HIS taxi-owning dad might say that his boy has the résumé to be the next cab off the rank and he’d be right. But Cameron Dick is an oddly under-touted man in Queensland politics. Yes, his embrace of Rex Connor hackery as Treasurer has been deplorable and his status as number three behind the wide-eyed void that is Deputy Premier Steven Miles is demeaning. These, however, are downsides to being a member of the smallish right faction in caucus. Mr Dick’s Shorten-Chalmers response to the Premier’s vacation in Naples may or may not have advanced his cause. The reason he revealed that he didn’t even know she was leaving the country is because he wants us to realise that cabinet is out to lunch and sede vacante prevails. That was a tactical sledge. So was his 579-word report on how Labor can defy polls and still win the next election – despite a Californian crime wave, optics trumping metrics, crises in health and education, left-wing ‘treaty’ extremism and his foolish war on the mining sector. By selling himself as a thinking man – over against the dimness of Mr Miles’s bulb – he was taking a leaf out of his federal equivalent’s book. Only a single leaf; the latter’s essay on a nicer capitalism in The Monthly early this year ran to 6000 words. The important thing is Mr Dick picked up an abandoned standard and was noticed doing so.
Son of a butcher-cum-entrepreneur, the Treasurer was educated at the Anglican Church Grammar School – regarded as Brisbane’s poshest academy for boys and one of the wealthiest in Australia. After taking law, commerce and arts degrees at St Lucia, he was articled at a legal firm founded by former Labor Premier Wayne Goss and later read for a master’s degree at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Privilege in the modern ALP is no longer a rarity but the contrast between the Dick biography and that of his most famous predecessor, Ted Theodore, is instructively stark. Now the party of south-eastern elites – an electoral advantage whose effect on political antennae is nevertheless ruinous – Labor gives favours and funding to its constituency (mostly public servants) and jingoistic Bjelke-Petersenism to everyone living north of Bald Hills.
This was the model that Annastacia Palaszczuk saw as fail-safe. The more cruel she was during the pandemic, the more popular she became. No wonder she developed red carpet airs and no wonder they aged so badly post-covid. She did win three elections in a row but not even hagiographer Paul Williams writing at The Conversation today can name any real achievements – apart from being a “Labor legend.” As for the Treasurer, when he was in his 20s Mr Dick joined Australian Volunteers Abroad, eventually serving as the acting Attorney-General of Tuvalu. Maybe he was inspired by the Peace Corp ethos of a US President he admires. The arc of idealism is rarely consistent but nothing destroys nobility quite like triteness in pursuit of power. If you start at the service of the needy and end up defending their exclusion from hospitals, it’s time to move on.