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A tale of two regions

The Queensland state election was held on 25 November 2017. Due to a number of factors, the results as they came in on Saturday night were so complicated, it took Anthony Green and the ABC computer until around lunch time on Sunday to make the call that the ALP would win 46 seats with a potential 48. Other pundits with form in the area differed slightly, but there was little doubt the Queensland Governor would be asking the ALP to form Government. A political party needs 47 seats for an absolute majority in the Queensland Parliament and ALP leader and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk claimed during the election that if she couldn’t win a majority, she would sit on the opposition benches.

Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) allows for postal votes to be delivered up until 10 days after the election, so they won’t be making a final determination until at least Wednesday 6 December. At the time of writing, the ABC’s Antony Green has the ALP on 47 seats, the LNP on 38, others (including One Nation’s single seat) on 4 with 4 to be decided. Out of the 4 in doubt, 2 are likely to be gained by the LNP, 1 by Katter Australia Party and 1 by the Greens. Fairfax has the ALP on 46, LNP on 36, others (including One Nation) on 5 with 6 in doubt.

The LNP’s Tim Nicholls seemingly has a problem accepting the probable result, making a number of statements in the past week suggesting the election isn’t over yet (true), the ALP will not get a majority (they probably will) and Palaszczuk promised to sit on the opposition benches (correct). The leap of logic is that in Nicholls’ mind, he should be offered government (probably not going to happen). At least he is consistent with the LNP ‘born to rule’ mentality also exhibited by Abbott, Turnbull and co!

Both Palaszczuk and LNP leader Tim Nicholls left it until quite late on the Saturday night to speak to their respective gatherings. Palaszczuk was confident of a good result, Nicholls was already calling Palaszczuk out on failing to live up to her promise on not ‘doing a deal’ with a ‘rainbow coalition of minor parties and independents’ to retain power in George St. As Green commented last Sunday:

But even if she falls a seat short, she doesn’t have to do any deals,” Green said.

She can leave it to the Parliament to vote her out, because it would be unlikely that all the crossbench would vote against them at once.

It is a fixed-term Parliament — the Government can’t just resign and walk out of office and leave someone else to form government — they can’t do that, so somebody will form government.

So it is very hard to see how anyone other than Annastacia Palaszczuk can form government in the new Parliament.

News.com.au published a ‘ready guide’ to the Queensland election prior to the event. If nothing else, it does give you a guide to the personalities and issues. It also predicts, accurately as it turns out, that the result will be complicated and take a while to work out.

One Nation was on track for ‘up to 11 seats’ according to the ABC prior to the election — they might pick up one while losing the seat of the state leader and former LNP Cabinet Minister Steve Dickson. On top of that, ‘star’ candidate and ‘former dual citizen’ One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts failed abysmally in the state seat of Ipswich (which is the ‘birthplace’ of One Nation). Roberts was expecting a better result even if no one else was. Maybe he was as delusional with his chances here as he is with his views on climate change. One Nation’s campaign generally promised much but is best summed up by Hanson’s actions in joining the campaign a week late (she was on a Senate study tour overseas), the ‘battlers bus’ breaking down near Marlborough, a very small town on the Bruce Highway north of Rockhampton and a gradual realisation from her demographic that even if you voted for One Nation, you were not electing Pauline Hanson to State Parliament (despite the implications in the advertising to the contrary)!

The Greens too had high hopes of up to three seats in Brisbane’s inner suburbs, one of which, South Brisbane, is represented by the Deputy Premier, Jackie Trad. Trad seems to have survived a close shave with the Greens, but the former LNP Transport Minister (and potential Treasurer if the LNP formed a majority government), Scott Emerson is likely to fall to the Greens due to preference flows. The Greens did reasonably well in the other seat they concentrated on but to use a cricket analogy, they didn’t trouble the keeper.

Which brings us to a discussion on the South East versus regional Queensland conundrum for political parties. In Mirani (based in rural areas around Mackay in Central Queensland), sitting ALP member Jim Pearce has conceded because his mid-30s percent vote and the Greens and their under 5% of the vote cannot overtake the One Nation candidate, Stephen Andrew with a result of around 30%. In fact, Mirani seems to be One Nation’s best chance of a seat.

There is a significant difference in the share of the votes received by One Nation and Greens in the ‘regional’ areas where One Nation has done well, and the South East as well as seats based on regional cities up the east coast of Queensland. This can be demonstrated by the result for Mirani (see the previous paragraph) and the already marginal south-western Brisbane seat of Mount Ommaney, where LNP Shadow Minister Tarnya Smith lost her seat to the ALP assisted by the Greens low teens percentage of the vote.

News.com.au suggested in their article that one of the controversies in the election campaign was Palaszczuk’s backflip over provision of assistance to Indian conglomerate Adani’s plan to build a 400km or thereabouts rail line from their proposed Carmichael Mine in Central Queensland to a coal loader where they already hold a long term lease located at Abbot Point, near Bowen.

The Carmichael coal mine and the government loan that’s supposed to be granted to its Indian developer Adani has been a source of great controversy for politicians at all levels of government, but it’s provided no more embarrassment to any other than Ms Palaszczuk.

A long-time supporter of the project and the $1 billion loan to fund it, Ms Palaszczuk announced only days into the campaign that her Government would have “no role in the future” of an assessment over the loan after it had been discovered her partner, Shaun Drabsch, had worked on the loan application to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, acting for Adani while working for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

After withdrawing support, the Premier was accused of sacrificing North Queensland jobs to save her own. The decision lost votes in the north but appears to have won support for the government in the state’s south.

The decision by Palaszczuk resonated in the South East but played out differently in the regions. The Greens were (obviously) opposed to anything to do with the Adani proposal while the LNP and One Nation were in favour of the mine, the rail line and a number of other construction projects including dams, roads, bridges and a new coal-fired power station in North Queensland. The Greens and to a lesser extent, the ALP were pushing the uptake of renewable power sources both for domestic and industry and for creating additional jobs through industries such as tourism, the construction and maintenance of solar farms and such like. Both types of development were, according to their proponents, the source of a considerable number of jobs, especially in regional Queensland.

University of Queensland economics Professor John Quiggin wrote an article in The Guardian a few days prior to the election suggesting the renewable versus coal argument was not a discussion over the best way of ensuring future employment, rather it was a proxy for the current progressive/conservative cultural war.

As Quiggin suggests

The disputes are not over the desirability of public ownership (both sides support it). Nor are they, in any serious sense, about electricity prices (no one can reduce them by much). They aren’t even about jobs, or rather, they are more about what kinds of jobs we want to create than about the number that will be created.

Paradoxically, the closest parallel to the current debate is not over energy or economics at all. Rather it is the bitter culture war over equal marriage. Faced with a trend which has swept almost the entire developed world and seems certain to prevail everywhere in time, the supporters of coal are seeking to delay the inevitable. As part of the global push to reduce CO2 emissions, investment in renewable solar and wind power has soared, while coal-fired power is disappearing from most countries in the developed world.

The choice between wind turbines and steam turbines might seem to be purely one of technology. But since environmentalists support renewable energy, the demands of the culture war require that conservatives must oppose it.

The ‘more jobs with a coal fired power station’ argument is plain wrong. As long ago as 2014, Reneweconomy was reporting

Despite Australia’s history as a coal-fired economy, the nation’s solar industry employs a “far larger” amount of people than its fossil-fuelled power stations, a new report has found.

The report, released on Monday by The Australia Institute says that in 2014, 4,300 solar PV businesses employed 13,300 people in Australia – a vast increase on 2008 numbers, when the industry only employed 1,800 people.

This was a “far larger” amount that the total employed in Australia’s coal-fired power stations, said the report, and a good deal larger than the total number of people working in the entire electricity generation sector, which amounted to 9,487 in 2007 according to the ABS, a figure which also included those employed in gas, hydro and renewable energy generation.

The problem for progressive governments and others that do not support new mining endeavours is that any one of the 4,300 solar PV businesses employing one or two more people is not newsworthy, but possible employment for up to 10,000 people in a coal mine and associated infrastructure (even if later shown to be a gross exaggeration) is.

While the coal versus renewables ‘debate’ is not the sole reason for the ALP’s probable second term in government, if Quiggin is correct and this is a proxy fight for the ongoing power play between progressives and conservatives for your and my ‘heart and mind’, perhaps we should turn our minds to a recent article in Fairfax media by Judith Ireland where she suggests that

One of the most stunning things about opposition to same-sex marriage in Australia has been its ability to shapeshift.

Ahead of Wednesday’s result, a frustrated Liberal supporter of same-sex marriage lamented that if the postal survey result was an unthinkable “no”, then that would be it for the “yes” campaign in Parliament for the foreseeable future. But if the result was a “yes”, then the “no” campaign would still have a say in what happens next.

“If people say no, then the answer’s no. If they say yes, the answer is not [necessarily] yes.”

How many times do they have to be told?

What do you think?

This article by 2353NM was originally published on The Political Sword.

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5 comments

  1. townsvilleblog

    North Queensland, at times, can be a strange place to live (though I love the place for natural tourist attractions and tropical lifestyle) I would have thought that while we in N.Q. are short on jobs, if the re-elected Queensland Labor Government goes ahead with their promised hydroelectric power station at the mighty Burdekin Falls Dam a lot of jobs would then be created for N.Q, and we should be happy about that for two reasons. Firstly because unemployment is high up here, though “real” unemployment in Australia is running at about 9.5% according to Roy Morgan Research Corporation, and secondly because the long awaited boost in electricity generation for N.Q, will not bring about any effect on “climate change” which the coal mine would have.

    Our media tend to go along with the tory (LNP) line and merely skim over t5he surface of issues without any deeper thought, and as result the population who rely upon the murdoch media in print, and the commercial TV news are poorly informed. One needs to be politically involved to nut out the “real” effects for N.Q. For example noone wants to see more frequent and/or severe cyclones in N.Q. though the Adani coal mine product when burnt would surely add to the effects of climate change.

    The hydroelectricity power station was planned to be built by the Hawke and Bejelkie-Petersen govts following the completion of the mighty Burdekin Falls Dam in 1987, but for reasons I won’t go into here, neither the hydroelectricity power station nor the gravity fed pipeline from the Burdekinj Falls Dam to the Ross River Dam in Townsville were ever built. I am one Townsville resident who will welcome the new hydroelectric power station and the jobs, if the Qld Labor govt deliver on their pre-election promise.

  2. Terry2

    One of the interesting things about the Queensland election was that the ECQ sent out postcards to all registered voters incorporating a bar-code which they scanned when you went to vote. Evidently a first step towards avoiding people voting more than once.
    Once the bar-code is scanned you are deemed to have voted and you cannot be re-scanned anywhere in the state.

    Only problem is that if you forget your card (as was the case with the lady next to me) they still accept your vote without needing to produce any ID.

    We’re not quite there but getting closer to electronic voting which ultimately should reduce this interminable wait for a declaration.

  3. wam

    If the electorate said no what sort of arrogance will let a pollie say yes and vice versa?

    But, like the banks mini-inquiry, we will have to be satisfied with the virtual ‘no’ winning the legislation unless trumbles gives a free vote and labor a tied vote????

    The loonies did very well in their pragmatic straight bat blocking approach to take as many dollars as possible. Their hypocrisy is as great as their confusion of principles.

    ps
    terrytoo why not die your finger? What about micro chip under the identifying tattoo?
    Wonder how many vote twice vs online fraud?

  4. amethyst3009

    Just to be clear, the 10000 Adani jobs were always a fabrication. Adani lawyers, when in court, admitted that the number of jobs would be 1464. Since then Adani management have boasted of having (if it goes ahead) a ‘fully automated’ mine.

    Given that this translates to one or two people in an air-conditioned office, maybe near the mine, maybe not, with an Xbox-like device, playing toy cars with the mining trucks, the number of jobs is far less.

    I am disappointed that the 10000 jobs is repeated so frequently, as it then becomes ‘fact’. This was the only rationale for the Adani mine, and given that is is a false rationale, should not, surely, in the interests of truth, be constantly expressed.

    What was it Goebbels said?
    “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”

    Precisely what has happened with Adani. And the author, above, has fallen for repeating it, even though he/she has admitted that it was a gross exaggeration, there it was again – 10000 Adani jobs. Constantly repeated even by people who know it is a lie.

  5. 2353NM

    @ Terry2 – ECQ has been using barcoded letters/card for a couple of elections now. As the ECQ staff don’t have to go to ‘the book’ anymore, the issuing process is a lot faster.

    @townsvilleblog – I have vague memories of a hydro power station being suggested when the Burdekin Dam was being built as well as the pipeline to Townsville. I thought the pipeline was built a few years after the Dam filled (when Ross River Dam was nearly empty – again)

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