Head poking is an integral part of the guard’s duties as shown by the $50 million of your dollars the State Government has spent to ensure this noble art is not lost to posterity.
Head poking is an integral part of the guard’s duties as shown by the $50 million of your dollars the State Government has spent to ensure this noble art is not lost to posterity. Sarah Keayes

If I die, I want to come back as a QR train guard

IN THE next life, and I'm betting there is one, I want to come back as a train guard for Queensland Rail.

Obviously I'd have to prove that I was up to the task, meaning that I would have to establish beyond all reasonable doubt that I was capable of blowing a whistle.

I would also have to show that simultaneous with the blowing of said whistle, I was able to poke my head out of a door.

Not too far, mind. Just the head and shoulders while retaining my balance and not falling out of the train.

Those aspiring guards who, while attempting to blow their whistle and poke their head out the door, forget to hold on to the train and land in a heap on the platform are, I imagine, considered to have failed the selection process.

Head poking is an integral part of the guard's duties as shown by the $50 million of your dollars the State Government has spent to ensure this noble art is not lost to posterity.

The thing is that new trains don't need guards.

The driver has a dash-mounted screen that provides him with an image of the full length of the railway station platform.

He can see quite plainly if all passengers have boarded.

He can also see the guard at the other end of the train poking his head out the door and blowing his whistle, telling him what he already knows, which is that it is safe to depart the station.

The $50 million was spent on installing extra screens in the drivers' cabins at the insistence of the union.

The guards could have viewed the dash-mounted screens but couldn't do so while poking their heads out the door, so extra screens were installed at enormous cost to allow both screen watching and head poking.

Yes, I know that if the screen says all clear then you don't need to head poke, but if that were allowed to happen, it might also occur to someone that you don't actually need guards. Lord knows we couldn't have that.

If I am successful in my train guard reincarnation, I can expect to make about $100,000 a year, plus overtime could easily add another $20,000 to my pay packet.

Nice work if you can get it. This, of course, pales when compared with the $200,000 the train drivers get with overtime, and they don't even have to stick their heads out the door or blow a whistle.

You really do have to smile at the way that a government can blithely rip up $50 million because union officials told them to do so.

How much money would be saved if the position of guards was abolished? Quite a lot but that won't happen even though guards perform no useful function. It won't happen because union money helps get the government elected.

If honourable members lost their seats at the next election, they'd have to try and get jobs as train guards because blowing whistles and head poking are at the extreme limits of their capabilities.

On second thought, some of them might find performing these two tasks simultaneously something of a challenge.

According to the Department of Premier and Cabinet's website, "ministers have obligations that flow from the following fundamental principles, set out in the Code of Ethical Standards of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland - integrity of the Parliament, primacy of the public interest, independence of action, appropriate use of information, transparency and scrutiny".

Primacy of the public interest? Independence of action? Transparency and scrutiny?

People become so accustomed to the arrogant abuse of political power that they come to expect and accept it, a capitulation that poses a threat to us all.