By Bill Mason
BRISBANE — Law and order and the environment are becoming the main battlegrounds over which the Queensland state election on July 15 is being fought.
Labor and the National-Liberal Coalition are competing over who has the strongest law-and-order policies.
Premier Wayne Goss has promised an extra 2000 police, expanded prisons and even a plan to ban the sale of spray-paint cans to under 18-year-olds!
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman said the ALP policy, allegedly aimed at tackling the graffiti problem, was just "silly politics".
"It's yet another indication that we're moving along the lines of the law and order auction which featured in the NSW state election.
"If you line this up with putting police in high schools, it represents the scapegoating of young people for society's problems that are very complex."
Opposition leader Rob Borbidge has proposed stationing a police officer in every high school, together with a tougher sentencing policy, more prisons and so on.
On the environment, the competition between the two main party blocs has led to friction within the green movement.
On June 28, Goss announced a plan to create the nation's largest wilderness area by forming a conservation zone covering the entire east coast of Cape York Peninsula, some 1200km in length.
The next day, Borbidge laid out the Coalition's plan to cancel the Labor government's controversial South-east Tollway, instead widening the existing Pacific Highway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast to eight lanes — as advocated by the VETO anti-tollway residents' group.
However, the same day a group of six conservation groups, led by Rainforest Conservation Society president Aila Keto, announced full support for the ALP over the Coalition, saying the Green Party had "no alternative" but to give preferences to Labor.
This provoked a storm of protest from some other conservation organisations, including a group of nine groups centred in south-east Queensland, including VETO, the group opposing the Eastlink power line, the Surfriders Foundation, and Australians for Animals.
Queensland Greens spokesperson Drew Hutton said he had received many complaints from conservationists about groups supporting Labor.
"Most are very angry at the Goss government. They've lied, cheated and bullied and people don't trust them", Hutton said on June 30.
While it appears likely the ALP will be returned on July 15, alternative candidates are likely to receive substantial votes.
About 60 people attended HEMP's (Help End Marijuana Prohibition) election launch on June 30 at the Lava Lounge in Paddington. HEMP spokesperson Tony Kneipp called on supporters to oppose Goss' plans to put 2000 extra police on the streets, saying this would only lead to more harassment of dope smokers.
Bernadette Le Goullon, HEMP candidate for the seat of Yeronga, said the election campaign was part of HEMP's broader effort to force the Goss government to end Queensland's archaic marijuana laws.
Green candidates Drew Hutton, Anja Light, Susie Chapman and Lorrelle Saunders addressed about 150 supporters and journalists at the Greens' election launch on July 1 at the School of Arts Theatre in Brisbane. There are 17 Green candidates.
Hutton was sceptical of Goss' promise to protect wilderness on Cape York Peninsula, because Labor has failed to carry out most of its environment promises since winning government in 1989. Hutton also said that the Nationals were "moving from the extreme right to taking a more reasonable approach" on the environment, citing shadow minister for the environment Doug Slack's promise that a Coalition government would prevent effluent being discharged into Moreton Bay.
The Greens' State Council will meet this week to decide on a recommendation to branches on preferences, although each branch will make its own decision.