For Labor ex-minister, a time of atonement
Then Minister for Education Cameron Dick and Premier Anna Bligh talk with student Brydie Milburn during a visit to Eimeo Road State School in Mackay, February 21, 2012. Photo: Peter Wallis
Former Queensland education minister and attorney general Cameron Dick is the first of Labor’s deposed ministers to speak at length since the March 24 state election.
And he has used the opportunity to one-up Premier Campbell Newman’s four pillars - tourism, resources, agriculture and construction - with five pillars of his own.
‘‘Equality, freedom, fairness, opportunity and community - they’re the values that inspire me,’’ he said during a broad-ranging interview.
Qld premier Anna Bligh and treasurer Andrew Fraser speaking at a post Qld state budget CEDA lunch in Bribane. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Last week, brisbanetimes.com.au approached several of Labor’s former Cabinet members to gauge their feelings about their new lives four months after the party's savage election loss.
Most felt it was not yet time to speak publicly.
Former treasurer Andrew Fraser, whose five-bedroom inner western suburbs home is empty and up for rent for $780 a week - did not reply to numerous requests.
Labor’s former golden girl Kate Jones (former Member for Ashgrove) and Stirling Hinchliffe (former Stafford MP) also said no.
Ms Bligh herself is known to have been overseas for almost the entire time since the election loss.
So it was left to Mr Dick, formerly the member for Greenslopes, to speak on behalf of his former government.
Mr Dick served just one term (2009-2012) and believes he may have more to offer to Queenslanders in some capacity in the future.
A lawyer by training, Mr Dick is returning the bar and to his own firm, specialising in industrial relations law.
However, he would not dismiss the possibility of standing again at the next state election, admitting that he had the ALP in his DNA. (His brother, Milton, is a former ALP state secretary and now the Brisbane City Council’s opposition leader.)
Cameron Dick joined the Labor Party in 1989 as the Goss government came to power.
‘‘I am a Labor man. I always have been and I always will be,’’ he said, shrugging off suggestions the Labor brand in Queensland was irreparably damaged.
As we worked through the interview, he described how he felt the party should have concentrated more on the economy during the election campaign, emphasising the decisions it had made.
‘‘I do think Labor fell into the error, or seriously miscalculated and under-estimated the desire for Queenslanders to hold onto the AAA credit rating,’’ he said.
‘‘And I think the concern Queenslanders had generally about government debt and deficit.
‘‘And I think we were unable to effectively tell our story about investing in infrastructure to keep jobs.
‘‘I mean, that was the strategy we took as part of the global financial crisis.’’
He is frank about his view of the LNP government, mindful that Labor was whitewashed at the March 2012 election.
He believes the LNP government gives the impression of being a very old, conservative government, despite many youthful MPs.
‘‘I do have that sense that we have gone back in a time machine, that this government is very conservative,’’ he said.
‘‘Their whole approach to Queenslanders who are in same-sex relationships, axing money to Queensland community organisations that support those sorts of relationships.’’
The uneasy balance of asking settled public housing residents to move and make room for newer families, has also left the former MP uneasy.
He says the Newman government is entitled to make these decisions, but he worries they are not the decisions that the people who voted in the LNP voted for.
‘‘I don’t think that speaks of what Queenslanders see their state has become,’’ he says.
Readers might say, "well he would say that,’’ but Mr Dick also admits candidly that the people of Queensland absolutely rejected Labor at the state election.
‘‘I acknowledge that Queenslanders did not judge us well and we need to atone for that and to apologise for that,’’ he said.
And he agreed that Labor never really addressed the Health Payroll issue in the mind of the public.
He was cautious but frank in his assessment of how this was seen by the general public.
‘‘I think by not holding anyone to account for that, I think Queenslanders judged the former premier and the government very poorly.’’
As a former education minister, he was shocked by the government’s original decision to cut the Fanfare Music concerts among schools.
However he reserved his criticism for the LNP Attorney General Jarod Bleijie’s proposal to name and shame ‘‘as a last resort’’ serial child offenders.
‘‘I think it is a very regressive thing,’’ he said.
‘‘I think the experiences of most individuals who have experience in the criminal justice system including juvenile justice, know that the one of the critical aims of the juvenile justice system is to get kids out of a life of crime and committing criminal acts.
‘‘And many people come into contact with the criminal justice system do so on a one-off basis.
‘‘But by publicly humiliating them and their families, I think it will have a retrograde or regressive effect.
‘‘And I am not aware of any evidence anywhere that it actually stops re-offending.
‘‘And until that evidence is forthcoming I think that it should be opposed as a very backward step in our justice system in Queensland.’’
Cameron Dick served as attorney general from March 2009 to February 2011 and education minister from February 2011 to March 2012.