WE LOOK BACK AT 2016

QUEENS­LAND POL­I­TICS AND SO­CIAL ME­DIA

Central and North Burnett Times - - FRONT PAGE - Ge­off Egan Ge­off.Egan@apn.com.au

THE ques­tion of whether Queens­land’s La­bor gov­ern­ment could hold on plagued 2016.

The year be­gan with ques­tions hov­er­ing over the loy­alty of Cairns MP Rob Pyne. It ended with one min­is­ter un­der fire for a fal­ter­ing train sys­tem and an­other step­ping down after rev­e­la­tions she had been years be­hind in her rates and needed the La­bor Party to bail her out. But de­spite its trou­bles the Palaszczuk gov­ern­ment fin­ished the year in power and able to pass leg­is­la­tion the LNP op­posed. The Op­po­si­tion had its share of hard times as well with a lead­er­ship change and a fed­eral sen­a­tor la­belling his state LNP col­leagues and La­bor “medi­ocre”.

Equal foot­ing

IN THE gov­ern­ment’s first year La­bor MP Billy Gor­don quit the party in dis­grace to sit on the cross­bench. In March of its sec­ond year fel­low far north MP Rob Pyne joined him.

Mr Pyne had been a con­stant pain for the La­bor Party – re­peat­edly call­ing for in­ves­ti­ga­tions into lo­cal gov­ern­ments and mak­ing state­ments the gov­ern­ment would have pre­ferred he in­ter­nalised.

But with the gov­ern­ment need­ing ev­ery vote, its leader was un­able to bring him into line. In March Mr Pyne quit the party to be­come an in­de­pen­dent.

This left the gov­ern­ment with an equal num­ber of MPs as the Op­po­si­tion. But the cross­bench, in­clud­ing Mr Pyne and Mr Gor­don, con­tin­ued to sup­port Pre­mier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk’s gov­ern­ment.

Clive’s QNI col­lapse

AFTER the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment re­fused to bail out Clive Palmer’s strug­gling Queens­land Nickel plant in Townsville, the com­pany fired 237 peo­ple be­fore en­ter­ing vol­un­tary ad­min­is­tra­tion. The col­lapse be­gan a big year for Mr Palmer. He did not stand for re-elec­tion at the Fed­eral Elec­tion and had to tes­tify in Fed­eral Court about how QNI was run. In court Mr Palmer was quizzed about a green note­book that he claimed was a log of six years of QNI meet­ings – of­ten only con­sist­ing of him­self.

Lawrie loses lead­er­sh­iop

IT WASN’T just the La­bor gov­ern­ment which strug­gled for sta­bil­ity in 2016.

When the LNP lost the 2015 elec­tion, its leader and a his­toric mar­gin, they turned to the “Fa­ther of the LNP” – South­ern Downs MP Lawrence Spring­borg. But after lead­ing the LNP through the first year of op­po­si­tion Mr Spring­borg was knifed – as has be­come the tra­di­tion for Aus­tralian po­lit­i­cal lead­ers – and sent to the back­bench. For­mer LNP gov­ern­ment trea­surer Tim Ni­cholls took over as Op­po­si­tion Leader with Nanango MP Deb Freck­ling­ton his deputy.

Jo’s re­venge

BUN­DAMBA MP Jo-Ann Miller re­signed as Po­lice Min­is­ter in late 2015. She waited un­til 2016 Bud­get Es­ti­mates to ex­tract her re­venge. Ms Miller re­quested to sit on ev­ery es­ti­mates com­mit­tee to in­ter­ro­gate min­is­ters on their port­fo­lio’s spend­ing.

While her fel­low La­bor MPs asked pre­ar­ranged soft­ball ques­tions to min­is­ters, Ms Miller lobbed hand grenades.

For much of the es­ti­mates process she did more dam­age to the gov­ern­ment than the Op­po­si­tion.

But as the gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion re­mained on the same num­ber of MPs, Ms Miller had the gov­ern­ment over a bar­rel.

If she was rep­ri­manded she could quit. And if she quit it could cost the gov­ern­ment power.

Vot­ing changes

WHEN the LNP sug­gested ex­pand­ing par­lia­ment from 89 to 93 seats with the KAP on board, it had the gov­ern­ment trapped. The move would keep more seats in ru­ral ar­eas where the two con­ser­va­tive par­ties dom­i­nate.

But in a po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vre more like House of Cards than Ge­orge Street, La­bor amended the bill to rein­tro­duce com­pul­sory pref­er­en­tial vot­ing – end­ing the “Just Vote One” cam­paigns.

The KAP agreed to the amend­ment as long as the par­lia­ment still ex­panded to 93 mem­bers.

Ob­servers and the Op­po­si­tion con­demned the move, which had not been pre­vi­ously sug­gested or eval­u­ated in a com­mit­tee. But the un­ex­pected pop­u­lar­ity of One Na­tion at the Fed­eral Elec­tion has led to ques­tions about whether the pref­er­ence sys­tem was a good idea for La­bor.

Black lung

THE num­ber of Queens­land coal min­ers di­ag­nosed with black lung con­tin­ued to climb through­out 2016, with the to­tal con­firmed cases reach­ing 16 to date.

A Monash Univer­sity re­port into the re-emer­gence of the dis­ease found there had been a “ma­jor sys­tem fail­ure at vir­tu­ally all lev­els”. The re­port found “clear de­fi­cien­cies” in x-ray and lung ca­pac­ity test read­ing and re­port­ing. Fol­low­ing the re­port Queens­land’s par­lia­ment

came within a whisker of es­tab­lish­ing a Royal Com­mis­sion to find how the dis­ease had been al­lowed to re-emerge after 30 years with­out a case. But in­stead a se­lect par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee was set up to in­ves­ti­gate the dis­ease.

The mine with no coal

A DAR­LING Downs mine warned it could run out of coal after the rein­tro­duc­tion of wa­ter li­cences for mines. De­spite agree­ing with the goals of the leg­is­la­tion, miner New Hope said rein­tro­duc­ing wa­ter li­cences would mean the com­pany’s decade-long plan to ex­pand its New Acland mine out­side Toowoomba could again be chal­lenged in the courts.

Hun­dreds of New Hope work­ers ral­lied out­side Queens­land Par­lia­ment the week be­fore the vote, call­ing to be ex­empted. But they were not suc­cess­ful. The gov­ern­ment only ex­empted mines that had a Land Court de­ci­sion in their favour.

Don­ald­son’s demise

WITH two par­lia­men­tary sit­ting weeks left most ob­servers thought Stir­ling Hinch­liffe could be the next min­is­ter to fall due to QR’s can­cel­la­tion of hun­dreds of ser­vices. Few were ex­pect­ing Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Leanne Don­ald­son to be the one to ten­der her res­ig­na­tion. But after it emerged the Bund­aberg MP was nearly three years be­hind in her rates and had driven her car when it was un­reg­is­tered, Ms Don­ald­son stood in par­lia­ment and ten­dered her res­ig­na­tion. A week later Ms Don­ald­son said she had suf­fered de­pres­sion fol­low­ing the col­lapse of her mar­riage. She said de­pres­sion hit her so hard she did not want to get out of bed – and pay­ing bills fell by the way­side.

Sen­a­tor’s smack­down

AS THE year wound to a close even politi­cians in other states were ask­ing how things were track­ing in Queens­land. When Vic­to­rian Lib­eral Party heavy­weight Michael Kroger asked Fed­eral At­tor­ney-Gen­eral, and LNP sen­a­tor, Ge­orge Bran­dis how the Queens­land party was look­ing, he didn’t hold back. Not re­al­is­ing he was be­ing broad­cast Mr Bran­dis de­scribed his state col­leagues and the gov­ern­ment as “very, very medi­ocre”. He ques­tioned if the LNP merger would need to be rolled back in the wake of the rein­tro­duc­tion of com­pul­sory pref­er­en­tial vot­ing and rise in One Na­tion’s pop­u­lar­ity.

If she quit, it could cost the gov­ern­ment power...

AAP AND STAFF PHO­TOS

HIT­TING HEAD­LINES: (clock­wise from top left) Clive Palmer, Jo-Ann Miller, Leanne Don­ald­son, Rob Pyne, black lung and Acland Mine protest.

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