Life is great in the Sunshine State

Today we have a treat for Whispers’ Cellar readers. Regular and well regarded writer for The Political Sword 2353 gives us some insight into the Queensland election – enjoy.

There used to be a town called Acland on Queensland’s Darling Downs near Toowoomba. It’s still there physically, however all but one resident has moved out. The Darling Downs is one of the better farming areas in Queensland due to the presence of large quantities of rich black soil. Unfortunately, the people who originally settled in the area chose to site their town over a coal reserve. The Queensland and Federal Governments have given approval for the owners of the Acland Mine – New Hope Group, a division of Washington H Soul Pattinson – to commence the construction of Acland Mine Stage 3. While the Queensland Government will tell you there are 137 ‘strict’ environmental conditions and the proposed mine was reduced in scope – the fact remains that the proposed Stage 3 mine will increase coal production from 4.8 million tons of coal per year to 7.5 million tons per annum.

Quarrying operations are conducted in the upper reaches of the Brisbane River. Since 2007, there have been calls to close down this operation due to the inimical effects on the surrounding landholders including soil erosion with the subsequent loss of fertile land. On the complaint from a farmer in the local area, the Premier of Queensland advised that there was a requirement for a state issued licence for the quarrying operation – something the current operator didn’t have. The appropriate department then issued a compliance notice, which the operator then challenged. The challenge allowed them to continue operations and some retrospective legislation passed by the Queensland Parliament have allowed the current situation to continue for at least another 5 years. The details of this ‘deal’ are contained in this ABC news article.

Moreton Bay Regional Council is the local government body that manages the area to the immediate north of Brisbane City Council. Moreton Bay’s centres of population include Redcliffe, Caboolture and Samford. On 28 November 2014, they were ordered by the Queensland Government to remove all references in a town planning document to the potential for an 80 centimetre rise in sea levels between now and 2100. Other large Queensland Councils (including Brisbane and Townsville) have used the same assumption in town planning documents without being ordered to remove them. The Local Government Association has asked who will be responsible for the inevitable claims that will result when the land floods – the Council for allowing unsuitable development, or the State Government for ordering the removal of a planning constraint that has a reasonable probability of occurring?

On 24 March 2014, the Queensland Government decreed a rezoning of a caravan park on the Sunshine Coast to allow medium density dwellings. In addition to adding millions of dollars to the value of the property, the rezoning was contrary to the plans of the Sunshine Coast Regional Council and the State Government Department that controls development in the state.

Queenslanders have been bombarded for months with advertising regarding an improvement in ‘wait times’ for those requiring a procedure in the state’s hospitals. While worthwhile, the initiative is promoted as being entirely due to the actions of the current LNP government. The fact is that the initiative is the result of a Council of Australian Government (COAG) initiative from 2011 (prior to the current LNP Government in Queensland) where one of the recommendations was to improve the timeliness of elective and non-elective surgery within clinical guidelines. If you believe the advertising, Queensland made the targets – but wasn’t the worst offender in any case. The full detail is Recommendation 14 from this link.

The Queensland LNP Government points to the ‘anti-bikie’ laws as evidence of making the state a safer place. Newman, prior to the Stafford by-election in 2014, claimed the drop was ‘around 10%’. The reality is somewhat different as explained in this ABC Queensland News report. Manipulation of crime data was a hallmark of the Bjelke-Petersen Government in the 1970s and 1980s. There are a number of issues with the targeting of the ‘anti-bikie’ laws such as :

The looseness of the definition around gang “participants” who could be punished under the laws was highlighted by the arrest of librarian Sally Kuether, a bikie’s girlfriend with no criminal record who faces six months jail for visiting a pub.

Those of a certain age who had the fortune or misfortune to grow up in Queensland might remember a song used across the state in Primary Schools that shares its name with the title of this piece.

The truth is completely different. During the 1960’s and 1970’s when this song was used, the conservative Governments of Queensland were overseeing the decline of the state into the laughing stock of the country through graft and corruption – as ‘discovered’ during the 1980’s in the Fitzgerald Enquiry. Should you be interested in the gory detail – the full report can be downloaded from the link above.

From the end of the Fitzgerald Enquiry, the ALP had formed the majority of Queensland Governments. The Liberals and Nationals never seemed to be able to shake off the ‘stigma’ of the corruption exposed by Fitzgerald. The Fitzgerald Enquiry looked at the actions of a number of ‘crime figures’ and National Party politicians of the 1970s and 1980s including Joh Bjelke-Petersen (who was never acquitted of corruption charges as a result of the Fitzgerald Enquiry) and Russ Hinze – who died in 1991 prior to Fitzgerald Enquiry charges being made against him.

It is now history that Campbell Newman ‘resigned’ as Brisbane’s Lord Mayor at just the right time so the chosen successor, Graham Quirk, didn’t have to endure the uncertainty of a by-election. The ‘arrangement’ is discussed in this Queensland Parliament Factsheet. Newman then became the “Leader of the Opposition” from outside Parliament. Newman led a ‘newly married’ Liberal and National Party, known as the LNP – Newman came from the ‘Liberal’ side of the marriage.

Jeff Seeney was elected to State Parliament in 1998, after serving on the local council and the National Party state executive for a number of years prior. Seeney assumed the role of Leader of the Opposition inside Parliament (and Deputy Leader of the Opposition outside Parliament) as Newman was not a Member of the Queensland Parliament. The deposed previous LNP Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek and his deputy Lawrence Springborg (who both had seats in Parliament) resigned their positions as a protest over the arrangement. Since the 2012 election, Seeney has been Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development.

While the general consensus was that the ALP couldn’t win a chook raffle around the time of the 2012 Queensland Election, it is probably fair to suggest that nobody predicted the actual result – available here at the Electoral Commission Queensland’s website.

Some reading this would probably suggest that the NIMBY’s on the Darling Downs, Moreton Bay and Sunshine Coast should accept that time change and this is progress. However, there is a connection here. The owners of New Hope Group have contributed over $700,000 to the Queensland LNP and Federal Liberal Parties and that the operator of the quarry in the upper reaches of the Brisbane River is also a big donor to Queensland’s Liberal National Party, in recent years contributing $75,000. The owner of the Sunshine Coast Caravan Park has attended LNP fundraisers. In addition, all these decisions were made by Deputy Premier and State Development Minister Jeff Seeney. As an aside, prior to the 2012 election, then Premier Anna Bligh accused Newman of accepting contributions from developers when Lord Mayor of Brisbane.

The Guardian looks at the upcoming Queensland Election and observes that there is daylight between the policies of the LNP Government and the ALP Opposition on three issues – environment, law and order as well as privatisation. Their article discusses other environmental damage the Newman Government is in the process of inflicting such as the potential for irreversible damage to the Great Barrier Reef. They also suggest that while librarians have been arrested for being the girlfriend of a motor-bike club member, no ‘kingpins’ that may be or have been ‘into’ extortion and drug dealing have suffered the same fate. The Guardian also questions the wordplay that converts asset sales (something the ALP Government was rightly caned about) into 99-year leases with the Government of the Day being required to pay for any improvements to the infrastructure funded by the lease.

However, the election is on and when asked who would be Premier if he lost his seat (possible despite being held on a 5.7% margin), Newman claims it would be Annastacia Palaszczuk, leader of the ALP. The ALP needs a statewide swing in excess of 11% to win Government – which is a hard ask. Madonna King suggests that Newman can’t stop lying and the answer to the question is any one of a number of current LNP Ministers. The problem for the LNP is they have built a “presidential aura” around Newman – and there is a significant proportion of LNP voters that will only vote LNP because of Newman. To an extent, the federal coalition is in the same boat as it has built its image around Abbott.

While the ALP and Palaszczuk are being criticised for not ‘releasing policy’, I wonder if the real issue here is that the ALP (after recent federal history) has realised the failure of the ‘presidential’ system – in that a government is more than the leader? After all, it is difficult to suggest what action that would be taken to address a problem that becomes apparent in 2 years time – which is what we expect our governments to be capable of doing. It also makes it harder to run a FUD (fear, uncertainty, desperation) scare campaign or a ‘you’re a liar’ campaign if the other side won’t release specific items that will be implemented on the timetable demanded from the ‘other’ side. The strategy seemed to work in Victoria late last year – and for Abbott federally.

If that is the case does the conservative side of politics have the answer to the marketing issue as it is expensive to target a different person in each of 89 electorates? The recent history of the ALP in Queensland would suggest that some of their members aren’t much better than the LNP’s – although they did jail their minister who was found guilty of taking illegal payments.

Is the answer a loose confederation of independents, such as Peter Wellington and someone like Liz Cunningham who has decided not to stand this time around? It could be, provided the independents can see the larger view of representing the entire Queensland community and don’t necessarily make all their decisions through the prism of local sectional interests.

In any case – we’ll know on 1 February.

2353 is a mid 50s male who lives in Brisbane. He is one of the many bank staff who was culled in the mid 1990’s who has gone on to build a career in a completely unrelated field (in this case building and construction). He has a Bachelor of Business degree, a school age family, a mortgage and a fluffy dog.

He has served on a number of Community and Service Organisation committees over the past 30 years – all of which have the basic objective of helping the community that 2353 is living in at the time. 2353 has never been a member of a political party – although his community service work has given him a good grounding in the politics of society.

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19 comments on “Life is great in the Sunshine State

  1. Some interesting thoughts in there 2353. Although you didn’t say as much, isn’t changing laws to ‘save’ political donors, rezoning caravan parks to financially advantage your supporters or accepting large donations from mining and CSG interests and then making decisions in their favour considered corruption?

    Should members of this government be joining Mr Nuttall?

  2. and there is a significant proportion of LNP voters that will only vote LNP because of Newman

    That’s most likely true in the metropolitan area and possibly larger regional cities (Liberal party bit of the LNP), but I don’t think Campbell Newman fares so well in rural areas (National party bit of the LNP).

    I attended a funeral in Bundaberg in 2013 – most of the people there were from rural areas – Lockyer Valley, Gig Gin, Toowoomba etc – and there was not a good word from any of them for Mr Newman – quite the contrary. Anti-Newman feeling has gone downhill since then in the bush.

    Add to that the Facebook campaign by Oakey vet Dr David Pascoe, and we could (hopefully) see a few more independents in the parliament after February 1.

  3. Yes Bacchus – I hope we do see more independents. The ideal result is a hung parliament for all the reasons I suggested in the comment towards the bottom of the last piece.

    Politicians for centuries have changed the rules to suit themselves or their benefactors – I suggest that any major party won’t even ask the question (they are all still gun shy of the answer being similar to Barrie O’Farrell’s experience with a bottle of Grange). That isn’t to say the question shouldn’t be asked.

    Your comment about the ‘country party’ members is interesting. While I don’t doubt that a lot of rural and regional people are anti-Newman, a proportion of them will vote for him anyway as they just couldn’t vote for the ‘red’ team when confronted with a ballot paper and a pencil later this month. Its like those that believe they are being ripped off by insurance, finance or other service providers and still front up with the money at the next renewal date because they can’t justify alternative options.

    Dr David Pascoe’s campaign is interesting in that he seems to be garnering some support – but I do wonder about his support for Alan Jones and Katter’s Party if he is promoting true independents. It sort of reminds me of the ‘truck blockage’ a few years ago that was supposed to blockage Canberra. I suspect the reason Alan Jones is involved is that he actually comes from Acland.

    Thanks also for the kind welcome to submitting pieces to this blog. Hopefully it won’t be the last time 🙂

  4. I agree with your thoughts on Dr Pascoe too – especially his association with Alan Jones. However, if he does succeed in getting some rural independents elected in place of LNP members, I’ll be happy.

    That reminds me – I must have a look at the ECQ candidates list to see how many rural independents are standing. None in Shane’s electorate, so I hope there’s plenty elsewhere.

  5. Sorry Florence – I like to sleep in bed at night without worrying about who is stabbing me in the back 🙂

    Actually if you look at most independents, they were part of the two party system for a considerable period of time – which you would have to assume would give the background in how to run a campaign. I’ve succumbed to a number of things over the years, joining a political party isn’t one of them.

  6. 2335. No. I mean you. Sorry for that error. Could not trust anyone that had any support for Bolt and co.

  7. Seems the only minister to show up, was truss on day one. What excuse will Abbott use next week when he comes back from leave?

    I suspect the quick trip to Iraq was because things are not going well there. Seems ISIS is increasing it’s territory. Not sure whether the aim was too force the Iraq government to do more, or were asking for more assistance. Conflicting reports in MSM

  8. Tony and his ministers not appearing, is more potent. They are more noticeable by their absence.

  9. Good point Florence – their absence is noticeable. I still think a show by Tones would hurt the LNP more though, especially with the Medicare debacle so fresh in everyone’s mind.

  10. Apparently neither Abbott or Bishop the Younger are appearing today at the LNP campaign launch in Brisbane. Am I the only one that would enjoy seeing Abbott being booed at an LNP event.

    Interesting to note the ALP campaign launch (with some Federal heavyweights) is being held in Ipswich on Tuesday. The ALP is not running a ‘conventional’ campaign. It must have really hurt NewsCorp yesterday to publish the Newspoll suggesting the ALP could win this – with support.

  11. That “poll” worries me a little 2353. It could easily be a case of “don’t scare the horses” – if a large enough part the electorate thinks that Labor might win the election, it may induce them to vote LNP rather than Independent. I know it’s Clive Palmer but…

  12. It would seem to me that it would be an great opportunity for Pauline to opine at this time….. seeing after all that she’s an Queenslander 😆 ….. and where’s Mal B. when ya k-need him…. slippered off somewhere I guess ( like he does)……Ahh Queensland, gerrymandered one day…. corrupted the next…………..still 🙄

  13. Lovo – Mal B is ‘doing an Abbott’ in hiding. He is one of the few that seem to think he is a positive for the LNP.

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