How will the Gold Coast move on from the Dreamworld tragedy?
How will the Gold Coast move on from the Dreamworld tragedy?

How do we move on from the Dreamworld tragedy?

IT was a poignant and emotional moment. Just a few days after the Dreamworld tragedy in October, 2016, I was standing outside the main entrance with my wife Venesa. We held hands and embraced. The tears flowed.

We didn't know the four souls who had lost their lives 72 hours earlier at a theme park we'd grown up with; a place of fun and happiness that has created so many wonderful memories for millions of Aussie families over the past 35 years.

Dreamworld is still recovering after the tragedy which has created wider implications for the Gold Coast as Australia’s tourism capital.
Dreamworld is still recovering after the tragedy which has created wider implications for the Gold Coast as Australia’s tourism capital.

It was late on a Friday night when we were heading back to Brisbane from the Gold Coast. As we approached the Dreamworld exit, the car instinctively moved into the left hand lane and soon we had joined a dozen or so people at a makeshift memorial. With candles flickering, illuminating seemingly hundreds of bouquets of flowers, the enormity of what had occurred at Dreamworld hit home.

Those around us shed tears, as did the many people who went to that site in the aftermath of the tragedy. We felt like we knew them. There but for the grace of God. No family deserves to lose one of its own at a place that is about joy and fun.

It is now firmly established that Dreamworld dropped the ball badly on safety. From evidence presented at the recent inquest, that fact is inescapable.

But the Dreamworld tragedy has created wider implications for the Gold Coast as Australia's tourism capital. Because the Green movement has stymied tourism growth on the Gold Coast over the past 25 years, the city has come to rely more on its beaches and the theme parks as its key drivers. The beaches look after themselves.

There is no better stretch of coastline in the world than the strip between Coolangatta and Narrowneck. But since the Dreamworld tragedy, Australians have turned their back on the theme parks. Understandably.

The result is that Ardent Leisure which runs Dreamworld, and Warner Brothers Village Roadshow, which runs Sea World, Movie World and Wet'n'Wild, are in a world of pain.

They are struggling. Big time. This is not good news for Queensland's second largest city.

The fact that federal Tourism Minister Steve Ciobo, whose constituency takes in Surfers Paradise, and Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate are at war with each other, is unthinkable at a time when the region needs them working together.

 

The Gold Coast is famous for its beaches, a key driver for tourism. Picture: Regi Varghese
The Gold Coast is famous for its beaches, a key driver for tourism. Picture: Regi Varghese

The Gold Coast is bigger than any individual. They need to show some leadership and maturity and sort out their differences at such a crucial time. And the Gold Coast's lame duck politicians need to grow a set.

Where's the new innovative tourism product? Where's the much-touted cablecar project linking Springbrook to Mudgeeraba? Where's the new cruise ship terminal on The Spit?

The Gold Coast doesn't need more casinos, it needs more family-friendly attractions. It needs to be an international drawcard for cruise ship visitors. It's Australia's holiday playground. Famous for fun.

The lack of political will to transition the Gold Coast out of its post-Dreamworld tragedy and post-Commonwealth Games funk is a damning indictment on the city's leadership.

This is a city with so much potential, yet it's being held back by a vocal group of egotistical do-gooders who hold politicians to ransom with their puerile threats and predictable placard-waving protest rallies.

Complicit in all this is a Labor Government joined at the hip with the Greens, intent on stifling growth because they don't want to jeopardise their preferences alliance.

On Sunday, having not been to Dreamworld since the tragedy, we returned to the property. As you'd expect, the rigorous safety protocols now in place were obvious and visible. It felt lively, a good atmosphere and the sounds of joy and happiness punctuated the air. The people seem to be returning, albeit slowly. And yes, the Giant Drop is still the best ride.

Ardent Leisure and Village Roadshow want their theme parks to return to their halcyon days and they're doing everything in their power to make that happen.

It's a shame the same can't be said for our meek politicians, who put self-preservation before sound, sustainable, progressive policy.

***

PALASZCZUK LOSES GRIP ON CABINET

PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk has lost control of her Cabinet. The Left of her party - led by Jackie Trad, Mick di Brenni and Steven Miles - are arrogantly and foolishly sending her over a cliff. Inexplicably, she seems powerless to stop them.

Let's take a look at the damage the Three Musketeers have presided over in the past few weeks.

Annastacia Palaszczuk seems to be losing control of her Cabinet. Picture: AAP/Darren England
Annastacia Palaszczuk seems to be losing control of her Cabinet. Picture: AAP/Darren England

#ArroganceNumberOne

Three weeks ago, The Courier-Mail reported that on Mr Di Brenni's recommendation, Cabinet appointed the CFMEU's Jade Ingham to the Queensland Building and Construction Commission board, despite his long and unimpressive record of civil disobedience and industrial law breaches. Mr di Brenni told an Estimates hearing he'd had no complaints about Mr Ingham's appointment. Obviously, he is moonlighting at the Comedy Club. My inbox lit up when the story ran. It shows the unions are running the Labor Party. It's payback.

#ArroganceNumberTwo

On to The Australian last Saturday where it was reported that Deputy Premier and Treasurer Ms Trad appointed a veteran Get Up! strategist at taxpayer expense as a "temporary adviser'' for last year's state election. Get Up! campaigned tirelessly during the poll on an anti-Adani platform. Josh Genner was paid $2000 a week on a contract that ended on the eve of the November 25 poll. But of course GetUp! is an "independent'' advocacy body. Sure.

#ArroganceNumberThree

The Sunday Mail reports that babies born in Queensland country towns where maternity services have been closed are dying at a much higher rate than newborns in other rural centres with obstetrics services. Labor has ordered an immediate "summit'' to deal with a problem that it has presided over. When in doubt, order a summit. Yes Minister.

Queensland Health has a budget of $18.3 billion yet it can't provide adequate neonatal services to all pregnant women, not just mums in the bigger cities and towns.

I never thought I would put the word arrogance and Annastacia Palaszczuk in the same sentence because her voter appeal comes down to her humble and empathetic nature. But an arrogance now pervades her Cabinet and it's creating poor judgment and a cavalier attitude.

In Queensland, when somebody goes rogue or gets a bit too big for their boots, they very quickly get taken down a peg. The Premier needs to knock a few heads together.

***

BRONCOS SET TO CHOP BENNETT

MY SPIES tell me Wayne Bennett will be chopped as coach of the Broncos in 2019.

The mail is Bennett will coach in Europe next season, with a French club showing interest in the super coach.

Which begs the question, who will get the top job at Red Hill when Bennett goes?

The big question is who will replace Wayne Bennett if he heads to France next year. Pictured: AAP/Dave Hunt
The big question is who will replace Wayne Bennett if he heads to France next year. Pictured: AAP/Dave Hunt

The field of contenders seems to be fast-diminishing. Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold is my tip although a premiership win this year may complicate things.

Still the Broncos coaching job is one of the highest paid in the league.

***

SMOOTH OPERATOR MISSES ENERGY MEETING

MINES and Energy Minister Anthony Lynham was not at last Friday's NEG meeting because he was busy doing facial surgery.

Cameron Dick went instead. Nothing wrong with that. But this was a very important meeting, probably the most vital since Dr Lynham became a Minister.

He chose medicine over politics. Good for him.

***

ROBERTS-SMITH CALLS IN THE BIG GUN

SEVEN Queensland boss Ben Roberts-Smith has hired gun defamation lawyer Mark O'Brien to defend him over a series of reports in the Fairfax papers.

O'Brien has written to federal Attorney-General Christian Porter asking for clarification on a claim Roberts-Smith was being investigated by police over an alleged domestic violence incident involving a ­former girlfriend.

Ben Roberts-Smith deserves much better. Picture: Peter Wallis
Ben Roberts-Smith deserves much better. Picture: Peter Wallis

Roberts-Smith, a Victoria Cross recipient, has also been implicated in alleged SAS activities in Afghanistan.

I'm sorry but war is war. There are no rules.

Roberts-Smith enjoys the highest of respect and confidence of his colleagues, peers and superiors.

This a messy, tawdry affair.



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