Vegetation management would be one of the issues that could be handled with greater understanding if a new North Queensland state were in place, according to its chief proponent, Rob Katter.
Mr Katter, the state Katter’s Australian Party leader, last week invited all state Members of Parliament and mayors north of a line from Rockhampton to sign a request for the Premier to fund an independent investigation in to the creation of a new North Queensland state.
He said he would write to each elected member requesting they become a signatory to the North Queensland Agreement.
“The NQA is an agreement between all mayors and state MPs to put pressure on the state government to establish an independent body to investigate and report on a Queensland secession plan,” he said.
Centralised government has been a major motivating factor for the creation of new states in the past and Mr Katter believed this was an issue north Queensland was faced with today.
While southern and central Queensland were developed with the Brigalow Scheme and accompanying loans, “ideologues” were stopping the same from happening in north Queensland just when it had reached a similar stage of development optimisation, according to Mr Katter.
“I’m not so concerned about a separate cultural state, just economic independence,” he said.
“The constraints on growth and what it’s doing to ideas around water pricing, high value clearing and an ethanol mandate – these are tangible benefits that could happen.
“We want the autonomy to create wealth and development.”
It’s a similar story from fellow KAP MP, Shane Knuth, who said he had seen an imbalance in funding allocations and decision making in his 14 years in Parliament.
“It is frustrating when South East Queensland dictates to the north without understanding the issues that affect us or appreciating how much of the state’s resources come from here.”
Newly-elected KAP Member for Hinchinbrook, Nick Dametto, believed electoral boundary redistributions were reducing seats in the north, which he said was coupled with “very little representation in the federal Senate”.
Mr Dametto said people were talking about a separate state throughout his region, but the LNP Member for Burdekin, Dale Last, described it as a non-issue in his electorate.
“If my constituents say they want to go ahead with a North Queensland state, I would support the idea, but I haven’t had a single call,” he said.
LNP sceptical of NQ breakaway costs
Mr Last believed KAP had seriously under-estimated the cost of a feasibility study at $250,000, saying Mr Katter had “left off a zero”.
“There’s a Urannah Dam feasibility study happening at the moment. That’s costing $3m for one single project.
“They might be calling on the government to pay for it, but at the end of the day it’s taxpayers, north Queenslanders included, who are paying for that.”
He asked whether KAP had thought the costs of seceding through well enough, pointing to separate police services, the establishment of a railway system, and paying the Queensland government for ownership of the Townsville Port, as some examples of costs to be borne.
“Will our taxes quadruple to pay for a new state,” he asked.
According to Mr Katter, back-of-envelope sums showed it could be paid for.
He said western Queensland should be included in any secession plan, but it was convenient to talk about North Queensland, and he was open to debate about the need for states at all.
“It would be pre-emptive for me to draw lines on a map when we don’t even have a feasibility study yet.
“The most important thing is that we are aspirational and asking the questions.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s comment that a separate state north of the Tropic of Capricorn would “cause a lot of problems with State of Origin” was described by Mr Katter as a flippant remark that lacked the mature consideration he was seeking.
“If anything it indicates I’m on the right track,” he said.
“It’s not rocket science. Since the US achieved federalism they created 35 states; Australia none.
“This is just a well-considered call to ask whether the lines drawn on the map 150 years ago are the best way to continue.”
The debate was kick-started by a quirky survey on what the animal and fruit emblems for a new state should be.
Mr Katter said the cassowary came out on top of animals such as crocodile and flying fox, while the very north Queensland banana ran second to mango when the survey closed at the beginning of March.
“People say you have to get a flag to rally behind, but the point of the survey was to generate interest and debate.”
- Brisbane is 900km from Sydney.
- The distance between Brisbane and Cairns is 1700km.
- It’s 1300km from Brisbane to Townsville.
- Mount Isa is 1800km from Brisbane.