On the eve of pre-poll voting opening, and with hints that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation was polling well in the seat, three of the five candidates vying for the seat of Gregory fronted a forum in Longreach last Friday.
Issues of providing financial assistance to Adani and the threat of tightening vegetation management provided some clear distinctions to those present and those watching on the Queensland Country Life livestream.
Those taking part included sitting MP, the LNP’s Lachlan Millar, ALP candidate, Dave Kerrigan, and independent candidate, Bruce Currie.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation candidate, Mark Higgins, and The Greens’ Norm Weston were not available.
Mr Millar was the only speaker to state unequivocally he would be voting against any ALP tightening of vegetation management laws, should the issue come up after the election.
Mr Kerrigan said while he had been speaking with fellow ALP candidate, Mark O’Brien, who has said the current laws, introduced by the LNP, were adequate, “one size doesn’t fit everything”.
“We’re a huge state and there are different issues with veg management from up north – you’d have to look at the legislation and what clauses are in it,” he said.
Mr Currie, a grazier based at Jericho, said objective measurement was needed to overcome the issue having become a political football.
“I wouldn’t just tighten laws but I would look at what we are trying to achieve,” he said.
“One side is going to the Greens, the other side wants to flatten the lot - the fact that the issue hasn’t been resolved yet and is being tossed back and forward is a clever way of holding people to ransom.”
He suggested looking at it on a bioregional scale and determining the parameters for each area.
Mr Millar said for far too long the left of the Labor Party had been demonising landowners, who should be allowed to use the legislation put in place by the LNP effectively.
Mr Currie’s position on support for Adani through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, and mega-mines in general, came through loudly.
Describing Adani as having a “very questionable track record”, he said before the state engaged with a company with outstanding allegations, its reputation should be cleared.
“When you consider the number of landowners that have been in the land court and can’t get certainty that they’re not going to destroy the Galilee Basin (water supply), are you going to run the risk,” he said.
Mr Currie is one of those landowners.
Mr Kerrigan agreed with the withdrawal of support for Adani’s NAIF application, saying there were already plenty of mines and jobs in the Bowen Basin and still workers were facing lockouts, citing a visit to the Oaky North mine at Tieri.
“We’re talking about Adani – they mightn’t even get the funding,” he said. “I’m more concentrating on what our communities are doing now and the track record of these big companies.”
According to Mr Millar, surety for job creation was needed.
“We need to continue to populate western communities by giving them a job.
“I was disappointed that the Premier suddenly said she doesn’t support the loan, given that the ALP has been in Townsville and Rockhampton promoting the development of the Carmichael Mine, and saying this was about jobs for regional Queensland.”