Leaders shy on climate change and sustainable jobs

The mining industry in Queensland makes it difficult for political party leaders to talk about climate change, Griffith’s Professor Juliet Pietsch believes. Image: Unsplash

Both major parties have been reluctant to tackle issues like climate change and sustainable long-term employment opportunities during the Queensland state election campaign, a Griffith University political expert believes.

Griffith Business School‘s Professor Juliet Pietsch recently moved to Queensland from the nation’s capital and offers a unique perspective on the campaign.

Her observations are that both parties have shied away from issues normally tackled by their interstate counterparts, due to unique challenges within the state.

Professor Juliet Pietsch.

“Australians outside Queensland have been baffled by the reticence of both political parties in the Queensland election campaign to address the dangers of climate change for the future of Queensland’s economy and the significant problem of sustainable long-term jobs, especially as people struggle to enter or re-enter the labour force after COVID-19 lockdowns are lifted,” Professor Pietsch said.

The significant power of the mining industry, monopolisation of media and fear campaigns in key marginalised seats, which are highly decentralised up and down the coastline, were all part of the problem and pressures not experienced as severely in other states, according to Professor Pietsch, who recently became Head of Griffith’s School of Government and International Relations.

“There has been a great deal of emphasis in Central and North Queensland on the need to create jobs, with a focus on the mining industry to protect the future of Queensland jobs,” she said.

“Powerful mining lobby Queensland Resources Council has run advertisements that Queensland voters should back candidates who support jobs in the mining industry.

United Australia Party reignites the “death tax” myth as the campaign ramps up. Image: Facebook

“On top of that, newspapers in all the large regional centres outside of Brisbane are owned by News Corp Australia, resulting in a lack of media diversity and perspective.

“Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, for example, backed by news entities and mining interests, have run a fear campaign of death taxes in key marginal seats in North Queensland, the Gold Coast and north of Brisbane.”

The academic, whose research covers migration politics and political behaviour, said the emphasis on mining was short-sighted, given the impacts of the industry were likely to have adverse effects on the sectors that actually employ more Queenslanders.

“According the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, other sectors such as Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, Health, Arts and Recreation are bigger employers (than mining) in Queensland,” Professor Pietsch said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk currently holds the two-party preferred vote. Image: NCA NewsWire Dan Peled

“All of these face potential threats by the environmental impacts of mining.”

She said there had been little to no discussion of climate change and the need to transition away from fossil fuels to protect Queensland and its future economy – an economy which depends heavily on tourism and other trade exposed industries like agriculture.

“Many people outside of Queensland listening to the Queensland election campaign would not even know that the state is a leader in solar power, which has enormous potential for job creation.”

Professor Pietsch said both political parties had capitalised on a “highly racialised fear campaign on crime” in the North Queensland seats of Townsville and Mundingburra.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington recently announced a controversial plan for a curfew for youths in North Queensland.

“While crime among unemployed youth is a problem, the solutions offered – including curfews – appear to lack any evidence that they will actually work, or evidence of engagement with Indigenous community elders, which is particularly important given the disproportionate number of Indigenous youth caught up in the justice system.”

While the most recent Newspoll two-party preferred voted published by The Weekend Australian found Labor ahead at 52 per cent to the LNP’s 48 per cent, Professor Pietsch said only time would tell whether the Palaszczuk Government’s popular pandemic response would be enough to secure another term.

“The Federal government will no doubt be taking notes in preparation for the next Federal election.”

Find out more about our election experts, access video analysis and explore information about Queensland’s electorates, powered by the Regional Innovation Data Lab, at https://www.griffith.edu.au/queensland-state-election

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