This is just a quickie. My head is still in the Outback, and I'm finding it hard to pick up pre-trip environmental and other threads. I apologise in advance for the number of links in this piece: these will provide concise detail quicker than I have time to elaborate upon; and in more elegant sentences. I am leaving for a weekend on Straddie in less than four hours.
So… Clive Palmer finally has his opportunity to exact revenge on a state government that wouldn't grant him favours in the race to eviscerate the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland. One of the LNP's biggest donors was dumped from the Party amid an acrimonious exchange of accusations between Palmer and Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney, Minister of Mines and Monstrousness.
In March there will be a Senate Commission of Enquiry into the workings of the Queensland State Government. This remarkable turn-of-events – which had failed to eventuate, as the Aussies say, from a previous attempt just a week beforehand – came to pass in the Federal Senate after the Greens and Labor and Palmer's pups finally got their act together after a whole lot of wheeler-dealing. There is good to come out of chaos, however: see here. For a rather more cynical take on it all, see here. And a reasoned summary from a legal mind here.
When Queensland separated from New South Wales in 1859, it was the only colony to have a Parliament from the outset. It had two governmental chambers, the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. There was little enthusiasm for the upper house, which was seen as 'positively obstructive and an obstacle to public business'. There were calls for its abolition right from the start. Labor finally brought that about in 1922. In the next few years, conservative members of the lower house called for its reinstatement, but the Depression suppressed any real energy for the task. Since when there have been faltering moves and motions, to no effect. Read more here.
Unusually for Australia, Queensland has a first-past-the-post electoral system. In the last state election in 2012, the Liberal-National Party Coalition got a far greater proportion of seats than reflected its popular vote. In effect, there has been no Opposition to Campbell Newman's government by virtue of numbers. Labor's role has been a charade. Queensland needs a political reform double whammy – preferential voting and a second chamber. But I suspect they love their different ways and will cling to them. In 1859, it was probably all about not doing things the same as New South Wales.
Many Queenslanders feel that the democratic process has been severely compromised in the last two and a half years by Newman's numbers and his government's close relationship with big business, mining especially; that certain sections of the judiciary have moved perilously too close to law enforcement; that the health and safety of the environment have been cynically down-graded; and that battlers have been sacrificed to far bigger interests.
If you believe that there is nothing rotten in the state of Queensland, then perhaps you should listen to this item from Steve Austin's Mornings programme on Thursday.
And if you are in any doubt that, whatever happens at the Enquiry, a huge amount of anger and ill-feeling will be generated by it, then I wish you could have heard one of Austin's regular Friday features this morning, when normally good-humoured, respectful and entertaining old-hand political debaters turned horribly serious and very-nearly nasty when talking about the Commission. They muttered about 'getsquare enquiries'; and the lefter-leaning of the two derided the outrage of conservative parties who have themselves done to others what is about to happen to them. Unfortunately, there's no link to this on the ABC's website.
I must admit to being surprised at the PUP senators' achievement. And the lack of precise detail about the nature of the allegations. I think if I were a right-leaning Queenslander, I would be appalled at such Federal intervention in matters of State. I suspect all parties know that deep down there's muck to be raked, and that both major parties are bound to suffer as a result. For that reason, a part of me doubts the Enquiry will ever come to fruition.
That kind of muck would never have been uncovered by investigative mainstream media, would it? For this reason, I hope the Commission materialises and does what it must. Am I certain of a strong, unbiased Commission even? Not a bit of it.
This post was written on 3 October 2014