The Doust Files, Albany Advertiser 31/8/2010

Have you got your Rate Notice from the City of Albany?
Have you burnt your Rate Notice? Did you want to burn your Rate Notice? Did you want to stuff your rate notice up … a drain pipe?
I am tempted to ask if there was, perhaps, something else you might prefer to burn, but that may well hasten my arrest under the criminal code for incitement to riot, or cause havoc, or, at the very least, disrespect to legally elected representatives in a due and democratic process.
Which leads to me suggest what asses we are, you and me, the lot of us, including Len, my retired Bruce Rock farmer mate and Phoebe, my young and funky lawyer friend who yells at me from across the street.
What are we doing? Why don’t we stand up and make ourselves available? We would never have got ourselves into this mess. Would we?
I’ll tell you why, because it’s a thankless task, local government, any government. I’ve got mates in a couple of houses of parliament and every time I see them I say: “Get out! Now! While you still have a smidgeon of sanity and you still have at least one friend.”
Anyone going in should go in with a set term in mind, say six years. Then they should bugger off, go home, back to the farm, to the law office, open a gelato shop and give some other poor sod a go.
Nothing worse than watching tired old pollies hang on for dear life because that’s all they know, all they’ve ever done since the old days when they had a real job and they still think they have it, but they’ve forgotten what it is.
Well, there are a couple of things worse, like accidentally ironing your tongue, or being run over by a rotary hoe, or being forced to eat rhubarb with potato.
Watching the current Federal campaign has reminded me what is wrong with the grass roots: there’s no vision. Both leaders argue over the same policies, each one offering fifty bucks more than the other, hoping we will go: “Hey, wow, fifty bucks, that’s great. I can buy a new pillow.”
And that’s what’s wrong with local government, no vision, no grand plan, just knee-jerk responses to jerking knees.
As Pete, my Noongar mate often reminds me, Albany was the first wadjela (white fella) town on this vast west coast: “Surely we could make something of that by embracing the two cultures, make the town a symbol of transition. For a start, what about using Noongar and English in all signage and all visitors to the region to be welcomed by the mayor and an elder.”
Then there’s the brilliant idea I’m sure many of you have heard about to return Albany to its original name, Frederickstown, once a year, for one month and fill the place with activities and historical re-enactments.
Pete reckons Lockyer’s mob were late-comers and he’d like to go back to Kinjarling, the original name for the region, meaning place of rain.
These are big visions. They may not be your visions, but why not give them a try. If they don’t work, we could mix and match and try others. A town that continually re-invents itself would be exciting to visit.
Too many people over the last couple of weeks have come up to me and said: “What are you going to do about it, Jon, the rate hike?”
First of all I commiserate and then I say: “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, I’m going to write a column. That should make the buggers quake.”
There, I’ve done it. When they bring the rates down next year, you’ll know who to thank.

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