My great-grandfather was from Killarney. When World War One broke out and the recruiting officers came to town he, like many of the ancestors of folk from what is now called the Southern Downs, rushed to enlist, and joined his mates in travelling to hitherto unheard of, but surely exotic and exciting, foreign climes.
When he got there he found that the mud and dust and German bullets and bombs were far from exotic, but he was there for a reason, and he stuck to his task. It was to cost him his life, his unborn son the chance to ever meet his father, and his widow 83 long years of solitude, for my great grandmother lived to 106, and thought about her lost love each and every one of those days.
But while her thoughts were filled with sadness, they were framed by pride, for her husband had done what Australians do – they had stood up for freedom, and fairness, a decent go for all, and for respect.
It’s a quality that somehow sadly seems to have gone missing from the rich-soiled lands of my ancestors past. And it’s a tragedy, for men like my grandfather didn’t die in a mud-filled farmers field defending the town of Villers-Bretonneux so that their countryman could spit in the eye of their mates, and disrespect their memories.
But that is exactly what has happened to today in the Council Chambers in Warwick, as our elected representatives met as an official body for the first time since in secret they threw our much loved Councillor and friend Jamie Mackenzie out of the chamber, into disgrace and, ultimately at his own hand, a far too early grave.
Now is not the time to be pointing fingers at individuals. Now is not the time for recriminations. Now is not the time for people to pay for what they have done.
Today is however a time for answers.
Today is a time for honesty, for it is only through truth that we can find forgiveness and reconciliation.
But most of all, today is a time for respect.
Sadly, stunningly, scandalously, today has instead turned into one of the darkest days in our region’s history, as those men and women elected to represent us, to stand in that chamber wearing our shoes and speaking what is in our hearts and out minds, chose to turn their backs on all of us.
Today is the day that Pontius Pilate came to town, and washed his filthy hands clean in our cool, clear water.
Today is the day that the leaders turned their back on Jamie Mackenzie, and acted like he was never there.\
Their friend, their colleague, their foe, their foil – Jamie was all these things and more.
But most of all he was an honourable and decent human being, flawed lije us all, but driven to serve, and pasionate about making our region a better place for all.
Jamie was the type of bloke my great-grandfather marched from Killarney to Brisbane for.
The type of bloke he sailed thousands of miles across the sea, away from his wife and unborn child for.
The type of bloke great-grandad Jack died for.
Jamie was an Australian, a local boy from our community who did his best to help us all.
He deserves our eternal respect.
He has it.
From everyone but the elected Council members who it seems he mistakenly thought stood by his side.
This is the motion council passed today.
It makes me sick to the stomach, and tonight I cannot talk about it any more.
This is what Jamie’s colleagues said to mark his passing, and to respect his dear memory, and to forever remember his name.
These are the only words they said.
The goddamn treacherous swine.