Dad had made it out of an assortment of other bike bits and it was truly awesome to have my first real ‘big’ bike.
That bike was hammered around the suburban streets for the next four years, only taken off the road whenever too many skids wore out yet another hole in the back tyre. I had never shopped for a new bike until our oldest child turned five.
I thought of this today because it’s Father’s Day and I noticed that by 11am our two boys had spent more than two hours making paper planes and flying them in the wind. Using recycled paper and following a sophisticated design sourced on the internet, it’s a high tech operation and some of the flights were upwards of 150 metres. (The boys said they travelled three streets away, clearly they have a future in fishing.)
Yesterday it was all three children making cars and toboggans for Eastern Beach hill out of free cardboard boxes from Bunnings.
Meanwhile the Wii and the shiny new bike sit idle and unused more often than not.
The federal election is next week and the promises of big new toys from party representatives are starting to flow. A $40 million commitment for a new hospital here, more than $1 million for a new cycle path connection there.
These represent the tip of the infrastructure iceberg that is desperately needed in the Geelong region. Basic services that have been needed for many years and will continue to be needed as this region’s population grows in number and diversity.
Firstly, can I say it’s staggering that only a week or so out from an election come the offers? I’m amazed that a safe seat draws such little future funding attention.
Then there is the style of the promises: the big figure statements being pitched by men in suits as benevolent, generous and magnanimous. As though it’s coming out of their own pockets and we tax-payers should all feel incredibly grateful that we are being thrown a bone.
It would be quite funny if it wasn’t so insulting. It may even be exciting if there was any proof that the funding promises would actually be delivered. Instead, the vote-winning populist offers are being bandied about and there is no process for accountability.
Offering a token figure for essential services in the week before the election is not respectful. It is all too little, too late and not particularly believable. Typically, the funding will only be delivered if it’s matched by similar funding from other levels of government.
As an independent candidate, it would be irresponsible and silly for me to make election promises. I’d venture to say as a party representative it would be equally irresponsible and misleading to make commitments without evidence of how and when those promises will be delivered.
We all know deep down that it probably won’t happen the way we hear it. There are so many stories about funding ‘commitments’ that have never transpired. We need an honest and accountable system and I just can’t see how that can happen with the current state of party politics.
But, for me, the critically annoying part is that the focus is always on ‘new and big’. I listened with intense interest a few years ago when a senior bureaucrat stated quite openly that governments are not interested in refurbishing, recycling or reusing existing infrastructure.
Apparently, governments of all persuasions are only interested in funding new, shiny, big ticket infrastructure because it wins votes.
How sad. The vast majority of people I listen to in the electorate from Anakie to St Leonards, through Geelong and the suburbs and onto the peninsula, would prefer their old schools to be reused, the community halls to be renovated, the jetty to be reinforced and our people to be respected.
Yes, there needs to be major investment in health services in the northern suburbs of Geelong and also the Bellarine Peninsula. We also need better transport services, upgraded school facilities, quality recreation options, new harbour facilities – the list goes on. But these issues seem to stagnate while the tiers of government finger-point, fight and faff around.
The connection with people’s reality is missing from the political discussion. I hear concerns ranging from complete disinterest from employment agencies unless you’re with Centrelink, to the distressing sale of farmland for residential development, to the cost of cigarettes and electricity bills; from the mismatch between wages and house prices, to the poor standard of education and the tragedy of homeless young people.
Who is knitting this together into a strategy for a positive future? Surely the policies that we hear so much about should be addressing the issues for the people of our region?
If it’s not the role of our federal representative to drive the regional improvements that we need, whose is it?