A cute story, but did we really need the Premier sticking his beak in?

The friendship between a Gold Coast magpie and its Staffordshire Terrier mate is a modern-day Marley and Me with one big difference – the movie didn’t co-star any politicians. So why did our premier elbow his way into the story, asks Madonna King

Apr 11, 2024, updated Apr 11, 2024
A supplied image shows Peggy and Ruby the Staffies with Molly the magpie at their home in the Gold Coast.  (AAP Image/Supplied by Juliette Wells and Reece Mortensen)

A supplied image shows Peggy and Ruby the Staffies with Molly the magpie at their home in the Gold Coast. (AAP Image/Supplied by Juliette Wells and Reece Mortensen)

Imagine this script.

Rome is burning. In the suburbs, a grandfather kills a balaclava-clad intruder. Others check the locks on their front door, knowing their Facebook pages, tomorrow morning, will be filled with the antics of juvenile crime gangs.

Those without a roof are less worried about security and more worried about where they might find their next meal. They gather in the city’s parks; the fastest growing group being middle-aged women.

They don’t hear the day’s political controversy where nurses and teachers are told how lucky they are – despite finding out construction workers earning double time when it rains, a full month of rostered days off each year and an extra $1000 a week when working away from home.

The leader – Queensland Premier Steven Miles – lets that and the ongoing backlash about his decision to rip the bling out of the 2032 Olympic Games wash over him.

He has a big announcement to make; a declaration that will be read by millions around the world. He opens his Twitter account.

“I just wanted to share an update about Molly the magpie,’’ he writes. He had spoken with Molly’s owners and reassured them, the bird was in good spirits, and would soon be coming home.

In a stunning intervention, he had overruled his public servants who had snatched Molly from their owners because they didn’t have a licence to keep her in their home. Peggy, the couple’s Staffordshire terrier, was heartbroken.

Miles, who has an electoral Mt Everest to climb to stay in power later this year, saw the real-life Winnie-the Poo story unfold on news bulletins and social media accounts around the world – and determined he had no choice but to intervene.

Molly had to go home.

The credits roll. Natural order is restored. Strong leadership has saved the day.

A fanciful fictitious plot for a B-grade family movie? Probably. And reportedly a book deal, around Molly, is already in the works.

But this case is also a telling indictment on the state of politics, a few months out from an election.

This is Queensland, Australia. But we shouldn’t be fooled. Similar cases play out across the electoral landscape as incumbent governments try to hang on, allowing pollsters and populism to determine public policy.

Molly should never been taken away from her owners. The fact that it took the politically astute Miles so long to return her shows a big misstep.

But if the Miles Government thought its decision would mean that Molly would act as some sort of vote-carrying pigeon, delivering a popularity boost for Queensland Labor, it is badly mistaken.

This story shows the power of outrage, and many social media followers – mostly living outside Queensland – were quick to applaud the premier’s decision.

But it also illustrates how decisions are made – and the low priority status afforded to genuine but complex public policy challenges, which should be the proper focus of those we elect.

A cost of living crisis is determining how we live our daily lives – from how we travel to the food we put on the table to the schools we send our children. It’s also creating a new cohort of homeless, unable to meet mortgages or pay rent. Miles is finding it much trickier to house those voters, than a bird with an international fan club.

That’s one of two issues, now signalling almost certain election defeat for the Miles Government in October this year.

The other is the perceived spike in youth crime, which is now dominating conversations at work, and over the back fence, on talkback radio and in our Facebook feeds. It will prove a bigger issue for Miles at the ballot box than environment officers taking Molly into state custody.

Returning Molly to her owners is a victory for commonsense. That’s all.

Miles will have to work much harder to win back all those votes which have been whittled away over years of inaction and ineptitude by his predecessor Annastacia Palaszczuk.

And that starts with a bigger vision on how he is going to house the homeless, make people feel safe in their homes, and secure an Olympic plan that has broad support.

No reunion between a bird and a dog, no matter how it’s told, is going to change that.


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