REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: North by Northwest: a thriller fit for Queensland

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In Mount Isa on Day 1 of the election campaign are (L-R): ALP Traeger candidate James Bambrick, treasurer Cameron Dick, Incitec Pivot's Peter Ware, premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Glencore' Matt O'Neill.

In Mount Isa on Day 1 of the election campaign are (L-R): ALP Traeger candidate James Bambrick, treasurer Cameron Dick, Incitec Pivot's Peter Ware, premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Glencore' Matt O'Neill.

The day Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk issued the writs to formally declare the election campaign open, she was expected to travel to the key marginal seats in North Queensland.

Where she wasn't expected to go on day one was to the safest seat in the furthest part of the state from Brisbane, Mount Isa in north-west Queensland, but that's exactly what she did.

Mount Isa is in the seat of Traeger (named for Alfred Traeger, the inventor of the pedal-powered radio, which proved vital to the founding of the Royal Australian Flying Doctor Service in nearby Cloncurry).

The seat sprawls much of inland northern Queensland from the NT border to Charters Towers near Townsville and was comfortably won in 2017 by Robbie Katter with 66 per cent of the vote - a massive 50 per cent clear of Labor in second place.

Labor could not possibly hope to win Traeger this time round - if anything Mr Katter's position has strengthened since that election, named as Katter's Australian Party leader in place of his dad Bob Katter. (In case you are worried, Bob hasn't stayed quiet and is still out there claiming the LNP and the Greens have struck an election deal that somehow invokes Mein Kampf, in what might be styled "Bob Win's Law").

A debate of Traeger candidates was civilised and had broad agreement on the issues affecting the region, but Traeger will likely be one of the first seats called on October 31, and not for Labor - so why start a knife-edge campaign there?

Puzzling on this for In Queensland, Brisbane pundit Madonna King saw it purely as the need to seek the vote of one person rather than an entire electorate.

That was the vote of Robbie Katter himself.

She suggested the Premier was trying to woo Mr Katter in the event of a hung parliament, despite both major parties ruling out deals with the minor parties (humbug promises we can safely ignore whenever a falling-short-of-victory push comes to forming-a-workable-government shove)

There is merit in Ms King's argument but it doesn't tell the whole story.

Robbie Katter makes his pitch at the Traeger candidates forum.

Robbie Katter makes his pitch at the Traeger candidates forum.

As well as doing media, Ms Palaszczuk was in Mount Isa to meet key mining executives of Glencore (owners of Mount Isa Mines and Cloncurry's Ernest Henry Mines) and Incitec Pivot (the largest producer of fertilisers in Australia, and who own the massive phosphate-producing plant south of the city).

The premier was keen to sign these players up to the CopperString $1.7 billion high-voltage line proposal to link North West Queensland with the National Electricity Market at Townsville 1100km away.

Economic analysis shows that when implemented in 2021 CopperString would have a benefit cost ratio four times that of Inland Rail and the Brisbane Cross River Rail and twice as much as the new Sydney Airport.

Importantly, it would bring cheaper energy prices to miners in the region and could potentially spark off a new mining boom and deliver lots of new jobs.

That's why the premier stood outside the Mount Isa copper smelter to announce the government had signed an implementation agreement with CopperString to underwrite additional multi-million-dollar development costs, including completing the environmental impact study.

CopperString is also expected to announce soon it has signed Development Support Agreements with five foundation customers including Glencore and Incitec Pivot.

This is music to the premier's ears especially if it can save seats in places like Townsville which have suffered a downturn since the collapse of the last mining boom in 2013.

The premier also used the backdrop to remind voters that she had also just signed off on an undisclosed sum to keep the Mount Isa copper smelter and Townsville copper refinery open saving 1000 jobs.

It is good news for local MP Robbie Katter too and Ms Palaszczuk may well need his vote come November 1.

But for now she is looking north by north west with her eye on the main prize - the thousands of marginal voters in northern cities that will determine whether she or the LNP's Deb Frecklington will command the largest number of seats in the new parliament.

That achieved, plus the advantage of incumbency, would ensure that she remains Premier of Queensland for the next four years.

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