There is often a large amount of variation amongst the 89 different electorate contests across the state, with local issues and local candidates having a much greater impact on the outcome in each seat than occurs at federal elections. This is even more the case in seats outside the south-east corner – which can often tend to sneak under the media radar given the tendency to focus predominantly on the contests in the south-east corner of the state.
There are some very significant contests happening across other regions of Queensland, with some strong candidates running as Independents and for Bob Katter’s party in some areas – and also some local issues which may have a big influence on how people vote in specific seats. This applies to the Greens as well, with 89 candidates running across the state. Some areas have a greater level of Greens support than others, but the issues can be just as pressing – if not more so – regardless of how much vote the area has normally provides to the Greens.
I spent a couple of days this weekend in Mackay and Airlie Beach with Greens members, including Jonathon Dykyj, the candidate for Whitsunday. (the boundaries for the seat of Whitsunday extend down to the northern suburbs of Mackay). Even though I’ve been to Mackay plenty of times over the years, this was the first time I’d ever been to Airlie Beach, where the Greens had an information stall (and whilst I’ve been to many coastal towns throughout Queensland over the years, I must say the richness of the water’s turquoise colour was really quite compelling). Tourist season hasn’t really started yet, but there was still a reasonably steady flow of people and it was interesting to hear some of the locals’ views.
I was surprised to hear that such a beautiful region still doesn’t have kerbside household recycling – something which was outlined passionately by a person collecting signatures for a petition to the local council in the lead up to the local government elections in April. On a related issue, I met the person who been involved in running the local Eco Barge. This not-for-profit service has been running a Marine Debris Removal Program since June 2009, and to date has removed an incredible 59,142 kilos of marine debris from the local Whitsunday marine environment.
One of the challenges of campaigning in this region is that there are growing numbers of people who are getting employment or income through an expanding mining industry, yet the rapid expansion of coal, coal seam gas and other mines – and the infrastructure being proposed to facilitate this expansion – is posing to other long-standing economic and social foundations of the region, namely agriculture and tourism.
The massive expansion planned for the Abbott Point terminal, near the food producing region around Bowen, will see a huge amount of dredging occurring on the edge of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and a massive surge in the amount of tanker traffic through the area. At the other end of the region, more new coal terminals, with the associated marine dredging, coastal wetland destruction and increased tanker traffic, are planned for just south of Mackay. It seems that the dash for cash in ramping up fossil fuel production and export while the market still exists is going to override concerns about the long-term damage that will be done to the more economically and environmentally sustainable industries of food production and tourism.
Campaigning against rapid mine and mining infrastructure expansion in a region like this is never going to be popular with some people, but it’s very important that it be done and I greatly admire those local people who are prepared to stick their hands (and their heads) up to support the protection of their local communities and environment.