Not happy, Sunshine: Qld government muzzles community

Being in the community sector in Queensland at the moment is a pretty awful spot to be.

What has been built over years, is being dismantled in just weeks. Community group after community group is being de-funded. Our tenancy advice services, neighbourhood centres, programs to help marginalised young people find jobs, court diversionary programs.  Pensioners  living in caravan parks, many of whom have lived there for years, are being given notices to leave. Our breast screen service is being emasculated. The words “vulnerable” and “disadvantaged” are no longer part of our lexicon.

And now the latest control mechanism: if your organisation is lucky to survive the purge, chances are that any new funding agreement will include a clause stopping any public advocacy. Who will speak up when our government goes off the track? Independent organisations are being muzzled. Vulnerable consumers in particular struggle at the best of times to get their voices heard, now it will be impossible. We don’t believe in prevention, but we do believe in retribution.

The sadness in this approach is its inherent short-sightedness. When you stop investing in our communities, we create and exacerbate social problems.  Short-term cost-cutting will mean long-term increases in homelessness, more marginalised young people, more people in our courts and more fractured families.  The Treasurer should be including these costs in his forward estimates for the September budget, but they won’t rate a mention.

There is a palpable sense of fear. People are uncertain about  their futures and this isn’t just the folk in the community sector or the 20,000 public servants losing their jobs.  The multiplier effect across the economy – unless you dig stuff out of the ground – is decidedly negative.

Our new Ministers seem to think that good management equates to “my cut is bigger than yours”.  There is a reactionary bravado, and a simplistic philosophy – if the last government started it, it can’t be good.  Its like being in that Alice in Wonderland scene, where the Queen cries at random “off with his head”. Who will be next? And does it matter, as long as heads are rolling?

Queensland: beautiful one day, totalitarian the next.  I would not be able to write this article if I had to put my name to it.