My comments on NQ exit in ABC online story

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:

Queensland border debate: Could a ‘Nexit’ be on the cards?

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”.

BurnsPhilpTownsville

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.

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2 Responses to My comments on NQ exit in ABC online story

  1. Glen says:

    Great post Gene, as someone who did the opposite of you and moved from Brisbane to Townsville I struggled to understand how the impact of having a capital 1400km away from Townsville and 1400km from Cairns could effect a region, but it does. As you highlight the fact that most of the public servants and a very large majority of senior bureaucrats reside in the capital, these opportunities are naturally denied to people in the North. I recently used a couple of examples of how the capital leverages it’s power and actually prospers from the regions in ways many don’t recognise and although only in increments, they compound through the system.

    The first was in the case of the collapse of Qld Nickel, Townsville lost many hundreds of jobs, many businesses owed millions and although many entitlements were covered by the federal govt many were left thousands out of pocket, but Brisbane actually benefited and profited from the collapse. All of the millions alone spent on court proceedings to date and all of the staff involved from the legal system right through to the cabbie dropping people off have all gained financially from Townsvilles misery, it was not done with intent but this was the result. There are example after example of how Brisbane benefits from the regions, every time a cyclone forms off the coast ready to slam into the North coast somewhere a disaster management centre 1000km away in Brisbane is full of employed staff. The example that really sticks out in my mind was that shocking cafe explosion in Ravenshoe some years ago, those poor people had to endure months of rehabilitation in Brisbane at the burns unit, wonderful people I am sure but once again employment created in Brisbane at the expense of the regions, the fact that there isn’t a full burns unit at Townsville General is a disgrace. As a regular blood donor I was appalled years ago when they closed the blood processing facility in Townsville, all of our blood from the North is now taken to Brisbane for processing, it is a familiar theme over and over again.

    I am glad you identified that sometimes these things are more than just funding in regards to a separate state, because it’s only after years of living up here you realise it’s much more than that, it’s about people and the growing lack of opportunity and lack of connection the North has with the south east these days, and it’s getting worse.

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