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Our most visible political leaders are just suburban Dads, too

A whole lot of negativity could be taken out of modern politics if we remember that those who wish to lead us are only human, writes Rebecca Levingston

Jun 19, 2024, updated Jun 19, 2024

The soccer canteen is an unlikely spot to run into the Premier.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting waiting for post-match toasties with my sons when Steven Miles arrived. He looked like any other suburban dad. He was with his daughter and his mum. It was Mother’s Day.

Kids in muddy soccer boots were mingling after games in amongst scattered water bottles, parents and coaches. A scene that would be replicated around every sporting club in Queensland on weekends.

Someone yelled out “Premier” and waved. Another bloke asked for a selfie and Steven Miles obliged. He seemed relaxed. He doesn’t present with as much bravado as Peter Beattie but he’s not as awkward as Annastacia Palaszczuk.

We had a quick chat and I wished his mum Happy Mother’s Day. I wonder how it feels when your child ends up leading the state? I loved the simplicity of the occasion. We live in a country where a political leader can roll up and have a canteen lunch. No big deal.

I imagine those moments are fleeting.

In October two Dads will put up the political fight of their lives trying to be elected as Premier of Queensland. It will get personal. But I hope it remains professional. Both for the decency of our democracy and for the families of the leaders.

David Crisafulli who has crisscrossed the state in opposition has two daughters. He is energetic and focussed in person. Tidy and determined. Like Steven Miles, he’s fit and desperate to win. I gather both men are fans of the gym. Wonder who’d win in a push up competition?

Politics is such a strange and demanding game. A politician once told me that politics is showbiz for ugly people. I cling to the hope that most people enter public life for the right reasons. To help make your community stronger. To grow neighbourhoods and economies that are better, safer, healthier and kinder. You’ll decide who’s the best person to do that in Queensland.

2024 has become the year of the election.

India has just voted. Spectacular to see the largest democracy on Earth mobilise. Almost one billion people were eligible to vote. They returned Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. UK goes to the polls on July 4. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s election announcement in the rain seems a portend for a conservative soaking. France is racing to an election pre-Olympics. The USA votes on the 5th of November. Same day as Melbourne Cup in Australia. The betting agencies must be rubbing their hands together.

Queenslanders have already been to the polls for local council elections in 2024 and we’ll go again on October 26 to decide who’ll lead the Sunshine State in the post-Palaszczuk era. Democracy sausage sales are up.

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So too are social media campaigns. As the headlines and parliamentary language gets uglier, watch the way leaders shape their message on digital platforms.

Take Sunday night dinners for example.

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I’m not yet so cynical that I can’t tolerate a political food photo. Perhaps the more civil our response to leaders, the better they’ll be in power?

This week former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed a project she’s been working on called Field. She says she wants to “rehumanise leadership”. Her goal is to connect global political leaders who champion pragmatic idealism using hope and optimism rather than fear and blame.

As we watch the political discourse around the world deteriorate, focaccia and kofta seem the least of our problems. If Miles and Crisafulli and their families ever had dinner together, I wonder what common ground they’d find. Voters should keep in mind most politicians are probably doing their best. Politicians should keep that in mind about their opponents too. And let’s hope they get to be dads when their kids need them on any day – even Sunday.

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