Seeking the Post-COVID-19 Sunshine: Return to Consensus-Building Politics in Queensland
By Denis Bright
After some serious electoral tussles, the government of Premier Palaszczuk is convincingly back in office until 2024.
The likely loss of the seat of South Brisbane to the Greens on LNP preferences was the only dark episode as the election night count continued.
Despite this loss, Labor retained its support base in Cairns and Townsville and may pick up several seats in urban growth areas of South East Queensland while still not making it across the line in some more marginal Gold Coast seats.
Overall, the result was better than opinion polls had projected with a second term of majority government and a buffer against by-election swings before 2024 (Images from ABC News):
The state-wide swing against One Nation of 6.8% has reasserted Labor’s profile in less-advantaged Outer Metro seats in Brisbane.
Large swings to Labor were recorded in the Labor heartland seats of in Outer Metro regions of Brisbane. There were impressive Labor results in Brisbane’s Outer Metro West in seats like Logan, Jordan, Ipswich and Ipswich West. While the One Nation vote did not affect Labor’s landslide result in the Ipswich based seat of Bundamba, there are still pockets of One Nation support extending into the adjacent conservative electorate of Lockyer on the Ipswich-Toowoomba transport corridor.
By the 2024 election, demographic change and the delivery of innovative policies have the potential of eroding this One Nation influence and giving Labor a chance in the two Toowoomba-based state electorates.
Improved transport can soften the tyranny of distance for new residents along the Ipswich-Toowoomba Corridor. It is poorly served by public transport. This has not been assisted by newer suburban-styled subdivisions and shopping centres which have been approved by local councils in the interests of attracting new settlement.
The Ipswich based Queensland Times once talked up the benefits of extending suburban dreams into the pastures and irrigated farmland of the Lockyer Valley:
THE DRIVE from Toowoomba to Brisbane once took drivers along a monotonous stretch that was punctuated by cows, crops, a few servos and the promise of “antiques this way” at Marburg.
But today, busy hubs break up the kilometres of Warrego Highway; none more so than Plainland.
Today, it is a bona fide town, and Lockyer Valley Regional Council Mayor Tanya Milligan is amazed at the transformation.
In today’s edition she talks of the hundreds of job opportunities at Plainland and Hatton Vale where developments are springing up and existing businesses are expanding. Shops, schools and day care make it less of a pit stop and more of a home, with people choosing to work locally or travel to Toowoomba, Ipswich or Brisbane.
More than 2 million people are expected to flood into Southeast Queensland in the coming thirty years, and we’re becoming accustomed to longer commutes that take us to where the jobs are, so we can expect more people to settle in this Southeast corner of the state.
Plainland shows us that if you build it, they will come.
Labor now has four years in government to develop alternatives to this urban sprawl engineered by corporate property developers along models of suburban dreams promoted by property developers in the USA on the southern outskirts of Washington DC.
Visit the Potomac Mills site to explore the dystopian delights of shopping centres and new suburbs in former corn-fields of Virginia through the marketing skills of the Simon Property Group and other property development companies.
Such developments in the Lockyer Valley and adjacent rural districts of Queensland have not produced happy souls with pockets of One Nation support still in double digits and heading towards 20 per cent of the primary vote in some localities.
Australian town planning can offer less socially and environmentally stressful options for successful regional planning through urban consolidation that links rural communities to adjacent facilities. Both Ipswich and Toowoomba offer tertiary education facilities for school leavers. Gatton is the campus for University of Queensland’s veterinary and rural sciences.
The Labor members for Logan and Jordan have already enhanced their majorities by successful lobbying for additional Translink Bus Services on Southside Arterial Corridors.
With the federal LNP’s resistance to federal funding for major public transport initiatives, it is left to the Queensland Government to take pragmatic lower cost initiatives through the expansion of Translink Bus Services on the Ipswich-Toowoomba Corridor which attracts new constituents in search of lower cost rental and home purchase options.
Better public transport infrastructure could also assist in the revitalization of the Top of Town in Ipswich. Without federal assistance for railway extensions from Springfield and the Ripley Valley to Ipswich, the state government could still afford to sponsor investment in public private partnerships (PPP) to deliver a still vibrant multi-modal transport terminal with inner-city housing, car parks and bus terminal with the support of investment from the Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC). Better facilities could be added when federal resources become available.
Welcome support from the railexpress network for improved affordable public transport west of Ipswich of course needs political clout to stir federal LNP members from the electorates of Wright, Groom and Maranoa into action on behalf of constituents who seek affordable rent and houses in rural service towns which have little or no public transport:
Multiple levels of government are now working to get travellers on trains between Brisbane and Toowoomba.
Three councils between Brisbane and Toowoomba have formed an Alliance to advocate for rail in connecting the two cities.
The Ipswich to Toowoomba Passenger Rail Alliance, made up of the Lockyer Valley Regional Council, the Toowoomba Regional Council and the Ipswich City Council, has also invited industry representatives to join the grouping.
“Toowoomba is Australia’s largest inland non-capital city, yet has no meaningful passenger rail link, so this is an opportunity we cannot miss,” said Toowoomba Regional Council Mayor Paul Antonio.
In the 2018-2019 federal budget, the Australian government committed up to $15 million to a Business Case for passenger rail between Toowoomba and Brisbane. The line would pass through Ipswich and the towns of Gatton, Grantham, and Helidon, before reaching Toowoomba.
While irregular services currently operate between Toowoomba and Brisbane, the narrow-gauge line limits the productivity of the line, as does its steepness.
The federal government’s business case will investigate upgrading the existing line to enable frequent commuter passenger rail services and integrating passenger services in freight corridors.
The trio of councils want the local community to be included in any final decision, said Lockyer Valley Regional Council Mayor Tanya Milligan.
Advocates of progressive transport orientated town planning (TODs) will have an opportunity to stir the conscience of the federal LNP at the forthcoming federal byelection for the Toowoomba-based seat of Groom on 28 November 2020. This seat has not been held by federal Labor in the last 120 years and attracts LNP candidates with a strong bias towards the Morrison Government’s neoliberal ideological agenda:
Mining engineer Garth Hamilton has won pre-selection as the LNP candidate in the Groom by-election on November 28.
He described himself as a “family man” who “loves to build things.”
“Jobs and the economy that’s what we need to drive right now,” he said.
The Toowoomba businessman, formerly a campaign manager for Member for Toowoomba North, Trevor Watts and writes for right-wing publication Spectator.
Constituents in Groom can hardly expect brave regional planning policy support from Garth Hamilton as revealed by his own comments in Spectator:
Once again, conservative Queensland voices stand alone and well apart from the madding crowd. While almost every other political body in Australia is acting as if the only cure to the coronavirus is the accumulation of debt, Queensland’s right walk a different path.
Thanks to the current Labor government, the Sunshine State lurched into the global pandemic (panic-demic?) under the weight of nearly $90 billion of state debt. For comparison, New South Wales entered it with a whopping $26 billion debt off the back of some heavy infrastructure spending.
While $26 billion makes big spenders of a conservative government, $90 billion is but a trifle to a Labor government.
As more pandemic debt now accumulates, Queenslanders are very quickly reaching a point where a return to surplus is unachievable. The state government may soon be unable to make its debt repayments and continue to provide the services Queensland needs.
Opportunities exist for the newly re-elected Queensland Labor Government to extend its outreach to the Lockyer Valley and Toowoomba by demanding more federal funding support for planned urban growth corridors to the north, west and south of Brisbane. In the spirit of Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington’s concession speech on election night, there are real opportunities for the conservative side of state politics to work for change in the neoliberal agendas of the Morrison Government.
The federal LNP’s investment in the Inland Railway through the Australian Rail Track Corporations (ARTC) from Melbourne to Beaudesert south of Brisbane via Toowoomba will offer a freight only venture. It raises the possibility that this 1,700 km network will be privatized in difficult times ahead by future federal LNP governments to support deficit reduction strategies.
The new member for Groom needs to address the limitations of the federal LNP’s Inland Rail Project which will be a freight only service from Melbourne to a multi-modal road freight terminal near Beaudesrt, some one hundred kilometres south of the Port of Brisbane.
Even the public relations projections from Inland Rail showing double-decker freight trains rattling through historical towns are symbols of missed opportunities for better tuned federal state infrastructure ventures. Missing from the plan is federal funding of the multi-modal connections along the entire route to existing rail and road freight transfer points.
Inland Rail is a once in a generation policy which must be broadened to provide new opportunities for sustainable regional development. Even the public relations pictures being distributed by Inland Rail are far from re-assuring.
The noise from double-decker freight trains rattling through historic towns and the addition of culverts that restrict flood-run off across the Condamine Plains all call for modifications to the Inland Rail plan.
Let’s hope Garth Hamilton can offer some better policy assurances as the political favourite to represent Groom in federal parliament through funding support to the Queensland Government for more sustainable infrastructure, tourism and community development along the Ipswich-Toowoomba Corridor.
Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizen’s journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.
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Thanks for article Denis!!! Great victory for the ALP. Let’s hope they use this to be strategic and set Queensland up for the future.
Queensland is so lucky to have Anastasia Palaszczuk as Premier of Queensland . She stayed the distance against the very dark forces of the LNP and One Nation .
Looking forward to the economic recovery to come.
Hopefully Labor is the natural party of government in Queensland. The LNP alternatives were one term events.
Labour understands Queenslanders & will progress the State with the abortion laws , the euthanasia legislation & the intent to work with the regions to provide local jobs
Way, way too aggressive, the Freckles. The anti science stuff is a big underlying issue and Queenslanders are also getting sick of the hard right’s Dark Ages stuff.
Denis, thanks for your article about the state election and future plans and visions for 2024.
The Queensland ALP programme is only acceptable because its not the LNP programme. There is very little difference. If you were offered the ALP programme blind, you’d reject it as RW stuff. The situation in QLD is not very different from the US situation now; the Qld electorate chose the marginally less objectionable party. And the white shoe brigade, which turned over 2 LNP retirees seats to Labor, won’t stick when the virus has faded from their semi-conscious.
The forgotten people are those people in disadvantaged outer suburbs who have been seduced by appeals from the LNP.
Job well done by Anastasia on Saturday. Interesting points in the article.
The LNP offered little for Queensland and preferenced the Greens in South Brisbane when it has no rapport with sustainability.
Inspirational coverage of the Queensland Premier’s election victory, Denis
Queensland offers some good lessons for NSW state and federal Labor in Opposition: Good news for us in the Deep South at the Central Coast of NSW. But are our federal Labor colleagues listening.
Labor should enjoy the political sunshine while it can because there are some dark storm clouds on the horizon. Anastasia Palaszczuk either won or held particular seats (partly at least) because she fudged the coal mining issue. Currently the Queensland Budget depend heavily on royalties from coal and on that there is no local controversy. The electorates in or around Mackay, Rockhampton and Townsville are heavily populated with voters who, directly or indirectly, are supporters of coal mining. So much so, that these local government areas were prepared to offer significant inducements to coal miners like Adani to base their fly in – fly out workforce in their precincts.
While supporting coal mining isn’t a significant local issue, it most certainly is as the national level. The LNP who care little about environmental/global warming imperatives are primed to pounce once again (already have 23 of the 30 federal seats), While The Greens will hold the line one wonders how Labor will do the juggling act next time around because telling different stories to different electorates doesn’t work anymore – particularly in this age of instant communication.
Rumour has it that the LNP will fund a Joel Fitzgibbon national tour of speaking engagements. Worse – he’s indicated he might accept. It all depends on the sinecure he’s offered post-parliament. (Lol).
Annastacia carries our hopes for the future. I like the spirit of her migrant background. Her grandfather came here seeking a better life. Annastacia has shared it with everyone..