Stephanie Dale

Stephanie Dale

Citizen Journalist at No Fibs
Stephanie Dale is a journalist and author with a background of 25 years in media, politics and publishing. Stephanie believes we need to find new ways of sharing our Earth, and making way for all its people, not just those privileged by the current economic system, and all its creatures - on their own terms.
Stephanie Dale
I have two published books available - the novel Hymn for the Wounded Man and the travel memoir My Pilgrim's Heart, which was reviewed recently by the Huffington Post.


By Stephanie Dale

3 September 2013

We are in the dying days of the 2013 election campaign, a campaign that has boasted a handful of idiot policy announcements but in five weeks just one true surprise – Peter Beattie.

It was a laugh out loud moment for the nation when the former Queensland Premier (1998-2007) appeared on the Forde stage with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to proclaim his bid for a seat in the 44th Australian parliament.

In the vivid landscape of my imagination, at that moment only sitting member Bert van Manen was not amused*.

The election winds had shifted, the battlefield for Forde changed.  What had appeared to be a relatively straightforward fight for van Manen to retain his seat, despite its 1.6{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} margin, had just become a bona fide duel.

(*To be fair, Labor candidate Des Hardman, reportedly hardworking and widely liked, was probably also not amused.)

Yesterday I rode the train from Beenleigh to Brisbane with the former premier. I’d been chasing him for an interview for some time, content to wait for a decent block of time in a busy man’s schedule, pleased to find that time on a fast moving train.

As we rattled our way north with the early morning commuters, we settled in to our conversation. Media questions throughout the campaign have ranged from the predictable to the inane to the ingenuous to the ad nauseumly superficial, the answers to which have been widely reported via a range of media.

I had only one question for one of Australia’s best known – and most entertaining – politicians: what’s it like to start again at 60?

Don’t tell him this, but to me Beattie’s move to stand for the seat of Forde is akin to Lady Gaga auditioning for American Idol.


He retired from politics at the top of his game, he could legitimately put his hand up for – and expect to receive – most any job that caught his eye, he’s vastly experienced in dealing with the myriad shades and shapes of power that drive our world, nationally and internationally, he’s confident, he’s sure of his game.

Hell, if he wanted a seat in federal politics he could have waited for a Senate vacancy and slipped right in.

So why did Peter Beattie choose to cast his fortunes to the vagaries of voter popularity, boots to the bitumen 24/7 to shake a zillion hands, and stand in a marginal seat for the House of Representatives that is not even in Labor hands?

“I didn’t want a safe seat,” he said. “To win a seat, you have to win the people – that is the heart of democracy.

“Sure it’s high risk, and people make their judgement about that. But I believe in democracy and if you’re going to win people you need to do it the hard way.”

One of Beattie’s key passions is jobs. Forde has one of Australia’s highest unemployment rates, state and federal. Youth unemployment is a huge concern.

But for Beattie, so is the wasted talent of his own generation – the ‘baby boomers’.

“The baby boomers are the most talented, educated group of people in the history of humankind,” he said.

“They make a huge contribution through volunteering and mentoring – without them large sections of the community would collapse. However many also want to keep working, and they should have access to the workforce.

“They are an enormous resource – let’s not waste them, myself included.”

Beattie is hungry to sink his teeth into a challenge.

“Like anyone in my age group, I’m full of energy and ideas and I want to make a contribution,” he said.

“My experience is in politics and I want to use my skillset.

“I spent the last six years half inside and half outside Australia (as a trade commissioner). I’ve seen Australia from the outside and we’ve got huge challenges ahead from China, India and the US – unless we innovate.

“In this century, 50{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} of all jobs will be in knowledge. We do some things well – but that’s not enough. We need to be obsessed with innovation, research and development and do that for everything from mining services to medical outcomes.

“The Chinese have invested $6.8 billion in a biotech industry. We’re doing it – we’re just not obsessed about it.  It’s where society is going. It’s exciting, it’s complicated. It’s one of those things that takes years to develop, there are no quick fixes.

“We need to establish centres of excellence with real jobs that matter – that’s where you get a manufacturing industry from.

“And we need to start now.”

Like most Australians, Beattie is frustrated by negative, narrow political debate – for him even that has a jobs focus.

“Right here in Forde we’ve got the Yatala Enterprise Zone – when I was Premier we gave this centre a huge shot in the arm,” he said.

“There are 550 businesses there employing 10,000 people. 25{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} of those businesses export – we need to get more exports out of Yatala, technologies that support the mining industry, for example – environmental management, trucks, safety, better explosives, reducing overheads.

“These are all ideas-based – so we’re not just digging a hole in the ground, we’re digging it as effectively and as safely as we possibly can.”

I steer Beattie back to my original curiosity – what’s it like to start again at 60?

We both acknowledge that for him tumbling back to the bottom has been a choice, that he has not lost everything or even much of anything. But he has surrendered the identity and worth that comes with productive work.

How do you maintain a strong sense of self when you have surrendered the things that until now have defined you?

“With humility and an ability to face adversity head on,” he said.

“You have to maintain your sense of self, your identity. You’ve got to feel good about yourself and know who you are.

“Maybe it’s my working class origins, but I’ve never taken the trappings of office seriously.

“For me, loss is part of democracy – you’ve got to believe in yourself and be prepared to face up.

“I know a lot of people are doing it much harder than me, that for them it’s not choice but necessity that forces them to start again.

“You have to fall back on your skills – and embrace technology.

“I’ve forced myself to keep up with (technology). You have to if you’re going to keep pace with the modern world. Otherwise you’d get isolated very quickly.

“The world changes and we have to develop the ability to change with it, to be uncomfortable, to get out of our comfort zones, to enjoy the ups and downs – this is the key to starting again from the bottom.

“It keeps us young.”

In Beattie’s case, he’s asking people to like him all over again.

He laughs: “The thing about democracy is half the population doesn’t like you all the time,” he said.

“But overwhelmingly people have been really nice to me.

“I’m not thinking about what I’ll do if I lose.”

But he does add that this election will be his only shot at a seat in federal parliament.

“One way or another, Forde is my last hurrah,” he said.

“This is a unique event – the timing worked for me.

“I haven’t given any thought to what I’ll do if I don’t win – because I want to win. Forde has been missing out and as a local member I could make a real difference.

“And if I don’t win and the nation goes down another path, that’s okay.

“You just have to believe in what you do – no regrets.”

More Forde Stories