Premier breaks from tradition for election start
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has kicked off her election campaign and headed straight for Mount Isa, the state's safest seat and held by crucial crossbencher Robbie Katter.
Mr Katter, leader of the Katter's Australian Party and commander of three of the seven crossbench votes in the current Queensland parliament, holds the enormous northwest Queensland electorate of Traeger by 28.49 per cent.
In a break from tradition, Ms Palaszczuk has flown to the resources capital of Queensland, despite expectations she might go directly to must-win marginal coastal regional Labor seats in Townsville and Cairns.
Labor holds 48 of the parliament's 93 electorates, a two-seat majority, with the LNP
on 38. The Opposition needs a net gain of nine seats to win majority government. Eight of Labor's seats are regional and are held on a margin of less than 4.5 per cent.
She is expected to centre the second day of her re-election push on mining - an issue she tried to avoid during her 2017 campaign, when Indian conglomerate Adani's controversial Carmichael coal mine project dominated.
Ms Palaszczuk's Labor government was hammered from both sides: anti-Adani environmental activists demanding the project be stopped, and pro-resources rural and regional communities - including Labor-aligned unions - demanding it go ahead to provide much-needed jobs.
Recently, the CFMEU slammed the government for forgetting its blue-collar roots, by stalling approvals of New Hope's New Acland coal mine expansion, west of Brisbane. The union's construction and mining divisions left Labor's dominant Left faction, promising not to provide donations, manpower or other resources to the government for this campaign.
While both sides of politics have ruled out doing a deal with minor parties or independents to form government, Mr Katter has told The Australian he's willing to help Labor or the LNP to form minority government - but his price is support for key north Queensland initiatives.
In an interview with The Australian, he said he's willing to negotiate with both sides of politics in the event of a hung parliament, but the price of power is ambitious demands for
regional Queensland, including a state-funded rail line to open up the burgeoning Galilee coal province.
He wants part of the $5bn Queensland Future Fund - established by former Treasurer Jackie Trad to pay down debt - quarantined to build infrastructure in north Queensland and run by
an independent corporation. And he wants the "weak" four per cent ethanol mandate - negotiated by the minor party with Ms Palaszczuk's first-term minority government in 2017 - beefed up to an enforced 10 per cent.
Mr Katter will also call for the building of more dams, including the Hells Gate dam north of Charters Towers, and the Hughenden Irrigation project.
Earlier today, Ms Palaszczuk said it was "up to the market" if the Galilee Basin coal province becomes one of the world's largest, declaring she supports jobs in coal.
Ms Palaszczuk's Labor government rushed to sign a royalties deal with Indian mining conglomerate Adani, which is building a large thermal coal mine in the Galilee Basin, which Labor sources said was to remove the "barnacles" before the election campaign, which kicked off today.
During the 2017 election campaign, Ms Palaszczuk's travels were marred by anti-Adani protesters, and Labor's federal campaign last year was also dogged by the issue of the party's equivocal support for coal mining.
Asked whether she hoped the Galilee Basin would fulfil its promise as one of the world's largest coal provinces, Ms Palaszczuk said: "That's up to the market, but let me say very clearly, we support the resources industry, I've made that absolutely clear".
"We back jobs, whether they be in coal, whether they be in copper, whether they be in bauxite, whether they be in renewables.
Queenslanders are employed in a whole range of fields … in other parts of the world, people are not working. Mining is shut down, agriculture is shut down, schools are just going back in some countries (due to COVID-19)," she said.
After federal Labor's drubbing at the 2019 federal election, particularly in Queensland, Ms Palaszczuk announced she was unhappy with her government's progress in progressing Adani's approvals, and ordered they be fast-tracked.
Asked if her government was re-elected, would she give the other Galilee Basin proponents the confidence their approvals would go through speedily, Ms Palaszczuk demurred.
"The approvals have to go through the normal processes," she said.
Originally published as Premier breaks from tradition for election start