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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Self-reliant FNQ politician quits social media

This is a photo of Labor MP for Cairns Rob Pyne in happier times, back at the end of January when his party brushed aside the opposition to secure a tentative majority in Queensland's unicameral Parliament. On that day, Pyne fronted the post-poll cameras surrounded by enthusiastic friends and supporters. It was a time to make gravy but apparently that time has well and truly passed with news Pyne has stopped using social media to keep in contact with voters and others in the Australian community. It seems the business of government turned out to be a bit different in nature from just winning an election. Much nastier, less rewarding perhaps, and certainly more complicated.

You can sort of understand Pyne when you think about it. I mean, who hasn't had a run-in with online trolls at some point in their career in social media. We all have, and it's not pleasant. Usually, they go away after an issue has lost immediate relevance. For Pyne, being the focus of an entire community's aspirations and disgruntlements, that pressure didn't just go away. Faced with constant pressure to change his behaviour or to make certain decisions in a way he perhaps didn't agree with, Pyne just pulled the plug. He threw in the towel.

Having lived for some six years in Queensland it's perhaps easier for me to understand someone like Pyne, than it might be for someone who has spent all their life living in Sydney or Melbourne. Being from far-north Queensland you are doubly different. Not only are you from Queensland - and Queenslanders do tend to be a bit different - but your removal from the centre of political and economic power, which is located firmly in the southeast corner of the state, means you are also removed from the centre of things even in Queensland itself. Up in FNQ people tend to be highly self-reliant and independent-minded. Just look at all the loose canons Queensland has produced: Barnaby Joyce, Pauline Hansen, Julian Assange, Clive Palmer, Bob Katter. The list goes on.

When I visited far-north Queensland the one and only time I went there the first thing my contact said to me when we met in the roadside store was "So, you're a Mexican." I thought he was referring to my name at first and I paused, unsure of how to respond to his initial verbal approach. We were getting a cup of coffee each and there was noone else around. But finally it dawned on me. Because I lived in the state's southeast I was a "Mexican", someone from south of the border. That's because far-north Queenslanders feel so different they want a new border for their own state to be drawn at Rockhampton.

So when I come across someone like Rob Pyne who decides that the best way to deal with online trolls is simply to avoid going where they are likely to be found, I smile to myself and tip my hat at the independent-minded folk of far-north Queensland. Sure they're unpredictable, but since we seem to be overrun by crowds of poll-driven party apparatchiks who think it's a long way to drive from Canberra to Sydney, isn't it refreshing occasionally to come across someone who really does think outside the box?

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