The two biggest challenges facing next premier

Queensland is such a wonderful state with its magnificent beaches, sparkling rainforests, rollicking western countryside and it is home to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef.

It has a proud and storied history and is often named as the number one "bucket list'' destination among American and European visitors.

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We call a spade a shovel and have the best bulls--t radars in the country. Just ask Bill Shorten.

Yet rarely - if ever - has Queensland faced a bigger challenge than the next decade, after a series of man-made and natural events which have conspired to throw out a massive curve ball to our political leaders.

Whichever colour the administration in residence in George Street after Saturday's election, it is clear that a steady and guiding hand will be required in coming weeks, months and years. The economy and getting the state's fiscal balance sheet back into order must be the No.1 priority of any incoming government.

This will be a difficult assignment. It is why mining and tourism - both under tremendous pressure for varying reasons - must remain the state's biggest economic drivers.

Let's take mining, which directly employs 60,000 Queenslanders and another 375,000 people indirectly.

There is a concerted campaign, led by the Greens, to close mining in Queensland.

This must be resisted at all costs. As climate change becomes real, transitioning to more renewable energy is sensible policy and it must always be part of the overall mix. But so too must coal and gas, which provide Queensland with $5 billion a year in royalties, which equates to a lot of nurses, teachers and police.

 

The next premier must not cave to extreme climate activism.
The next premier must not cave to extreme climate activism.

 

Whichever major party is in power, the temptation to cave in to activists such as Extinction Rebellion and the Greens must be avoided.

These people are zealots. They do not understand that with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Closing down mining in Queensland would turn the economy into a basket case.

The loss of jobs and impact on the state's bottom line would be cataclysmic. It's all very well to save the planet, but at what cost?

The unemployment lines we are seeing because of the COVID-19 pandemic would be small beer compared to job losses because of the shuttering of our number one industry.

Tourism is the state's second biggest economic driver. It is a powerhouse and when the tourism industry is firing, so is Queensland.

But the pandemic has sent shockwaves through the industry, particularly in hot spots such as the Gold and Sunshine coasts, the Whitsundays and Cairns.

The loss of employment and impact on business has been savage. When JobKeeper runs out in March next year, there is a dark hole coming, the like of which we haven't seen in this country for a long time.

Tourism is the sector likely to be most affected in Queensland and the scourge of the pandemic has been the chief culprit.

The Labor Government has been as consistent as it has been stringent on border closures and lockdowns during COVID-19.

It says it has always followed the health advice, yet it has never released that advice publicly.

The draconian nature of the border closures with other states - the latest decision locking out Sydney - have been criticised heavily by business and tourism chiefs. They are unforgiving, describing the decisions as "ridiculous" and "reprehensible". The government responds by saying its main priority is to protect Queenslanders from the virus.

 

Tourism remains one of the state’s most important industries.
Tourism remains one of the state’s most important industries.

 

However, by flattening the curve, it has flattened the economy. Nevertheless, as we look forward to the fiscal fight ahead, the politicisation of industries such as tourism and mining must not be part of any ongoing strategy.

The time is over for pandemic posturing.

Saturday's election gives the new government an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and begin the task of rebuilding the fundamentals of the state's economy.

That means addressing the burgeoning debt in a meaningful way. It is not responsible, nor prudent, to simply put the $100 billion debt into the too-hard basket.

Ultimately, the piper must be paid and future generations are relying on today's elected representatives to at least acknowledge there is an issue.

There is also the vexed and ongoing issue around the way the regions are treated. Queensland is Australia's most decentralised state, with more people living outside Brisbane than in the state's capital.

Yet the only time the regions tend to see the leaders of the major parties is during an election campaign.

This is not an illusion. It is real. The regions are treated differently. That's why moves by people like Bob Katter to set up a separate north Queensland state always get traction.

Why can't we move the office of tourism to the Gold Coast? The mines department to Townsville or Mackay?

We must build more dams to protect water security for our farmers. We must upgrade roads like the Bruce Highway, the main artery for the north.

But all this can only happen if we nurture and protect our economy and support major industries such as mining, tourism and agribusiness.

The folly of PC ideology and inner-city elitism must not influence policy.

Queensland has so much to give, so much to offer.

 

 

 

The challenge is for a balanced migration from fossil fuels.
The challenge is for a balanced migration from fossil fuels.

 

Originally published as The two biggest challenges facing next premier