Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 11 July 2009

An Experiment in Demographics

I've always maintained that northerners are different.

This is one of the reasons that southern pundits (those who don't live north of the tropic) haven't got a clue when it comes to forecasts of voting trends. The last Queensland state election is a good example.

I lived the early part of my life in North Queensland, went south as a boarder to attend high school, and didn't get to live in the North again until I was in my thirties. I married a northern girl, and spent two stints in Townsville as a school principal, and then went west (Mt Isa) for a few years.

Combined with the twenty or so years I've lived in the south-east corner, I've picked up what I believe to be an accurate understanding of the differences in attitudes of the inhabitants of the north and south of this state.

My dad, who had a similar experience as a bush schoolie, used to mutter, when we drove across the tropic on our annual Christmas holiday in the south - "back to the land of narrow minds, square heads, and shallow pockets".

I didn't understand what he meant back then.

I do now.

I conducted a small experiment in demographics on our recent trip north to examine this hypothesis.

I have an out-of-date concessional fuel card. It entitled me to 2c per litre off the price of LPG when produced. It's been out-of-date for a while, but this hasn't bothered me, as when home I can buy LPG cheaper from another outlet bringing the price paid to less than the 2c concession.

This is not the case away from home, and the further north you travel, the higher the price, so I packed it just for the hell of it.

Between Toowoomba and Rockhampton, the discount was refused, usually with a curt explanation, and a disdainful glare. At Mackay, the attendant said "That's out-of-date mate - you'll need to get it renewed". She still gave me the discount.

The same occurred at Bowen, Innisfail, and up on the Tableland. I got the discount every time. The other thing I noticed was that nobody up there wished me a "nice day" - very refreshing.

It has something to do with a characteristically northern approach to bureaucracy. They see it as something to be defeated - to be got around. It's not universal, but pretty close to it.

Up there, people generally can't be bothered with laid-down procedures of any kind. They make it up - very successfully - as they go along.

No wonder I feel out-of-place in Toowoomba.

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