that of white men in Australia!

Few States in Australia have avoided scandals over pork barrelling, but now, as witnessed by a statement by Gladys Berejiklian, they have become the norm!

I am one of a no doubt diminishing number of voters who thought we elected our politicians to run the Territory, State or Country for the benefit of at least a majority of voters.

Naïve, aren’t we?

Disgusted, as well, at the openness with which our politicians rort the system for their own personal gain!

If I were 20 years younger, and prepared to renounce my British citizenship, I would stand for the Australian Parliament as an independent.

Those women, who have done so, successfully, in recent years are streets ahead of most of those supported by the Party machines.

They genuinely care about the needs of the average citizens.

PLEASE will someone tell Scott Morrison that ‘normal’ no longer applies to the life of the future.

Global warming IS the top priority.

Failure to take action to keep emissions down – to actually reduce them – guarantees destruction of our last toehold on normality.

Between politics, pandemics and pork barrelling, a ‘normal’ life is doomed!

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  1. Michael Taylor

    Rosemary, on that basis I wish you WERE twenty years younger and WERE representing this country in our federal parliament.

    My electorate is fortunate though, as we have a younger Rosemary representing us: Helen Haines. If you were there with her I’d be happy knowing there’s one more person guiding us towards a better future.

  2. David Stakes

    I failed the 11plus by 2% no grey area, Off to secondary modern school. Changes your whole life. Headmaster said I should have gone on to Grammar school.

  3. RosemaryJ36

    David – while still in the UK, I taught in a Grammar school where we ran a special stream for students who clearly should have passed the 11+ and who transferred to us from the Secondary Modern at 13. It was not as good as getting through but it was better than having no second chance.

  4. Andrew J. Smith

    Good article; history repeats itself helped along by QLD and conservative politics; QLD has now replaced Victoria for too ‘liberal’, ‘multicultural’ and rusted on Labor, and become the new jewel in the Liberal’s crown.

  5. Jack sprat

    Joh was always suspicious of intellectuals and at one stage durring his long reign as premier of QLD did not have one minister in his cabinet that had completed high school.His distain of intellectualism stem from the bad treatment he recieved from his well educated father who was disappointed by Joh’s lack of brains . Joh even blamed the early death of his scholastic brother on spending too much time studying .

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