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Jim Chalmers: Did Gladys let the cat out of the bag on borders?

Party Lines

The only party with a chance of forming a majority government is Labor, and the LNP’s promises can only be funded by a return to Campbell Newman-style slashing and burning, writes Jim Chalmers

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New South Wales Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian let the cat out of the bag this week when she correctly pointed out that LNP leader Deb Frecklington would have opened the Queensland border “months ago” – exposing us to potentially catastrophic consequences for health and jobs.  This alone should disqualify Frecklington.

But as we come to the conclusion of this campaign, two other factors matter, too.

One, it’s clear that the LNP’s promises could only be paid for with deep job cuts at a time when the national economy is in its most damaging recession in almost a century.  This return to Campbell Newman-style slashing and burning would lengthen the unemployment queues and cruel the economic recovery.

Two, while the election is very difficult to predict it seems possible that only one party in this contest might still have the opportunity to form a majority government and that’s Labor.

The alternative is cuts and chaos.

It’s become very clear in recent weeks that 6pm on Saturday won’t bring one election to an end, but 93 elections – every contest as unique as the community and electorate that will decide its representative in the next Queensland parliament.  The usual regional differences turbocharged by complex patterns of preferences means we shouldn’t expect a uniform or even similar swing from one part of Queensland to another.

I sense from my own travels in recent weeks on the highways and backroads, and in the cities and towns of regional Queensland that this election will be less predictable than usual. In one stretch I visited eight towns in nine weeks: out west; to central Queensland; to the tropical far north; and up and down the coast.

The small-business people, aged care workers, growers and miners, tourism operators, apprentice diesel fitters, and local government workers I spoke to in workshops, on farms, at sale yards, packing rooms, ports and marinas, TAFEs and pubs will decide regional seats, and regional seats will determine the election.

What our regions need most, and what our state needs most, is not just a re-elected Labor government to build on our collective successes in limiting the spread of COVID-19 into enduring strength of our economy and our communities – we need it to be a majority Labor government.

The unpredictability of the election, the preponderance of candidates, the trickiness of the conservatives when it comes to preference deals – all of this risks a minority parliament and, even worse than that, a three-ring conservative circus with One Nation and Clive Palmer at the Cabinet table.

Fewer than usual voters haven’t yet made their choice, and over two million Queenslanders are expected to have cast their vote before election day. But in these uncertain times, it is vital that those voters who have yet to make up their mind consider whether they want Queensland governed by a majority or minority government.

And they must think carefully about their choice, because a couple of these contests are likely to boil down – at one point or another in the count – to just a handful of ballots.

Labor under Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk isn’t just the best chance of a good government in Queensland; it’s the best chance of a majority government that will make the right calls when things are tough, and steer our state through the difficult times ahead.

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

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