Thanks to ABC state political reporter Josh Bavas for asking my opinion on the new state of North Queensland that has been proposed from time-to-time, most recently by Katter’s Australian Party and Queensland Senator Matt Canavan, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. You can read my comments in Josh’s story:
As a North Queenslander by birth, I’m naturally favourably disposed toward the idea of a state of North Queensland, but I’ve always been skeptical regarding whether it would actually be as beneficial to people in the north as they believe. Successive state governments have been relatively generous to North Queensland, including through large expenditures on the road network and partly funding a new $250 million super stadium in Townsville. Of course, a high value could be placed on political autonomy and the ability to determine your own destiny.
My view is that proponents of a new NQ state need to crunch the numbers and produce a cost-benefit analysis showing the costs and benefits to both North Queenslanders and residents of the rest of Queensland and Australia. Among other things, we need to understand whether and to what extent a new NQ state would be dependent in the long-term on a favourable redistribution of GST revenue, and to what extent royalty revenue currently earned by the Queensland government would instead go to a new NQ government.
Also, it would be good to see some analysis of the set up costs of a new state, where the state should be divided, and how existing state government assets in NQ should be transferred. If a new NQ state capital were set up in my hometown of Townsville, or less likely in Cairns, the new administration would no doubt need to rapidly recruit public servants, many of which would need to come from outside of NQ, given the relatively small professional workforce currently there.
In Josh’s story, I was very pleased to see a photo of “bustling Flinders Street in Townsville 1888.” The photo is quite possibly of a procession to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet. While Flinders Street today is no longer as bustling as it has been in the past, we are reminded of the city’s previous boom times by several of the buildings lining Flinders Street, particularly its east end. The magnificent Burns Philp building, with its striking pavilion up top, is one such reminder. This was once the local office of the then powerful and prosperous trading company Burns Philp, which it must be acknowledged was shamefully involved in the trade of “blackbirding”.
The Burns Philp Building on Flinders St East, Townsville,
photographed recently by Jennifer Tunny.
A new state of NQ would be a boon to the Townsville economy if the new administration were based there. Of course, the location of any capital would be vigorously debate, and Cairns’s civic leaders would no doubt make a strong case for their city. I don’t expect to see a new NQ state anytime soon, but, given the desire for political autonomy for distinct regions is growing worldwide, we may well see a new NQ state sometime this century.