Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's Labor government is in trouble. The state election must be held before May 5, 2018, and there's increasing speculation it will be called any day now. Like any election, this one is going to be all about jobs.
The ALP is currently behind in the two party preferred standings by 52 percent to 48, according to latest polling. It won government with just 51.1 percent of the vote in 2015, so it has never enjoyed the comfort of governing without looking over its shoulder.
Palaszczuk has kept a super close eye on marginal seats in her time in power. And it just so happens that several of those seats are in the zone where economic activity would theoretically be boosted by the construction of Adani's proposed Carmichael coal mine.
The ABC's Four Corners on Monday night argued that Adani is not quite the immaculate corporate citizen it claims to be. The program contained allegations of bribery, fraud, money laundering, shell companies linked to Caribbean tax havens, and more.
Meanwhile, reports have shown the proposed mine does not add up on the health, environmental or even the financial front. No major bank is yet to come near the project.
The mine could imperil the Great Barrier Reef in the short term via shipping from the Abbot Point Coal Terminal near the Whitsunday Islands, while the indirect effects of climate change caused by burning fossil fuels like coal are already harming the reef over the long term.
There are also huge concerns over ground water upon which local graziers depend.
Yet the Queensland Premier has effectively put out the red carpet to Adani to develop a vast, dirty new coal reserve. Why?
Jobs, that's why.
As it happens, the "10,000 jobs" which Palaszczuk continually claims the mine will create, have in fact been shown to be fewer than 1,500 by Queensland's own Land Court. But there is an issue of perception at play here. The Premier simply has to be seen to be batting for regional Queensland, especially with four key swing electorates surroundingthe proposed mine site.
Here is the list of electorates near the proposed mine site, and the margin by which they are held. These 10 electorates either border the mine site, or are located in nearby areas where economic stimulus could be expected to flow on. (The seats are listed alphabetically.)
- Burdekin (LNP 5.76%)
- Gregory (LNP safe)
- Hinchinbrook (LNP safe)
- Mackay (ALP safe)
- Mirani (ALP 9.64%)
- Mundginburra (ALP 5.52%)
- Thuringowa (ALP 11.08%)
- Townsville (ALP 11.38%)
- Traeger (new seat in redistribution, formerly Mt Isa)
- Whitsunday (LNP (0.7%)
The Labor Party currently holds power by the barest margin in the 89 seat state parliament. There has been a redistribution since the 2015 election and there are now 93 seats.
The Premier cannot afford to lose any of the seats it holds. And while none of the seats listed above are held on a wafer thin margin, the key point is this. The seats in bold -- Mundginburra, Townsville, Thuringowa and Mirani -- all changed hands last election, and all went to the ALP with a swing of about 10 percent.
But there is little ironed-on loyalty for the ALP in these areas. If the swings are reversed, at least three of the four seats will revert back to the LNP, which would make it almost impossible for the ALP to hold power.
That, right there, is a pretty good indication why Annastacia Palaszczuk appears to have minimal interest in the environmental or other negative effects of what would be the biggest new mine built in Australia in 50 years.