NQ: New push to divide state
A POLITICAL commentator believes the idea of an independent North Queensland state is unrealistic and having more MPs to better represent interests outside of the south east would be "undemocratic".
Speaking on the idea of state secession, Griffith University politics lecturer Dr Paul Williams said he believed it simply would not happen. Why? The south-east corner would not approve and that is where most voters reside, he said.
Dawson MP George Christensen has long championed the idea of a North Queensland state. Mr Christensen is pegged to speak at a Boot Brisbane Referendum touring event in May.
He baulked at the idea those in the south-east corner should even have a say on the matter.
"I think only the people of North Queensland should have a say on whether we can have our own state or not and quite frankly, the people in the southeast corner having too much of a say is a big part of the problem," Mr Christensen said.
Dr Williams said state secession had been talked about since Federation, but he did not think it would ever happen.
"It is more of a rhetorical tool than a probable policy outcome," he said.
"It is all very amusing really. Very few people take it seriously in southeast Queensland."
Dr Williams likened the idea of independent statehood to a populist political catchcry wheeled out to bring together diverse regional voters and "scoop up marginal support" from fringe parties.
"This has been simmering for over a century. It is weaponised as populist discourse," he said. "Populism is reaching out to the lowest common denominator to appeal to people's emotions ... in order to unite different constituencies. It could be patriotism, fear, love, hate or xenophobia."
But for Mr Christensen, separating the north from the south was no laughing matter.
"As a North Queenslander I have feelings of being angry about missing out on things as well but I think in NQ we swallow the rubbish when it comes to yet another multi-billion dollar project happening in Brisbane," the MP said.
"We do without the cross-river tunnels in NQ, we do without the light rail and the trams, we do without the big overpasses everywhere and the dog parks and walking trails. The people that live in leafy green, uber rich suburbs in capital cities have everything they could ever imagine and that most people in our region would probably only ever dream of."
Dr Williams refuted the claim regional Queenslanders do without while Brisbane residents get the lions share.
"That is not true. I did my own calculations and I found per capita, regional Queenslanders do far better than people in the south east," he said.
"Regional Queensland is not dudded by Brisbane."
Forum organiser Bill Bates said the catalyst for taking action was the 2017 redistribution, which increased the quota of voters per electorate from 29,000 to 33,000.
The Boot Brisbane Referendum Campaign coordinator said the mission was to secure, for the residents of central and north Queensland, a referendum to vote yes or no on the proposition of forming a new Commonwealth state.
"Of the now 93 electorates, over 70 are less than 250km from the Brisbane CBD. Nearly 75 per cent of State Parliament members must meet the expectation of their southeast Queensland constituents to be elected and if that means throwing the Central and North Queensland regional voters 'under the bus', they will do it."
Mr Christensen said the only line against the idea of a NQ state that warranted a bit of merit was that 'we don't want more bloody politicians'.
"If you drew a line across the Tropic of Capricorn you'd probably have 15-16 State Members of Parliament above it, so you could have a parliament made up of 15-16 people,," he said.
"You could introduce a State Senate for broad representation and my easy solution for a State Senate is making every mayor of every local government also a member.
"The new state would create about 10 more new politicians because as the state of NQ we would be entitled to 12 Senators to send down to Canberra and at the moment we have two, Senator Matt Canavan in Rockhampton and Senator Ian McDonald in Townsville."
Dr Williams said more representation was also not the answer to the strong feeling of dissatisfaction in the regions, where residents felt aggrieved for driving the bulk of the economic momentum.
"Having weighted electorates in the regions ... would completely diminish our democracy," he said.
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WHEN: May 8, 7pm to 9pm