By Robert Masters, former Queensland political journalist and head of Rob Masters and Associates consultancy in Melbourne.
Queensland heads to the polls on 25 November after weeks of expectations and speculation about when Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk would fire the starter’s gun.
The next state election was due on 5 May next year, but the people were growing weary of the state of affairs in the Sunshine State, especially regional Queensland, which has borne the brunt of economic uncertainty and poor policy making for too long.
Jobs growth, coal exports, mining development, rising electricity prices, tree clearing laws, protection of the reef and regional centre development are all hot topics for sound policies and an election platform.
Many believe that the Palaszczuk Labor Government has had a lacklustre record in office with rising electricity prices and internal divisions within the party being the latest issues.
This had led to claims that Minor party preferences will decide who wins the election, with both major parties a long way short of winning in their own right.
Labor’s primary vote is at 37 per cent - the same as it was in the 2015 election result, and the LNP has dropped seven points to 34 per cent since 2015.
Both Ms Palaszczuk and the Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls have also seen slides in their personal ratings, with more voters dissatisfied with both leaders than satisfied.
In contrast, Pauline Hanson is on the rise, with One Nation polling at 15 per cent and the Greens eight per cent.
Although it is expected that the ALP will not seek One Nation preferences, second preferences will be crucial to the outcome now that full preferential voting is compulsory after years of “just vote one” being an option for voters.
It is predicted that Green preferences will go to Labor along with almost half of One Nation preferences to give Labor a two-party preferred lead of 53 to 47.
But if the LNP ends up getting a much higher proportion of the One Nation vote that prediction becomes less certain.
The battle ground for all major parties is regional Queensland which provides Pauline Hanson’s party with an opportunity to win seats in the next parliament.
The dissatisfaction in regional Queensland is palpable; so much so that Ms Palaszczuk recently took Labor’s re-election pitch to its base to try and counter Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’s popularity.
Surrounded by dozens of Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union members wearing high-vis and hard hats, she announced a $62 million package to upgrade long-distance trains, a major upgrade to the Hervey Bay hospital, and the implementation of a ‘get Ted’ strategy.
Although the ‘strategy’ became a political joke, it had the serious note of being aimed at winning the Hervey Bay vote as the seat has been identified as crucial to Labor holding power - a must win from the LNP‘s Ted Sorensen who holds a 6.6 per cent margin.
The gearing up of this type of rhetoric has many Queenslanders fearing the worst in the days to come. Queenslanders have been on a roller-coaster ride for many years now with indecision on resources development and an unemployment rate which remains high, despite an increase in the employment rate.
In the Outback, unemployment has been at 13.5 percent and in Townsville at 9.3 percent, while in southern Queensland, Ipswich reached 8 and Wide Bay 8.7. These struggling areas, including Mackay and Rockhampton have suffered from the downturn in the mining and resources sector and from political indecision.
While Queensland University has predicted that the state was ‘on the brink of a jobs boom’ across a range of sectors, the regional electorates are finding it had to believe.
Data has suggested that the state had reversed a rise in unemployment and had the potential to foster a service industry-led jobs boom.
Economist Saul Eslake said: “The mining construction boom is over forever, and jobs growth in Queensland will overwhelmingly come from the services sector from now on. Queensland is lucky to have a modern diverse service based economy, and it’s essential that we focus on these industries to maximize jobs growth over the next decade.”
The Executive Director of the Australia Institute, Ben Oquist, also said: “Despite the loss of thousands of mining jobs over the last year, employment growth in Queensland remained very strong and unemployment actually fell.”
“But Queensland still has a real challenge to bring unemployment down further, particularly in many regional areas. There are huge opportunities if the policy settings are right.”
And it is the policy settings that have Queenslanders skeptical and frustrated with the political parties in not coming to grips with the State’s resources development and the exports.
The rumor mills also are causing concern; especially the claims that the giant Adani’s Abbot Point coal is contaminating wetlands and that Labor is likely to break an election vow and allow coal ship loading at sea in the Great Barrier Reef marine park off Hay Point near Mackay.
This latter issue is at odds with Labor’s 2015 election promise of ‘Saving the Great Barrier Reef’ plan which prohibits trans-shipping operations with the marine park. Nevertheless, these issues are the ones on which the voters are expecting an agenda for the future of the state. A negative agenda is not one to be contemplated.
1. Chairman Address, John Wells
2. A tale of two infernos, Benjamin Haslem
3. A negative agenda will not save Queensland, Robert Masters
4. What's the John Dory?, Alexandra Mayhew
5. Brussels sprouts ideas, Alexandra Mayhew
6. Parliamentary inquiries and your role in policy, Kathy Lindsay
7. Delivering better health care at journey's end, Chris McGowan
8. Cross-cultural brainstorming in Paris, Isabelle Walker
9. Federal Election: 2018?, Tim Mantiri
10. Someone old, someone new, brows are furrowed at Kiwis' blue, Daniel Paul