Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Belshaw's World - Simon Crean, Dr Rob and my daughter's 21st

As I write, Ms Gillard is announcing her new ministry.

By the time you read this column, the details will be far clearer than they are just at present. Still, I could not resist a few comments.

I know that many people in the electorate were upset by Mr Windsor’s decision to back Ms Gillard. The comments’ columns on the Northern Daily Leader dripped a fair bit of vitriol.

Regardless of individual views, Regional Australia is back on the political agenda in a way we have not seen for a number of years.

Mr Crean as the new minister is a very experienced operator with a known interest in the area. I think that’s good.

In a short historical post on his blog, fellow campaigner for regional development Paul Barratt wrote:

When the Coalition came to office in 1996 one of the departments established under the new administrative arrangements was the Department of Transport and Regional Development. In 1998 this was changed to the Department of Transport and Regional Services. Someone had taken issue with the thought that a Coalition Government would have any role in regional development (presumably the market would provide, as it always does) – it would just play some sort of a role in relation to service delivery in the regions (for which there was always precious little money).

Paul is right, of course. Semantics is very important in public policy because of what it signals about thinking. To my mind, this 1998 change in wording marked the end of any real focus on regional development.

Now that we have regional development and decentralisation back on the mainstream political agenda, Minister Crean can expect a fair bit of unsolicited advice and analysis.

I think that this is very important. If newspapers, columnists, bloggers and researchers, to name just a few, don’t respond, then the issue is likely to slide again.

I think that most agree that current policies have not worked so far as Regional Australia is concerned. The challenge now is to find new ways of working.

Friday, Gordon Smith emailed me of the death of Rob Robertson-Cuninghame. I felt quite sad.

As my mother grew older, she used to say “it’s getting drafty round here, dear.” By this, she simply meant the way in which the inexorable process of aging and death was taking away the people she knew.

Dr Robertson-Cuninghame was not just a nice bloke, but an intelligent man who made an enormous contribution to this community.

From time to time in this column, I have written about the challenges facing us in preserving and developing the University of New England.

For those few people who read this column on a regular basis, I can sound pretty obsessive about UNE. I am not alone in this, for UNE has a remarkably loyal group of alumni. However, without Dr Robertson-Cuninghame, I am not sure that I would have had a university to be obsessive about!

Early September is the heavy birthday period in the North-Belshaw household, with three birthdays in two weeks. This year it’s youngest’s twenty-first.

When I was a kid, twenty-firsts were a very big deal. Now kids get two shots at parties: at 18 and 21, yet twenty-firsts are still a big thing.

Catherine, one of Clare’s friends, came round to collect photos for the inevitable rolling slide show. Looking at the photos brought back so many memories.

There were the girls at Marsh Street, the shots at Montessori. Eldest in her Newling uniform, then both girls in their NEGS uniforms on the day they started there.

Talk about a trip down nostalgia lane.

As I listened to the speeches while watching the slide show, I thought how proud I was of my daughter, of how far she had come.

I am sure that all parents will understand how I felt.

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 15 September 2010. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010

No comments: