Progressive candidates in the Queensland election

Rob Pyne, Kamala Emanuel, Amy McMahon
November 18, 2017

It is difficult to predict the result of the Queensland election on November 25.

Polls continue to indicate a close result between the major parties with a likelihood that preferences will determine the outcome in many seats. Most likely, whichever party forms government will need the support of independents or minor parties.

In this context, Liberal National Party (LNP) leader Tim Nichols, to the disgust of many, has refused to rule out forming government with the support of One Nation. The LNP is preferencing One Nation before Labor in 50 of the 61 seats One Nation is contesting. One Nation, while presenting a populist position — mostly opposing sitting members — has a preference policy that benefits the LNP.

The Greens are running in all 93 seats and are polling strongly, with three seats identified as winnable: South Brisbane, McConnel and Maiwar. Despite this, the Greens were locked out of the November 16 leaders’ debate, while One Nation were let in. Establishment commentary and media coverage have given undue prominence to One Nation, boosting its chances.

Green Left Weekly has canvassed the views of a range of progressive candidates in the Queensland race. Rob Pyne is the independent member for Cairns fighting to retain his seat. Pyne put abortion rights on the agenda in the last term of parliament by moving a private members bill on the issue. He remains the only Queensland politician to have voted against the Adani mine and has done considerable work exposing corruption in local government in Queensland. Amy McMahon is the Greens candidate for South Brisbane with a realistic prospect of unseating deputy premier Jackie Trad. Kamala Emanuel is the Socialist Alliance candidate for McConnel.

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What do you see as the main issues in this election?

Amy McMahon: The main issues are the housing crisis and [the] Adani [coalmine] and political corruption: all the issues that we've seen come out with [local and state government figures] linked to property developers.

The Queens Wharf Casino fits into a broader issue of sustainable property development and also ties into this question of political donations. We know that the developers have donated to both Labor and the LNP and then we end up with a project that no one really knows about, no one's really been consulted, no one really wants. We've just been told what is going to happen.

Kamala Emanuel: First, we need to stop the Adani coalmine for many reasons, including: climate change; the coal pollution damaging the Great Barrier Reef; the misuse of public funds to support a dodgy private corporation; and to respect the wishes of traditional owners.

A second issue I'm campaigning on is the issue of abortion decriminalisation. It is more than 100 years since abortion was made a crime in Queensland and it's well past time that it should no longer be a crime. Twinned to that is the issue of making abortion available to pregnant women who need abortion. So it should be available for free through the public system.

Finally, we need a big expansion of public housing and other measures to deal with housing affordability. Housing should be a right.

Rob Pyne: There are a lot of issues [in Cairns] around the cost of living, insurance and electricity. But unfortunately the LNP and the Labor party in Cairns have framed the debate around juvenile justice.

But I'm much more focused on things like improving health care. We've got so many people on long-term waiting lists, people waiting in agony who can't get medical treatment. So health care is a big issue, as is housing.

Climate change and climate justice are also issues. That's very important to Cairns. Cairns is a low-lying city. We earn our income in large part from tourism dependent on the Great Barrier Reef and with the “weak response” to climate change — including the Adani mine — I'm calling for a much more robust response to climate change which is in opposition to the Adani mine and I would love to work with Amy McMahon on that.

What are your priorities if elected?

McMahon: My priorities are housing and investment in affordable housing. There are 29,000 people on the social housing waiting list, some who have been on that list for nearly 15 years. Many of these people are people with specific needs, people with disabilities who need particular facilities in housing. But it is bordering on criminal negligence of successive governments that we have a social housing waiting list that is so long. This is a deep shame, a contravention of human rights here in Queensland.

Certainly Adani is on the top of my list. We know this is another example of the power of the fossil fuel lobby in Australia. That this big multinational mining company has been allowed to get so far is reflective of a really broken political system.

The other big issue for me is disability rights.

Emanuel: I'd prioritise the issues I mentioned earlier. Other things that we need to work on include negotiating just treaties with Aboriginal Nations of this country. We need to change the date for Australia Day [and take other measures] to win justice for Aboriginal people.

We also need to urgently solve the crisis on Manus Island with all the refugees in Australia's care. For that reason, it's important that the state governments speak out to put pressure on the federal government by offering to settle refugees here.

In addition, we need to reverse the privatisations that have taken place by previous governments.

What is your attitude to the formation of government?

Pyne: In politics it all comes down to the numbers. I would love nothing more than if Labor was two short of government and Amy [McMahon] and I had to engage in some negotiations. That would be a real opportunity for change.

I remain concerned about corruption in government administration. I'd like to see a royal commission into corruption in government administration and I'm happy to negotiate with the government on that. I don't want to see the Adani mine proceed at all, but I'd want [as a minimum] a commitment from the government that they are going to remove any subsidies, royalty holidays, infrastructure assistance and special infrastructure status [to Adani]. These things are artificial to the market to enable a project that is not viable to succeed so I'd want the government to commit itself to no longer putting those sorts of propositions forward.

McMahon: The Greens have said that we wouldn't support an LNP government and obviously we wouldn't support One Nation. We have said that if it comes to it, we would be looking to negotiate with Labor, but we've got a number of issues that we'd bring to the negotiating table. And because the Greens are a grassroots party, this would obviously have to be a discussion with the membership and the broader community.

But I would think that Adani is at the top of the list [and more broadly] making sure we have no new coalmines in Queensland; urgently housing the 29,000 people on public housing waiting lists; banning corporate donations; renters’ rights; and reforming the public transport sector.

Emanuel: Socialists don't have faith in either capitalist party to make laws in favour of working people. But we do think it makes a difference which one is in power, so we recommend people preference Labor before the LNP and, if our vote in parliament made the difference, we'd consider offering conditional support to the ALP. We see the popular opposition in trade unions and social movements as the more viable way to win change, so our role in parliament would be to use the parliamentary platform to help strengthen those grassroots campaigns while building the momentum for a genuinely progressive government.

What is your response to the media focus on One Nation?

Pyne: Unfortunately there are many people in Queensland who are disaffected with the major parties and they feel the only way they can voice that disaffection is by voting for One Nation. I'm saying there is a better alternative, a more progressive alternative.

When you see ridiculous comments made [by One Nation] about safe schools and these sorts of initiatives, what the media do is they report the myth and the response of Steve Dickson and they give airtime to a false proposition from One Nation.

McMahon: One Nation appeal to the kind of media climate we find ourselves in, where we have a very stretched media that is interested in stories of conflict and sensational stories. They're getting undue attention because the LNP has left the door open to doing a deal with One Nation. In that regard, they could be a pretty active player in the parliament if they get members up. So they could be in quite a powerful position. By the same token the Greens could be in quite a powerful position on the other side.

It was really disappointing that the Greens were excluded from the [leaders'] debate. The Greens are fielding more candidates than One Nation and The Greens are polling quite well.

Emanuel: One Nation is getting much more publicity than the alternatives on the left. I think this is because the establishment wants any dissatisfaction to be expressed on the right, not the left. They know that One Nation does not challenge their interests at all and in fact ends up reinforcing the status quo while taking politics to the right. That's what makes it so important to see through the distortions of the media and actually build the progressive alternative.

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