ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK – A GROUP 1 PERFORMER WHO CAME FROM NOWHERE JUST A FEW MONTHS AGO

03/06/15

If picking a winner at the races is hard yakka then picking a politician to vote for at an election who will actually do something constructive for their constituents in their time in office is virtually impossible.

When he got the lead gig of running the country – I thought to myself “fancy having Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, what the hell is second prize”.

I’ve voted in a lot of elections in my 59 years on the planet and I can’t ever remember a person who has come across as a possible worse Prime Minister than Tony Abbott. But to be balanced and in his defence he said “I’ll stop the boats”. And I thought to myself “you are two hopes of achieving that feat – Bob and None”. I reckon if the corporate bookies had framed a market on that statement becoming a reality five minutes after those words departed his lips, they’d have put up 100/1 about him ever stopping them – with probably no takers. But as history proved, I got that one hopelessly wrong, as thankfully I haven’t seen any boats coming in lately so the man did in fact achieve what he said he would. Love him or loathe him he achieved what many thought impossible on that issue.

Not too many years after my wife and I got married 38 years ago we were paying 18% or higher interest rate on our mortgage. Yet 36 years later (we rented for the first two years of our marriage), mortgage rates are the lowest they’ve been ever in our lifetime. In all fairness, I can’t sit here today and publicly bag Tony Abbott, as when I was a young kid growing up, my father, who was indeed a hard marker, instilled in us the fact that “you can bag something as much as you like, but you also must give credit where credit is due”. My father has sadly long departed the mortal coil, but he was right. Tony Abbott has stopped the boats and the country that he is Prime Minister of has never had it so good – in terms of low interest rates for mortgages. The end result is that that would make it Tony two – Phil none. There’s no in between in life – you are either right or you are wrong. The upshot is that I read Tony Abbott wrongly and felt he was totally incapable of doing the job. Sure I’ve seen what I’d rate better Prime Ministers than him – but he’s about a furlong ahead of where I thought he’d be today.

So that’s the federal political scene. The Queensland State government as we entered 2015 saw the LNP running the show and a shell of a Labor Party in opposition. The Labor Party was in any fair person’s mind an embarrassment and a totally useless and ineffectual opposition, simply due to their lack of numbers in parliament. We went to the polls on Saturday 31 January this year and I vividly remember jogging at Limestone Park in Ipswich that particular morning when news came on RadioTAB that the LNP were $1.14 or about 7/1 on in the old scale, to retain office in the election that day. My immediate thought was “what a waste of time and effort it is going to the polls”. By that market it wasn’t going to be a race it was going to be a disg“race” – in racing parlance it would be a “walkover”. The last “walkover” happened in Brisbane racing when Sir Kiddle won at Doomben on 2/12/1987.

Whilst it’s no one’s business, I never vote for major parties and I must say I have no idea why more people don’t vote for independents. But to each their own. I was bought up in the bush on the land. My father went to school with a kid that would later grow up to be Premier of Queensland – Joh Bjelke-Petersen. So my father in his working life when we weren’t milking cows or poisoning wattle trees was in local government and our family grew up as Country Party then National Party people. Jack Pizzey, Russ Hinze, Claude Wharton and those sort of politicians were close to my father because of his local government connection. My parents had no interest in racing but knew Russ Hinze because he was Local Government and Main Roads minister, as well as Racing Minister and Police Minister, after all he used to be known as “the Minister for everything”.

I vividly remember as a young boy that Jack Pizzey was coming to our home one day. Jack Pizzey became Premier of Queensland for just a short few months in 1968 before he died suddenly one day that year. Jack Pizzey was born in Childers – just up the line – as the crow flies from where we lived. Dad lined his four sons up the day Mr Pizzey was coming and advised what would happen if anyone said a word out of place whilst Mr Pizzey was there. Naturally every one of us were perfect angels. Believe me that was far preferable to the alternative. Joh Bjelke- Petersen became Premier after Jack Pizzey’s sudden death.

But my father with his Country Party, Liberal Party, National Party background, would not have been impressed if he knew what I did this year when the State election was upon us. My wife’s father was a train driver from Maryborough in Queensland who worked a second job as gatekeeper at the Maryborough trots on a Saturday afternoon. With that working class background, her family was Labor Party through and through. But as adults we are free to make our own decisions so in our marriage, politics has never come into the equation on voting day. This year though something changed. I said to my wife words to the effect that, “I’m going to do something this election that I’ve never done in my life I’m going to vote for the Labor Party”. And so I did. I remembered that $1.14 call on election morning and knew in my heart of hearts that I was wasting my time, as 7/1 on shots shouldn’t get beaten in a two-horse race. So we voted and just went about our normal Saturday for the last 38 years of following the races. Then we sat down at 6.30pm in front of the idiot box to primarily see if a nice person who we’ve met along the path of life, Pauline Hanson, could win the seat of Laidley. Then an hour later, at 7.30pm or thereabouts, on election night, former Queensland Labor Party Premier Peter Beattie called Labor the winner in a massive upset result that not a soul saw coming. Others on the Channel 9 panel that night thought he was a bit trigger happy, but history proved him to be correct.

So the upshot of all that was that Queensland had another female Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk. We’d had one female Premier before her – Anna Bligh. I didn’t vote for Anna and crew and the famous “they” say she did this – and did that – but my most vivid memory of her is as a wonderfully strong woman who had to address Queenslanders when floods killed all those people at Grantham. That woman stood there so resilient that if “you had to give credit where credit was due” I had to admire her courage and ticker. I didn’t help vote her into office, but my God I wish I could achieve in my life what she achieved when Queensland needed her most.

So in 2015 Queensland went back to Labor Party and we have this new Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. I thought she’ll be as green as a two year-old thoroughbred going to the barrier trial for the first time and figured she’d probably be useless to the cause, but then again we’ve had plenty of useless politicians in this State and nation before – so what’s another one.

But after on a few months in office I must say I like what I see of her – and hopefully she can transpose my short term opinion of her to the long term. She and her government had to act swiftly as soon as Alan MacSporran handed her the damning report on Racing Queensland on Monday. Again I thought she was no hope of making any announcements until after Queensland’s biggest day of racing – Stradbroke day next Saturday. About next Monday or Tuesday I thought the proverbial would really hit the fan with the government announcing mass sackings. But I got it wrong again as Annastacia Palaszczuk made her move yesterday and got rid of all Racing Queensland Boards. And that would seem fair to me as racing boards are in reality in the cold hard light of day merely political appointments anyway. And as an extrapolation of that statement, none of those Board members were put there by the Labor government so why should they stay? If the shoe was on the other foot and the Labor Party were in power but had got rolled in that January 2015 election – and the LNP had won – the LNP would hardly leave Labor Party appointees there.

But whether getting rid of all Racing Queensland Boards is a good or bad thing only the passage of time will tell. If nothing else Annastacia Palaszczuk has shown she has the leadership qualities to move swiftly, without fear or favour, on issues to sort out the public perception that the racing industry is on the nose. And even if the passage of time proves her wrong she can always fall back on old faithful, namely “it’s better to have tried and failed than never to have tried”.

Fancy that in Australia in 2015 – a politician who can actually move in an expeditious and concise manner and not gin everyone around with enquiry after enquiry, which ultimately only costs taxpayers a fortune and leads nowhere. So many times in Australian politics we see enquiry after enquiry launched to appease a group of people, but politicians never invoke any, or all, of the recommendations of the said enquiries.

Today even old-timer hard-heads would have no option but to acknowledge that “those hopeless sheilas” who dared to want to be jockeys some decades ago have saved the thoroughbred racing industry from the ultimate embarrassment of simply not having enough jockeys. I look at strong women in politics like Pauline Hanson taking on all-comers when they wanted to throw rotten fruit at her, spit on her, or they’d just try to drown her speeches out, or Anna Bligh having to stand there composed when the rest of us were wanting to cry at all the heartbreak of those stinking floods, at Julie Bishop trying to help solve an international drama, at Penny Wong who I think would make a good Prime Minister one day – and now at Annastacia Palaszczuk at having to move swiftly to sort a major problem out – and I must say publicly that I can’t for the life of me work out why we don’t have more female politicians. Put simply some of them have more testicular development than the vast majority of male politicians. In reality some of the crusty old male politicians are about as fleet of foot as the donkey that competed in the Benchmark 60 race at Goondiwindi last Saturday that the SES are still looking for. They just get giddy going around those “crusty old male politicians” and rarely achieve anything constructive.

Yesterday when the news broke that Annastacia Palaszczuk had flicked all Racing Queensland Boards, I must say I was glad that I voted for her party a few months ago. As we live in a democracy when the State election comes around again we will all get our chance to vote on how we think she is going and what she has achieved. Given that I estimate only about 10% of the population of Australia are interested in racing, if I were in her shoes, I would be taking on board what the 90% of the population were thinking. God alone knows what the LNP would have done in the same situation if they were still in office when that Four Corners story aired. They’d have probably have been in a meeting at George Street the following morning in damage control working out whose arse they could save, whilst looking to the future and working out how many of their kind would be turning up to Stradbroke day on Saturday for free food and drinks – with the committee of the Brisbane Racing Club.

The best bet around Queensland today is that if there was an election in Queensland right this minute, the Labor Party wouldn’t be worrying about a bloke named Billy Gordon, or needing the support of Independent member, Peter Wellington, or getting the possible support of the Katter Party to form government, as they would win by as far as great 2YO’s like Vain and Luskin Star do on debut, as the vast majority of the Queensland population would be impressed at how Annastacia Palaszczuk handled herself over the Racing Queensland Boards issue since Monday. In my eyes she’s a Group 1 performer who came out of the woodwork after just a few months to achieve such glory.

Maybe – just maybe – we should get some women on Boards in racing in this State. After all Mr MacSporran wasn’t too impressed with the job that the all-male current Racing Queensland All Codes Board had done. And “some women” might also get rid of the “boys club” mentality that has been around racing in Queensland since the beginning of time. Now wouldn’t that be a coup.

Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s the first of two montages of photos from Doomben last Saturday plus there’s news of the apprentice that is back riding after an absence of two years. On www.sydneyracing.com.au there’s a harness racing story about the pacer that changed his gait to become a trotter, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au there’s the story on stallion O’Lonhro kicking goals in Victoria and stallion Canford Cliffs progeny winning in Europe.

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