Here’s a tip. Should there be a change of government on 24 November, don’t go out in Brisbane’s southside without a full-face helmet or, at least, the body-armour skateboarders wear. There are likely to be all sorts of vox-popping crazies running about when they realise the Bligh-Rudd overlap because, for the first time since Federation, there may be a prime minister and a premier with overlapping electorates.
Down here at the Viral Words bunker this brings up the question of representation.
Premier Anna Bligh represents the Queensland electorate of South Brisbane and has done so since 1995. Kevin Rudd has held the Federal seat of Griffith since 1998. Between them, they share just over 30,000 Queenslanders, all of whom may be about to become unique.
It isn’t a big area. You could take one of those bicycles that Rudd donates to primary schools and zip from West End to Coorparoo in under 15 minutes.
What’s going to happen? When your State member is the premier and your Federal member is the prime minister, are you going to be favoured or ignored? It’s quite clear that a constituency can be under-represented but is there such a thing as over-representation?
Their shared ground covers a number of suburbs: the West End-Highgate Hill-Woolloongabba area. During the Bjelke-Peterson years, these suburbs became a centre for the counter-cultural opposition. With a park that provided a focus for the local Indigenous population, the Greek festival and, in later years, a terminus for the May Day march, West End became synonymous with the radical opposition. Highgate Hill housed everyone that played the game but couldn’t find a berth in the centre of things its trademark Queenslander homes were ripped out for flats when the area became one of Brisbane’s most densely populated suburbs. And Woolloongabba was carved up for freeway development.
Together, it seemed that the actual areas themselves, not just the people who lived there, represented the changing trends of urban management. It all seemed to come to an end when the sister suburb of South Brisbane was levelled for Expo ’88 and the city’s Southbank development.
The 1990s boom did its thing on the property prices and that coincided with the tenure of Jim Soorley as Lord Mayor. The Soorley Labor Council presided over the period when the erstwhile radical opposition in the West End-Highgate Hill-Woolloongabba area was transformed into a community.
And the whole of Brisbane was asked to look to these models of population density as, well, models. Neo-hippies could live alongside the newer Vietnamese migrants (the longer established Greek cohort had already moved) and open new types of shops. Bars and coffee shops opened.
As Melbourne suffered its decline, interstate migrants washed up on the West End shores. They were the ones who could afford the new property prices. Those who couldn’t were building newer, not so quaint, houses about 20 minutes down the freeway at Logan.
The 1990s played out here as they played out all over the Western world even different kinds of coffee were brought in to replace one kind of beer and cyber-cafes opened when the community went digital.
In many ways, this constituency has become the product of Howard’s government. They have either gained financially through their increased property values or they have gained identities in their opposition to his vicious social policies. Some people scored on both counts.
When Bligh became the local member in 1995, it was already safe Labor seat. It remains the safe part of the vote in Rudd’s Federal seat.
But what do these two political high-flyers have to offer their constituents? After all, these are the people who are doing best out of the system as it stands. Maybe the question should be turned around: How are these people represented to Australian politics rather than by Australian politicians?
In the 1990s, the Soorley local government held up these inner suburbs to the Brisbane population at large and said, this is a way to rein back the excess of endless suburbanization and avoid the wasted resources, the dormitory communities, the hidden poverty traps.
In the same way, perhaps someone will hold up this population and say that this is how you can have equity and the moral high ground.
It might be just the job for the vox-poppers.
Instead of representing this population in a variety of parliaments around the country, they will be represented on Today Tonight and in endless Quest newspapers as the new model army of the renovated Australian financially responsible and morally aware.
Is this where Labor goes after class politics have been exhausted?
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