Rob Ingram takes the small town political pulse.
I read the other day that, in small towns as well as large, good people outnumber bad people by 100 to one.
It’s 30 years now since The Chosen One and I renounced the convenience and luxury of our city mansion and exiled ourselves to Handyman Hall, nestled in the rural recession of NSW’S central west. We’ve worked tirelessly for those three decades to assimilate into the rural lifestyle, installing spinning wheels in every room and replacing the electric lighting with kerosene lamps. We’ve discarded our bespoke tailored threads for sackcloth and felt shearers’ moccasins, and allowed wrens to nest in our freestyle hair. So I’m parking outside the blacksmith’s forge the other day, and a toothless peasant calls out, “Still a city slicker, eh?” Thirty years since we took vows of poverty, purity, rectitude and conformity, and I had committed the ultimate small-town offence. I’d locked the door of my car. “Don’t trust us, eh?” he hollered over his shoulder. His rebuke jolted me into thinking about the difference in crime and insecurity fears in city and country communities. In pre-election public opinion surveys in city areas (country voters don’t get surveyed), concerns about crime usually top the list. Okay, law ’n’ order is an issue out here, too, but, where we live, it’s more about keeping your lawn in order. Every Dunedoo youngster dreams of one day marching with the Dunedoo Mulchers, one of the finest precision, self-propelled lawnmower drill teams in the central west. Who can forget the heart-stopping choreography of their Figure Eight routine at the 2013 Mendooran Sheep Dog and Garden Expo? But the election promise that rallied city voters in the recent NSW election was the premier’s promise to employ 310 more police officers and invest $100 million in police technology. The price of the lifestyle NSW voters dream of is the price of video cameras for the use of frontline officers, and more mobile fingerprint scanning equipment and drug-testing machines. Here in Dunedoo, devoted readers of the local newspaper are having to get by without the popular feature Police Roundup. No, it’s not that our sheriff is too busy fighting terrorism and public shootings, there’s just a lack of misdemeanour to report. The last act of rampant lawlessness Police Roundup featured was the overturning of a rubbish bin in the O. L. Milling Memorial Park. And, if you lock your car in the main street, you’re casting aspersions on local honesty. I read the other day that, in small towns as well as large, good people outnumber bad people by 100 to 1. “What do you think about that?” I asked The Chosen One. “I think that in big towns the 100 would be nervous,” she said. “But in small towns, it would be the one.” She’s right, of course… an occurrence that is not unknown. So, to improve on Tourism Australia’s campaign, Where the bloody hell are you, city scaredy-cats? Crime fighting is not the only way to improve your lifestyle. Out here on the slopes and plains, quality of life is the issue, not law and order. Clean air and clear water. An attractive, healthy environment. Small-town caring and sharing. A strong sense of community. Pride in friendliness and courtesy. A confidence that you can make a difference. Surely the tree change is worth a try, city nailbiters? Just steel yourself against the ugly memory of an upturned rubbish bin in the park, and the need to cope with a high incidence of drivers who’ve had an indicator on since 1997. And, of course, the din of the Dunedoo Mulchers practising their new lawn-order formation routine.