Just as we got through one referendum, another is (back) on the table.
A group of North Queensland MPs have reinvigorated an age-old debate by calling for a referendum on the formation of a new state of North Queensland.
Federal Member for Dawson, George Christensen says that an independent top end would mean policies and government more attuned to the individual needs of North Queenslanders.
“We could have a state that… actually spends the mining royalties money, or at least a large proportion of it, in the areas that it’s taken from,” he says.
According to Mr Christensen only 0.5 per cent of royalties funding is actually being delivered back to the North Queensland communities from where it is taken.
“Right now we’re being told what we can and can’t do here by a government that is located 1000 km plus from where we live, and it’s a government that’s beholden to capital city interests,” he says.
“And in most cases those capital city interests are not aligned with our interests at all.
The calls for a referendum have found support with the newly-installed Minister for Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, who agrees that the debate has legs given the size of the country.
Supporters of the split contend that dividing Queensland will promote democracy by downscaling political jurisdictions.
The discussion rears its head at a time when internal disruptions raise predictions of a leadership coup within the Queensland Labor Party.
But debates surrounding the future of state leadership have people like Mr Christensen concerned about the interests of North Queensland.
“We’ve got an inner-city Brisbane MP Jackie Trad who wants to put in place laws that control what farmers can and can’t do on their own land, so essentially she’s working to ensure that there will never be expansion of agriculture in North Queensland,” he says.
“A new state in the north could be a boom state and turn around a lot of the ill fortunes of our communities.”
Mr Christensen says a referendum should give North Queenslanders exclusive voting rights on the issue.
“The people of the north deserve a fair hearing on this, and a group of influential state, federal and local government leaders would be well placed to push for a referendum on the formation of a new state of North Queensland.”