Half way through the final week of Queensland's state election campaign, it occurs to me that perhaps I should have tackled this subject before now. After all, it has been a matter of political debate increasingly throughout the LNP's term of office. Honesty, transparency, misuse of power, accountability: such words and phrases have been recycled many times in expressions of complaint and cynicism; disappointment and disillusionment.
Some voters seem to be able to juxtapose a dislike of Campbell Newman with the belief that he is a strong leader – to use his favourite word. The political history of the last three years in Queensland reeks of so many dodgy deals as to be almost suffocating, but a significant number of voters rank apparent economic performance above all else, it would seem.
Although details emerged long after the event, sand-mining company Sibelco funded Newman's campaign in Ashgrove in Brisbane in 2012, to the tune of $90,000. Later they were rewarded with a 16-year extension of their right to dig up Moreton Bay's beautiful North Stradbroke Island, until 2035, and against the wishes of local people.
But worse, much worse than this, in many people's eyes, have been Newman's lies about the third stage of New Hope's Acland coal mine in the Darling Downs. He had promised this would not go ahead. I remember reading about his announcement, in disbelief. I always doubted his weasel words. Principally because New Hope is one of the LNP's biggest donors, and they must expect to get something for their money. And sure enough, as people hurried off on their christmas holidays, on the evening of 19 December, Jeff Seeney quietly announced that the Co-ordinator General had approved the mine's further expansion.
These deeds make Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk appear almost squeaky clean. The LNP have not managed to dig up any dirt, and I'm sure it's not for want of trying. Newman's childish, straw-clutching throwaway line during last Friday's leaders' debate, that Labor may have been funded by the dreaded bikies, was as laughable as it was outrageous. He went on to place the onus of proof on the Labor leader to show that they had not been. I don't think so. Does he recall the principle of the accused being innocent until proven guilty?
Missing from the election campaign has been any reference to the philosophy of either of the main parties. Fundamental principles or underlying beliefs are never mentioned, or rarely; instead, lightweight policy announcements and incentives are peddled constantly. Four-pillar economy; cutting green tape; anti-association laws; asset leasing… these are slogans or sound bites, not components of a political raison d'être. When was the last time you heard mention of terms such as representative democracy, progressivism, capitalism, fair trade, social justice, labour rights, market economy, state interventionism, social partnership… The devil is in the detail, which you never hear about either. Landowners learn of the erosion of their rights to prevent miners spoiling their land and water once amendments have been passed at five minutes to midnight.
In September last year, Tony Fitzgerald, who was a judge for 30 years and headed up the state's famous corruption enquiry in the 1980s, encouraged Queenslanders to vote for neither of the main parties in this election.
In practical terms, power has been substantially transferred to a small, cynical, political class, mostly professional politicians who represent, and act as directed by, one of the two major political parties which [sic] have entrenched themselves and their standards in the political system and collectively dominate political discussion and control the political process.
He added that both parties use election wins to reward sectional interests, financial supporters and 'ambitious camp-followers'. And he went on:
Political reform is… a task for the community. If Queenslanders want a free, fair, tolerant society, good governance and honest public administration, a sufficient number of voters must make it clear that they will decline to vote for any party which [sic] does not first satisfy them that it will exercise power only for the public benefit.
About two weeks ago The Australian Institute wrote an open letter to all party leaders, asking for their commitment to Fitzgerald's principles of accountability:
1 Govern for the peace, welfare and good government of the State;
2 Make all decisions and take all actions, including public appointments, in the public interest without regard to personal, party political or other immaterial considerations;
3 Treat all people equally without permitting any person or corporation special access or influence; and
4 Promptly and accurately inform the public of its reasons for all significant or potentially controversial decisions and actions.
The letter was signed by 'prominent Australians' and sent to Queensland Labor, Bob Katter's Australia Party, the Palmer United Party, the Liberal National Party and the Queensland Greens. All but the LNP responded and agreed to commit to the principles if they are elected.
In the absence of a commitment by the party currently in charge of the State, perhaps you should fall back on an old technique. Ask yourself whether or not you would buy a second-hand car from Campbell Newman, Jeff Seeney et al.