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3 November, 2020

OPINION: A difficult four years ahead for rural Queensland

"The re-election of the ALP government in Queensland for another four years promises increasingly challenging times for the rural sector."


THE re-election of the ALP government in Queensland for another four years promises increasingly challenging times for the rural sector. 

Its not just that no one who owns or has worked on a farm (such as former ALP Treasurer Keith Delacy) or even in a processing plant (pineapple peeler Peter Beattie who worked at Golden Circle) is in the Palaszczuk cabinet room. 

Its that most of the ministerial advisers and minders live in the inner Brisbane suburbs that are green, or nearly turned Green this election. 

Last Sunday arvo, nursing some substantial hangovers after a big win following a highly uncertain election campaign some of these minders shared their forward thinking. 

While happy to have held their regional city seats, and perhaps won two more, their thinking was largely framed by how to hold the Greens at bay in the inner Brisbane seats they largely live in. 

Its not quite that they take the regions (and for Labor that largely means the provincial cities with high proportions of government workers plus neighbouring areas of retirees (who swung behind the ‘Anna keeps Queensland safe’ message) for granted. But the Greens are a greater threat to Labor in Queensland (and Victoria) than the LNP. 

The Bob Brown devotees can eat away at Labor’s heartland quicker than the LNP – as the last Queensland and Victorian state elections showed. Remember the Greens aren’t just an environmental movement. 

They are the party of choice for the gender fluid, the young students battling University fees, casual workers and renters. All that without the burden of carrying old union powerbrokers. 

They are FOR ‘the reef’, for ‘the environment’, for ‘more National Parks’, for ‘organic and fair trade’. 

And definitely against ‘chemicals, pesticides and industrial farming’ and coal, diesel, land clearing, anything that harms animals. The quotes are from the election brochures. 

As our photo shows, the new Greens seat of South Brisbane has Queensland’s highest concentration of built space (concrete, bitumen and steel all made with coal and oil and industrial processes) and least amount of trees and open space. This makes debates about ‘the environment’ rather obscure. 

The ‘environment’ and the ‘reef’ are rather distant concepts from their reality – a bit like what you might think that the Moon surface looks or feels. Its so far away you can have some fantastical view that is not anywhere near reality. 

Their online facebook/Instagram/twitter/tiktok media of choice are short on numbers of words, large on numbers of photos (pretty or evil or faked). 

That makes arguments based on long and complex scientific fact or reason extremely difficult to prosecute. 

For instance the argument for ‘industrial farming’ (that it provides most people with cheap, nutritious food even out of season) is hard even for Labor (allegedly friends of the worker and the poor) against dreamy images of blonde young things picking (allegedly) organic apples as the mist rises in the valley. 

And we don’t even get to the tough issues of ‘the reef’ or vegetation management or dams. So the rural sector is going to be on the back foot for the next four years battling the green leaning Labor government. 

But should it just go on the back foot and present an angry face? 

Should farmers and graziers try harder to present their Queensland face growing your food and fibre, and importantly creating jobs, not just on the farm, but well beyond the farm gate in local processing and machinery manufacturing? 

Interestingly through then election campaign Labor cut water and electricity tariffs for farmers, and are trying to fast track foreign pickers through its COVID wall, because of jobs. 

With the highest unemployment in Australia, Labor knows at the next election they will be judged not on COVID, but JOBS. Even the Greens understand this. 

The rural sector has to do a better job (not helped by dodgy ABS stats) to highlight the real rural impact in this state on jobs – not just on farm but all the rural related jobs in regional centres and even inner Brisbane. 

 And also keep mentioning the food comes from a farm of real people on real soil in a real environment, not just a supermarket. 

At least get on the front foot early in what could be a trying fake green four years ahead...


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