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Matt Canavan: What's more important - the past four months or the next four years?

Party Lines

This month’s Queensland election will likely be decided north of the Tropic of Capricorn, writes Matt Canavan

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Three years ago, Annastacia Palaszczuk kicked off the 2017 Queensland election campaign by pulling support for Adani to build a rail line. She won the election and many commentators concluded that her opposition to Adani helped get Labor over the line.

Last week, on the eve of this year’s state election, Palaszczuk announced a deal on royalties to support the Adani mine. She visited a coal mine and approved another coal mine, the Olive Downs project. Three years is a long time in politics.

The politics of coal shifted after last year’s federal election. Queensland rejected Labor’s flirting with the Stop Adani movement, delivering the LNP an unexpected victory.

An early warning was given at Clermont, the town closest to the Adani mine. There Bob Brown had led a convoy to protest against the mine. Clermont did not take kindly to a lecture from a convoy of diesel-fuelled cars. The coal-mining union joined locals in a counter-rally that helped turn the election.

Labor has been trying to live this down ever since. Annastacia Palaszczuk’s newfound love of coal is part of this show. Labor will lose this election if it is seen as too little too late.

In north Queensland Labor has 12 seats to defend and a loss of two seats for Labor would put them into a minority. With coronavirus making it hard for different messages to be heard in Brisbane, the election will likely be decided north of the Tropic of Capricorn.

That is where Deb Frecklington spent a large part of last week too. Her bold vision to finally upgrade the Bruce Highway to four lanes captured attention. The main road linking our own state from north to south remains one which goats fear to tread in many places.

Over the last two weeks I have driven this road from Townsville to Bundaberg and visited many inland towns off the track.

While knocking on doors in Townsville, crime remains the major issue. Down the road towards Mackay, canegrowers worry about their future, angry at the regulatory costs imposed by an indifferent government in Brisbane.

When I stop to fill up at a Caltex servo, Sharyn expresses support for border closures. The election is a battle over whether the last four months is more important than the next four years.

In Gladstone, it was sad to meet the owners of a business that shut its foundry because electricity prices are too high. The products that used to be made here are now imported from China.

In Bundaberg, I meet the farmers who are facing a future with less water because of the botched construction of the Paradise Dam by the former Beattie government.

Building dams will be crucial to our future so we better hope future governments do a better job.

I end the fortnight back in Clermont. I have a beer with Paul who has recently moved up from Sydney off the West Connex job. Paul is driving trucks for the Adani mine and he loves it. If it hadn’t been for the people of Clermont rallying last year, Paul might not have a job.

The people of Clermont are rallying again. This Saturday they are holding a Bob Brown tribute rally. Bob’s trip last year got the Adani project away and this time they are pushing to get the New Acland mine going.

Even the CFMEU, the coal mining union, is campaigning against Labor on this issue.

There is one thing that Palaszczuk did not announce in her “coal” week. That was the mining licence for the New Acland mine and the 500 jobs on the line at this election. Labor is hoping that New Acland is not their New Adani.

Queensland LNP Senator Matt Canavan and federal Shadow Treasurer Dr Jim Chalmers will be writing weekly columns for InQueensland during the state election campaign

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