Opinion: How Scott Morrison can win over Qld again
Opinion: How Scott Morrison can win over Qld again

How good is Qld? It depends on this

This year should, at least in theory, be relatively free from the spectre of campaigning politicians.

Last year Queenslanders had to endure both local and state government contests, and the next election is the federal one not due until 2022.

Yet the chatter coming out of Canberra in recent weeks is that the Federal Government may now be thinking of going early - and that it is eyeing off election dates between August and November this year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has attempted to hose down this talk, saying earlier this month: "I have only one priority this year and that is getting Australia continually through this pandemic and ensuring the economic recovery is achieved".

But the he has not managed to put the genie completely back in the bottle and the rumours about an early election persist, suggesting it is a real and live consideration.

Many pundits base this on an assumption Mr Morrison will want to take advantage of his government's successful efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese's ongoing struggle for relevance.

Certainly the Prime Minister's decision to venture north to Queensland today at the first opportunity after a recent break will do nothing to douse the flames of speculation.

With the LNP now holding 23 of 30 federal seats in the Sunshine State following the 2019 election (it won two off Labor in Longman and Herbert) there is a lot of territory for the party to defend if it is to hang on to its slim parliamentary majority federally.

But it would be totally wrong to assume that between the pandemic and Mr Albanese's relevance issues that Queensland is locked in behind Mr Morrison's administration.

Just look at what happened at the state level three months ago: a third-term Labor government.

Being a canny political operator, Mr Morrison will be well aware of this fact - and so we can safely assume this is indeed why our state has been locked in as the destination for the Prime Minister's first multi-day tour in 2021.

 

 

However, it will take much more than fly-in and fly-out personal visits from Mr Morrison for him to keep Queenslanders on side.

Instead he needs to deliver results. And to give him his dues, he has so far done well in striking deals with the Queensland Government on critical pieces of infrastructure, particularly the Brisbane-Gold Coast section of the M1 motorway.

But the state's economy is reeling as a result of the coronavirus crisis - and things could be far worse by August.

Voters will be wanting to know what role the Commonwealth plans to play in the recovery.

Regional Queensland in particular needs investment in critical transport and water infrastructure to support traditional industries and sustain jobs.

But rather than easy wins attractive to campaigning politicians, what is actually required is a long-term vision where the aim is to grow existing sectors and lay the foundations for new ones which will provide employment into the future.

Such a vision would need all levels of government on board.

Anything else would guarantee the continuation of the current piecemeal approach, under which not much is ever achieved.

Queensland as a state was suffering with persistently high unemployment well before COVID came along, and there were pockets of regional areas where the youth jobless rate was huge.

Thanks to the pandemic, the task of addressing that has just got much harder - and a fractured response risks condemning some young people to years without work.

Growing Queensland's agriculture and mining sectors will be key to turning that around, as will actually delivering something from the federal government's $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

It was established in 2016 to provide seed money to new investments that would create jobs, but the money has been far too slow to materialise.

The Prime Minister should use his looming trip to the north as a fact-finding mission ahead of the May Federal Budget to get a first-hand look at some of the potential projects.

A big-spending Budget that bankrolls infrastructure critical to Queensland's future wouldn't harm the Prime Minister's prospects of re-election if he does happen to decide that 2021 will be his year and that the nation needs an early election.

 

 

Originally published as Editor's view: How good is Qld? It depends on this


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