Newman calls Qld election, News Corp provides the pro-LNP puffery
The Queensland election will come down to a question of what
voters want more: coal seam gas and casinos, or to see Newman and Abbott
kicked out of office.
Queenslanders will go to the polls in a snap election on
January 31 to give their verdict on Premier Campbell Newman’s
dash-for-growth Liberal-National Party government.
His early election call — predicted by Crikey last month
— is aimed at capitalising on the recent makeover of his government and
that of the equally unpopular Team Abbott in Canberra. Newman will
present voters with a coal-and-casinos platform promising tens of
thousands of jobs, new infrastructure and massive foreign
investment. However, the government’s figures are rubbery, the outcomes
are largely fictional, and costings have been dreamed up by advertising
agencies, not economists. Think of the ABC comedy series Utopia and you’ve got the picture.
Newman’s re-election strategists are hoping that
Queenslanders won’t notice the deception. After all, most voters will be
celebrating Australia Day, lazing on sun-drenched beaches following the
cricket, tennis and the Asian Cup, and getting ready to return to work
and the kids back to school.
The LNP has the added support of Rupert Murdoch’s daily
newspapers in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Townsville and Cairns and an
election war chest amply topped up by coal and gas mining interests and
Newman’s biggest worry isn’t winning the election, but
retaining his own Brisbane seat of Ashgrove. After soaking the
constituency with cash, the Premier has narrowed the gap with his Labor
opponent Katie Jones but it remains a cliffhanger.
Last April, Newman set the scene for the election when he
announced the Carmichael Mine project, the biggest coal-mining operation
in Australian history. The $16 billion mine in central Queensland with
six open-cut pits and five underground mines will cover more than 200
square kilometres of the Galilee Basin. It is the brainchild of the
Indian mining conglomerate Adani, one of the corporations behind the
electoral success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing BJP
party in last May’s elections.
Despite billowing support from News Corp, the Carmichael
Mine received a troubled report from the Commonwealth’s Independent
Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining
Developments, a backlash from graziers and outback National Party
stalwarts plus a wall of opposition from environmentalists concerned
about the threat to the basin’s water table and endangered species.
Lock the Gate’s Drew Hutton, a former Greens parliamentary
candidate, rejects the Newman government’s environmental conditions
placed on the mining operation saying that they are based on “flawed
Newman remained defiant, at least in public, telling reporters on ABC Radio’s PM in May last year, “I said famously, or infamously, that we are in the coal business. I again reiterate that today.”
But amid growing questions about the funding arrangement
secretly reached with Adani, Newman’s re-election strategists switched
from outback coal to casinos in the party’s Brisbane heartland.
On Christmas Eve The Courier-Mail splashed with a front-page “exclusive”: “Icon in the sky: Amazing race to transform Brisbane”.
“Brisbane’s CBD will be transformed by a multibillion-dollar
landmark casino and resort featuring premium hotels, theatres,
department stores, restaurants and a new cross-river bridge,” Steven
The advertising puff posing as news was given almost a full
page inside: “New city on the cards — First glimpse at casino plans to
transform Brisbane’s heart”.
Two developers bidding for the scheme — Echo Entertainment,
owner of Sydney’s Star City at Darling Harbour, and James Packer’s Crown
Group — inserted full-page advertisements in the same edition to
promote their rival bids. And the paper helpfully carried an editorial
supporting the gambling invasion: “Queen’s Wharf plans crucial”.
The Labor opposition led by Annastacia Palaszczuk is starved
of oxygen as the LNP carpet bombs newspaper, radio and television with
Labor holds only one ace (or is it a Joker?): Tony Abbott.
The Prime Minister is loathed in Queensland as fiercely as in the other
states and territories and the Coalition’s standing is further damaged
by the presence of Queenslanders in Team Abbott such as Attorney-General
George Brandis and new Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, a former drug
In summary, Queenslanders will face a strictly limited
choice on January 31: vote for coal and casinos or vote against Newman