I’m pleased that Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) leader Robbie Katter will push for a referendum on North Queensland statehood in the first half of 2021, as reported on news.com.au. It appears there is widespread disappointment in the North with the Queensland Government over alleged, persistent under-funding of the North, even though that is open to debate (e.g. see my post Is NQ under-funded by the State Government relative to the South East?). That said, the $5 billion plus Cross River Rail project in inner city Brisbane annoys many people in the North, who can see more pressing needs for infrastructure funding in their own region. Incidentally, I still need to update that earlier analysis of mine on per capita funding by region to reflect Cross River Rail, which I’ll do as soon as I can.
As I’ve commented previously, creating a new state of North Queensland would be a major endeavour and it should not be rushed into. It deserves a proper investigation, possibly via a commission of eminent Queenslanders supported by the state Treasury to assess the financial viability of a new state and whether North Queenslanders would be better off. Possibly they would be, in the long-run, if they can include all the Bowen Basin coal mines in their state (through pushing the borderline as far south as they can) and if they are compensated for their remoteness and disadvantages by GST redistribution, but in the short-run they will face large transition costs and challenges in setting up a new state administration.
The most challenging issues for developing a workable NQ state include:
- whether the capital is located in Townsville or Cairns;
- the borderline – the fact that more recent proposals have the borderline south of Rockhampton and possibly south of Bundaberg has raised many eyebrows, given that traditionally North Queensland begins at Mackay, while Rockhampton is better thought of as being in Central Queensland; and
- how the state’s assets and liabilities/debt are divided up between SEQ and NQ.
These are not easy questions to answer, and they require a full analysis before committing to an NQ state.
Robbie Katter thinks that only North Queenslanders should vote in a referendum on whether to create a new state, but that presupposes it’s clear who exactly is a North Queenslander, and I’m unsure that issue has been resolved. Given the Queensland Parliament has to vote on the creation of an NQ state, and that the development of NQ has been partly funded over the decades by taxpayers in SEQ, I think all Queenslanders should vote in a referendum on an NQ state.
Previous posts of mine on the idea of an NQ state include: