11 August, 2011

misplaced optimism

The following video shows a buoyant, Qld Premier with hope & faith for the future of Queensland.

Her faith is based on a future fueled by coal seam gas, extracted from Western Queensland, piped to Gladstone, liquefied & shipped to energy hungry markets in Asia.

I suspect the Queensland Premier has forgotten about Ecologically Sustainable Development.

I too have cause for optimism but it is founded on the hope I have in a group of men & women engaged in finding real solutions to humanitarian problems founded on appropriate technology, knowledge transfer: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-08-01/engineers-expand-their-borders/2817528

Here is the transcript:

PREMIER ANNA BLIGH: Well thank you very much for that introduction, I think, Patrick. It's great to be here with the media club and your sponsors and supporters and I join with others and thank those people who have been partners with media club. I do actually think journalism is important, and good journalism is important, and the work they do to foster young journalists is a very important part of the work of the Queensland press gallery, or media gallery - whichever one it is they want to be called at the moment.

I am pleased to be here. I do understand, from some of the traffic in the twitter-verse in the last few days that the media locally has missed me while I've been gone. So it's good to be back.

When I was planning what I was going to say today I began by looking for some of the best data to tell the powerful Queensland story of the last decade. I wanted to tell you a story not just about what Queenslanders have achieved, but what Labor has achieved working with industry and the community, and what we've delivered to Queensland, how we've transformed it - to capture what I think is a great story full of momentum & excitement. And, it's a very easy story to tell. The jobs, the growth, the major industrial projects, the infrastructure. The companies that are now headquartered here; the deepening relationship with India and China. And then there's the social side. The schools. The huge steps in education. The hospitals. Public transport. The shift in arts & culture. And so much more. In short, Queensland has experienced a decade of intense modernisation. And the next chapter offers even more to build on that terrific story.

But then I reflected on the current public mood, what I think is an increasingly rancorous public debate, the pall of gloom that seems frankly to be settling over us. And it seems to me that the yawning gap between how the world sees us & how we see ourselves, between the bright promise & the public mood is actually of more interest, and frankly of more concern. I've been in this game long enough to know that everything that my colleagues and I say and do will be closely scrutinised. And that's a good thing. Scepticism is a fine thing. It keeps my trade honest.

But I think the public mood at the moment is well beyond scepticism. It seems to me that a deeply entrenched cynicism appears to be taking root. And I think that should worry all of us. There's a huge gap, and a growing gap, between the world that I can describe - using official statistics and company reports - and the one that much of the public feel that they live in in Australia at the moment. You all know that as well as I do. The media- you talk to them, all of you listen to them on talk back radio, you see the data about consumer confidence. As Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens said a couple of weeks ago: "It seems we are, at the moment, mostly unhappy." That's certainly how it sounds if you're out there listening in the, to the public discourse.

Yet, is it really that bad? The US, Britain, the Eurozone - all great economies - are all struggling to escape the effects of the GFC and we've seen that played out all week. However, here in Australia, we dodged that bullet more successfully than just about any other western country or economy - because we were stronger, we were more stable and we'd taken the right decisions. But our continued growth just seems at the moment to make us more anxious. Rather than being emboldened by our economic success in recent years, Australians appear to fear that it just means that we are riding for a bigger fall. Laurie Oakes reflected on this in a recent column. He talked about the very negative tone of much of talkback radio and then said: Compare that with the latest Australian National University poll on the nation's political mood, issued last week. This respected survey found a large majority satisfied with the direction in which Australian's, Australia is headed. That's right - - satisfied. To be exact, 51 per cent of Australians describe themselves as "satisfied", 11.8 per cent as "very satisfied". Another 9.5 per cent say they are neither dissatisfied nor satisfied. That means that almost three-quarters of the population are either happy with the country's direction or they don't have any gripe with it.

So, what's at the heart of this disconnect? Many, of course, would blame the media but I think it's the laziest of responses to blame the messenger. What is in the media, reflects what real people are saying. The fact that the Courier Mail has been running a "Let the Sunshine" campaign. a "Let the sunshine in" campaign all year is a clear indicator that the need to lift spirits is widely felt. So, why is the public discourse so different, and so much more pessimistic than the mood identified by the ANU survey? Well frankly, I blame politics and politicians. It's. some people in the media will be refreshed by that. It's not just the negativity. I know that it's the job of oppositions to oppose and of course a good critique of your opponents is central to politics. But there's something different happening in some of the current debates. It seems to me there's a growing deliberate attempt to engender fear and discontent. I think it's one thing to oppose a carbon tax in parli ament, in the press and in the public. All's fair in love and war and politics and we should be out there debating something as big as this. But it's another thing entirely to go into coal and steel communities, as some have done, and deliberately scare families. Deliberately seeking people out only to tell them that they are facing the prospect of losing their jobs, it seems to me reprehensible behaviour.

An LNP member yesterday tweeted: "World finances in melt-down. Labor at helm, could it get worse?" And I thought, well yes actually, it could get a lot worse. Ask the millions of Americans facing unemployment. Ask the Londoners cleaning up their streets today and the young people there who are facing 30% youth unemployment. Ask the Greeks, an ancient civilization, facing loss of sovereignty because they cannot pay their debts. And I thought, if I had to think about where I wanted to be as the world faced some more uncertainty, I can't think of any other country on earth I'd rather be doing it from. Why does all of this matter? Well, because fostering a community of discontent and complaint does not lead to state or country's prosperous future. Whipping up unfounded concerns amongst ordinary people is not just part of the rough and tumble of campaigning - it seems to me a new thing. It seems to me that we are engaging in it in a way that I haven't seen before. It seems a de liberate politics of pessimism, discontent and complaint. It is destructive & fundamentally weakens us. I think it has to be rejected and there are very good reasons for doing that.

It is a mark of progressive politics that on the centre left we believe that hope beats fear. But politics of course is a contest. And it is the job of leaders to make the case for optimism. And not just make it, but to keep making it and making it until it starts to capture and inspire people. Let me ask you a blunt question: Does anyone here think that Australia's greatest days are behind it? Or that Queensland's are? Of course not. Earlier this year the Economist had a special report on Australia - many of you will have seen it - where we were described as the next golden state. Their conclusion? Their conclusion was that Australia could become a model nation, but that we face a profound choice. Their view was that Australians must now decide what sort of country we want for their children to live in. they want. They can enjoy their prosperity or they can actively set about creating the sort of society that other nations envy and want to emulate. And we do face, I think , two paths.

We can allow ourselves to be limited by a gloomy national mood and a poisonously depressing public debate. Or we can start to see ourselves more as the world sees us - a young nation, blessed with resources and human talent. Yes, our mining sector was dramatically impact by the floods of the past summer, and yes volumes in mining exports are down by 11%, but not so loudly reported is that the value of those volumes in the coal sector is forecast to increase by 30 per cent and locked in contract prices for metallurgical coal have increased by 65% in the last 12 months. So while we've seen those disasters have an impact on volume, in fact we're going to see an increase in value in this financial year. And yes, retail sales are flat, but these accounts that we see reported account for only 40% of all consumer spending, and it doesn't include spending on services or cars, and it doesn't tell you that in July this year car sales jumped by 12%. On the back of a massive boost in investment in the resources sectors of Western Australia and Queensland our country is once again poised on the cusp of significant economic boom. But as Ross Gittens, just last week wrote, "Is it possible for a country that is the envy of the developed world to talk itself into recession? I don't know. But it seems we're about to find out", he says. He goes on to say, "If the underlying reality of the economy is enviably good why are we so dissatisfied and anxious?"Well, not because the media are revelling in the bad news and forgetting to mention the good. They always do that. That's Ross Gittens, not me. It's just that, when we're in an optimistic frame of mind we ignore the gloom mongering, whereas when we're in a pessimistic mood we lap it up; and because we're such herd animals we tend to contract these moods from one another. So it seems to me, the challenge for us all at the moment is to find a way to use the reality to shift the underlying psychology. To lift our confidence and restore our faith in our ability to realise the promise that is before us. And that goes back to role that I, and other leading politicians - frankly on all sides - have to play.

In the place of a politics of pessimism we need a politics of optimism. That, I believe, is actually the key test of leadership in modern Australia. And of course, lifting the mood, creating a politics of optimism, has to start with words: Lifting, inspiring, giving confidence - Starting to talk more with the language of enlargement. Of course those words then have to be backed by action. If Ross Gittens is right about herd behaviour, then it seems to me that Queensland has the chance to grab the momentum of the national agenda and to grab the chance to turn the national herd around. Politics is always about change. And in Queensland politics there's no doubt there is a mood for change.

But the question is - change to what & why? Not change for change sake, but change for a purpose. In my experience of Australian politics, it is by and large Labor that is the restless party of change, always searching for new & better ways. Over the past decade, Labor Governments in our state have delivered change that has transformed and modernised Queensland. And going forward the future can be just as good. Let's take just take one area, which is likely to be a hotly contested one over the next 6 months and that's the emerging LNG industry. This is an industry of the future. Global demand for LNG will grow by 130% by 2020. And Queensland is brilliantly positioned to become an Asia pacific hub for cleaner energy, based not only on renewable and biofuel, but on cleaner gas. Three of the nine LNG projects being constructed globally are happening in Queensland. We account for 30% of the new global effort in this sector. The facts on their own, I think, are very pow erful - a whole new export industry, $ 45 billion worth of committed new private investment, jobs for 18,000 people, $750 million a year in new State revenue to fund better services when this starts to be exported. On their own each of these is, I think, a remarkable fact. But, of course, the plural of fact is not vision. Vision is what people need to help them understand the world that we're not only in, but the world that we can and, can make and are making. It seems to me very emblematic of the dominant mood at the moment that the remarkable opportunity of LNG is being seen more in terms of its problems than its promise. Of course there are problems with any new industry, of course there are hurdles and of course there are challenges - they are real & they must be dealt with. But I look at this debate and ask myself, where is the get up & go spirit of my Queensland, the brave and bold belief that we can overcome any hurdle, that we can meet any challenge that is s et in our path? When I called upon that spirit during the disasters of last summer, it was not out of any deliberate or conscious attempt at what you might call "Statriotism." It came from an instinct, firstly, that we needed to rally ourselves and that I had to lead the charge at that time. But the form that it took came from my belief that we are in fact just a little different here in Queensland, in the best possible sense. It's my view that our social & political history is deeply rooted in the frontier experience and that, in turn, fuels our sense of who we are and what we're capable of - and that we draw upon that, and we often do, to galvanize ourselves. Those who have come to Queensland to make it their home, whether they've done that in the last century, the century before or the last decade, have done so because they came looking for a better life, they've uprooted themselves, they've uprooted their families and they've come here to try and make it. We are the State more Australians move to than any other, and they do that precisely because of the promise that Queensland offers. And sure, we've been knocked around a lot lately. This hasn't been an easy couple of years but, my view, it is time for Queensland to reclaim its mojo.

The rest of Australia may have cause for gloom, but our horizon is full of more promise than ever. We are perfectly positioned between the two fastest growing economic regions in the world, Asia and Latin America, and we are set to sell into those vast economic, vast growing regions. We are set to sell ideas, cleaner energy, food security, bio medical solutions, international education and a great holiday destination. It's a pretty good recipe globally right now. Talk of the new LNG industry and the looming mining boom has given rise to concerns about a two speed economy and those concerns then fuel fears that our prosperity will not be shared, that many will miss out, just as others are making it big time. If you embrace the politics of optimism I think that means not accepting that a two speed economy as inevitable. With optimism we become brave and we can see ourselves as the architects of our future. With optimism comes confidence. We don't have to simply accept that a patchwork Queensland economy is inevitable - we can shape it differently. As regions like central Queensland, the south west and the Bowen and Gallilee basins boom ahead in leaps and bounds they are crying out for labour and skills. Similarly, as regions like Far North Queensland, the Gold Coast and the Fraser Coast continue to struggle out of the GFC, they are battling higher unemployment and economic doldrums and they are crying out for opportunities. Left to the market, these differences may well be exacerbated. But there is enormous potential for these coastal regions to play a big part in the success of other regions. There is a tremendous opportunity for cities like Cairns, Gold Coast and Hervey Bay to become home base to the thousands of workers that are driving those huge projects. Many of these workers will be fly in fly out workers, others will be driving just down the road. While in Rockhampton this week it was clear that investment is flowing into large scale ac commodation developments and all of that is happening on the back of what is happening in Gladstone. And there is every reason for all of our tourism hot spots to actively market holiday and investment opportunities to those who are earning higher wages on those research, resource project in the those central Queensland regions.

That's why next week I'll be calling a summit of mining companies and regional mayors. We need to seize these opportunities that are there by playing an active, and a very interventionist role where appropriate. The size and scale of what is happening demands a central co-ordinating role for the State and that's what I intend to lead over the coming months.

More than spread the economic sunshine around more evenly, a well targeted effort at recruitment and training in some of our struggling regions can help to knit us together as we ride the next wave. It can help to ensure that all parts of the State are connected to it and feel they are benefitting from it.

Too often we're presented with the view that we live in two Queensland's:

* City versus country.
* North versus south.
* Regional versus the South East
* Mining versus agriculture.

But if we are going to realise the opportunity, if we're going to reach our full potential, if we're going to as good as we can be, we have to be one Queensland and we have to see ourselves like that. Strong and united.

I know that I face a very tough fight at the next election, probably the toughest of my career. But I have to say, I relish that. It's a fight worth having. It's a fight for a very exciting time in Queensland's future. And it's a fight that I intend to lead with vision and optimism. The future of Queensland requires us to believe in ourselves. It requires, in fact I think demand, that we shake off the politics of gloom and get excited about what's in front of us. We need to see the hurdles that are there as opportunities and we need to find ways to clear them. As Premier, I have the view that you have a responsibility to lead Queenslanders along a path to a better tomorrow, a responsibility not to just to talk about a bright future, but to set in place the conditions to make it a reality. Rhetoric alone won't pass muster. It has to be based on the reality of opportunities and decisions that you're then prepared to make and then see through. The talk of optimism, means tell ing the bush, squarely and honestly, that we will support LNG, but with the right conditions. The talk of optimism means telling regional mayors that projects will go ahead, but that some workers will prefer to live in another region. And the talk of optimism means building new infrastructure, and then being prepared to be upfront with communities that they will be disrupted while projects, such as Australia's largest road project progresses. No negative mind-set can lead us into that future - it never has. Queensland has never walked forward with a negative view. Walking backwards, and undoing reforms don't take you forward. This is fundamentally, in my view, about our attitude, it is about our state of mind. We can, as Ross Gittens says, sentence ourselves to herd mentality or we can decide we want to lead the pack. And if Queensland changes its mind about where we're going and embraces that opportunity, my view is the rest of the country will be following. Big challenge, and frankly I reckon we're up to it.

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