On 11th August 2010 the Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, ruled out any prospect of a referendum on the formation of a new state for North Queensland. And she did so before the request was formally put to her. This metrocentric Premier, who swore a solemn oath to “well and truly serve” all Queenslanders equally, and without fear or favour, casually and callously denied the right of more than a million Queenslanders to exercise one of the core perogatives enshrined in the UN Charter, that of self determination.
The issue broke the day before with a front page story in Brisbane’s The Courier Mail on a move by 98 of 100 North Queensland Mayors, and backed by Independent Federal Member, Bob Katter, to pursue a referendum on full regional autonomy to take place at the next round of local government elections in 2012. See related post, “Mayors call for new North QLD state”. The online version of the story produced a massive 214 responses http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/north-queensland-mayors-want-to-break-free-from-the-high-growth-areas-of-the-state/story-e6freoof-1225903149382
before it was replaced just after mid-day by another article outlining Deputy Premier Paul Lucas’ reply which ranged from the trivial, through pathetically juvenile, to downright deceptive. http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/origin-and-capital-rivalries-would-sink-plan-to-split-queensland-into-two-states-says-lucas/story-e6freoof-1225903459572
These responses provide both a valid sample size and a valuable qualitative survey. Regionalstates has analysed the responses and the results make it very clear why these centralist, urban chauvinists fear for their increasingly unsustainable status quo. Responses came from all over Queensland with 70.5% favouring major reform. This came from 53% favouring the new state and another 27% wanting to abolish the existing state altogether. Only 16% actually opposed the new state and supported the existing arrangement, with another 9% expressing doubts over the prospects of it succeeding or disputing the viability of the new entity. Another 5% were classed as indifferent to either outcome.
New state supporters were not limited to respondents from North Queensland. There were many supporters from Brisbane who were raised in the north or had spent some time there, and many from central and western parts of the state who didn’t want to be left behind. Many of this group wanted to draw a line from Noosa, out to the range and south, and turn the SE Corner into a “city state”, so the “real Queensland” could get on with their own lives. Others just wanted to hand the SE corner back to NSW and be done with it.
Support also came in what could be described as both positive and negative perspectives with 4.5 per centage points of the supporters being SEQ residents who saw it as the way to get Daylight Saving and another 2.0 per centage points essentially saying “good riddance”.
Those who favoured the abolition of states alltogether were evenly divided between those primarily concerned with too many layers of government and those with a deep contempt for the existing centralised state structure. Most of these people have not considered the practicalities of such a complex rewriting of the federal constitution and appear to have a fixed notion of what a state is or can be. Their ideal outcome of enlarged local/regional government is only a very short distance from a small regional state that may, or may not, absorb local government functions as the ACT Territorial Government has done. It does not appear to have been pointed out to them that creating one or two new states is the easiest way to eliminate the existing one.
What this information makes very clear is the fact that Premier Bligh is not just in abrogation of her oath by denying the core rights of a minority of those she pledged to serve. The initial evidence indicates that she intends to impose a distinctly minority position on the entire community. Her refusal to even allow the community to make a judgement on a matter for which there is specific provision for in both the state and commonwealth constitutions would amount to a very serious abuse of office and the most fundamental breach of public trust.
The merits or otherwise of a new state are no longer the central issue. All Queenslanders need to know if this Premier will remain true to her oath and the constitution and allow the voters themselves to resolve an issue that is for them alone to determine.
See what Goeffrey Blainey had to say at http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/geoffrey-blainey-calls-for-north-queensland-to-be-separate-state/story-e6freoof-1225803589253
There were 136 responses to the Blainey article above and 114 of these enabled a much more detailed analysis than the responses above because they also indicated their place of residence. Some 22 responses were either indifferent, off topic or second responses from the same person.
Those in favour of the new state comprised of 48 (42.1%) outright supporters, (40% of whom were from SEQ, 35% from North Qld and 19% not stated). Another 18 (15.8%) were from SEQ and wanted to split the state so the south east could have daylight saving. Another 6 (5.26%) wanted to abolish states but favoured regional autonomy and another 2 (from SEQ) basically said “good riddance” for a total of 74/114 (64.9%) who supported the new state.
Of those who rejected it, 16 (14%) wanted to abolish states altogether in favour of enhanced local government and these could be classed as uninformed supporters who simply do not understand that a small state is the same as an enhanced local government. Some 11/16 of this group were from SEQ and inclusion of these people brought total support to 78.9%).
Only 25 (20%) respondents could be classed as against the new state. Of these 68% were from SEQ, 20% didn’t indicate where from and only 2 were from North Qld and 1 from out of state.
Of the total responses, 62% were from SEQ which matches the population distribution of the current state, 17.5% were from North and Central Qld and 15% not stated.
Conclusion, support for an independent North Qld is just as strong in SEQ as it is in the north.