One Na­tion role will usher in a pro­tracted bat­tle over free trade

A mi­nor­ity LNP govern­ment can’t ex­pect an easy ride

The Weekend Australian - - QUEENSLAND DECIDES - PETER BEAT­TIE Peter Beat­tie was the La­bor premier of Queens­land from 1998 to 2007.

Queens­land pol­i­tics is many things but it is never dull. In­deed, the state will end up in messy, pro­tracted post-elec­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions that will en­ter­tain the na­tion if La­bor falls short of a ma­jor­ity in two weeks.

A cam­paign­ing Pauline Han­son this week de­manded a cen­tral Queens­land casino be built on lux­ury Great Kep­pel Is­land off Rock­hamp­ton as part of One Na­tion’s price for sup­port­ing a Lib­eral Na­tional Party mi­nor­ity govern­ment. La­bor has ruled out gov­ern­ing with the sup­port of One Na­tion un­der any cir­cum­stances.

Mi­nor­ity govern­ment is not easy. Not only does a prime min­is­ter or premier have to deal with the idio­syn­cra­sies of their own party and par­lia­men­tary col­leagues but also the poli­cies of the mi­nor party or in­di­vid­u­als guar­an­tee­ing the govern­ment sup­ply on the floor of the par­lia­ment.

This re­quires a su­perhu­man ef­fort de­mand­ing the wis­dom of Solomon and the de­ter­mi­na­tion of Sir Ed­mund Hil­lary. New Zealand’s new Prime Min­is­ter, Jacinda Ardern, is about to find out just how dif­fi­cult a jug­gling act this can be.

In two weeks, Queens­land Op­po­si­tion Leader Tim Ni­cholls may be fac­ing the same chal­lenge as there are only two likely out­comes to the Queens­land elec­tion: a mi­nor­ity LNP govern­ment backed for sup­ply by Pauline Han­son’s One Na­tion Party or a ma­jor­ity La­bor govern­ment.

My first govern­ment in 1998 was a mi­nor­ity govern­ment made pos­si­ble by a gen­uine in­de­pen­dent MP, Peter Welling­ton. Ne­go­ti­a­tions to form govern­ment took two weeks af­ter the elec­tion. How­ever, in govern­ment I was lucky; my min­is­ters had to deal with one sen­si­ble MP.

Nev­er­the­less, if in­di­vid­u­als or in­ter­est groups did not get their way with my govern­ment they then went to the in­de­pen­dent. It was a drawnout process.

So what would a mi­nor­ity Ni­cholls LNP govern­ment look like and what would its ma­jor chal­lenges be?

Ni­cholls has said there will not be a coali­tion with One Na­tion and there­fore no One Na­tion min­is­ters in his cabi­net.

This means his shadow cabi­net would largely form the min­istry, although if for­mer New­man govern­ment min­is­ter David Crisa­fulli wins the seat of Broad­wa­ter over La­bor’s Peter Flori it will be dif­fi­cult to leave Crisa­fulli out.

On One Na­tion poli­cies, Ni­cholls will find chal­lenges on gun laws and the Cit­i­zens Ini­ti­ated Ref­er­en­dum. But his big­gest chal­lenge by far will be eco­nomic pol­icy, es­pe­cially free trade. It is easy for Han­son to be a pop­ulist politi­cian cam­paign­ing for trade pro­tec­tion­ism but there are con­se­quences. If ever there is a na­tion in the world that should be strongly in favour of free trade it is Aus­tralia.

With a pop­u­la­tion of only 24 mil­lion we do not have the do­mes­tic con­sumer de­mand of the US, Europe or China. We have to ex­port to grow and, in­deed, to sur­vive eco­nom­i­cally. We rely on in­ter­na­tional tourism and ex­port most of our sugar, beef and min­er­als — the four cor­ner­stones of the Queens­land econ­omy.

This was high­lighted dra­mat­i­cally this week by an eco­nomic mod­el­ling re­port com­mis­sioned by the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade that found Aus­tralia is at risk of los­ing 270,000 jobs and be­tween 1.8 per cent and 2.2 per cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct from a world­wide roll back of free trade.

Across 30 years, Aus­tralian fam­i­lies have ben­e­fited by an in­crease in in­come of $8500 a year be­cause of trade lib­er­al­i­sa­tion.

Aus­tralia is close to start­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions on a free trade agree­ment with the EU and is work­ing with Ja­pan to fire up the 11-na­tion Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship regional trade deal. I strongly sup­ported John Howard’s push for the free trade agree­ment with the US, in­clud­ing meet­ing US of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton with Mike Rann, then premier of South Aus­tralia.

Premier Ni­cholls will not be able to re­main silent or slow when it comes to free trade. Queens­land’s econ­omy de­pends on it.

Free trade and eco­nomic pol­icy will be the bat­tle­ground be­tween any Ni­cholls LNP mi­nor­ity govern­ment and its One Na­tion back­ers.

It is easy for Pauline Han­son to be a pop­ulist politi­cian cam­paign­ing for pro­tec­tion­ism but there are con­se­quences

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