socials at stadium
socials at stadium

Treasury moves set to cost Palaszczuk power

THE city-centric nature of Queensland politics is going to cost the Palaszczuk Government a swag of regional seats.

Maybe Labor thinks it's got enough seats sewn up in the southeast to win the next state election, because the anti-Labor "vibe'' in north Queensland and the bush is toxic.

No amount of shiny new footy stadiums will bandage up the vote haemorrhaging centred on out-of-control crime - particularly among the youth - and a lack of job creation.

As we now know, you are four times more likely to be assaulted in Cairns than Brisbane and three times more likely to be assaulted in Townsville than Brisbane.

The problem centres around the changes Labor made to the Youth Justice Act which makes it almost impossible for a magistrate to detain juveniles aged under 16.

Only in the most extreme of cases - murder, rape and armed robbery - can a magistrate keep a juvenile behind bars.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk tries a seat prior to the opening of the new Townsville stadium. Picture: Matt Taylor.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk tries a seat prior to the opening of the new Townsville stadium. Picture: Matt Taylor.

The result is a "revolving door'' policy where young thugs are running amok, creating mayhem. My north Queensland spies say it's now at the point where law-abiding citizens are about to take maters into their own hands.

Nobody wants vigilante-style justice, but expect locals to fight back when next confronted with a knife-wielding teenager trying to rob their home. Police Minister Mark Ryan's attempt to blame the judiciary for the crime wave was appalling.

While crime gets the headlines, another significant nation-building project is being left to wither on the vine because of apathy and a distinct lack of goodwill within Treasury.

The Copper String project would provide significantly cheaper electricity to the North Western Minerals Province.

The due diligence has been done. The costings have been done. The job creation, but more importantly, employment protection figures have been done.

The project involves a new power transmission line between Townsville and Mount Isa, effectively halving the cost of power to major minerals companies. Companies in the North Western Minerals Province, which has $400 billion worth of resources still available to extract, pay more for their electricity than companies in the Congo.

My mail is that because of the cost of power in north Queensland, the proprietor of the Townsville copper smelter, Glencore, is assessing the viability of the plant. It had planned to close the smelter in 2017 but, after striking a new deal with the Government, announced it would remain open until 2022.

But my understanding is that all bets are off unless Copper String gets the green light. The power costs associated with running the smelter are crippling the operation at a time when the price of copper is soft.

The Townsville copper smelter directly employs 800 people. If it was to close, the impact on the Townsville economy would be catastrophic, worse than when Clive Palmer closed the nickel refinery in 2016.

For the past decade, the Copper String consortium has been patiently and meticulously working its way through the government approval process, ticking all the legislative and environmental boxes to get it under way.

But there's a roadblock in Treasury and despite Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk saying she was "100 per cent committed'' to the project last week, it seems those who dabble in the dark arts of politics are nobbling Copper String.

Annastacia Palaszczuk and Jackie Trad in state parliament. Picture: Annette Dew
Annastacia Palaszczuk and Jackie Trad in state parliament. Picture: Annette Dew

Thirty per cent of the world's zinc emanates from the North Western Minerals Province and the resources sector is worth about $2 billion to the north's economy.

The Government needs to set a policy position on Copper String. Powering North Queensland was announced in August, 2017, and yet not one dollar of capital investment has been invested by government.

Treasury boffins are overpaid, overrated fat cats. They are playing Treasurer Jackie Trad off a break and even if she wanted Copper String to proceed - and there's a big question mark on that - they've given her the jaundiced fiscal argument to get it torpedoed.

The oft-used narrative from the Labor Government that it's a party for the workers is a myth. That promise is long gone because the Left faction of the ALP is anti-jobs and if they had their way they'd close down mining with the stroke of a pen.

The Left faction provides Australia with our alternative prime minister. In Queensland, the Left leader is Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad. As the coronavirus pandemic starts to bite and we head towards a recession in coming months, job security will be paramount as voters head to the polls on October 31.

It seems Treasurer Trad needs to pull her bureaucrats into line as they once again try to block a project because they have no skin in the game.

The Premier, Ms Palaszczuk, needs to call her Treasury mandarins in and demand action on Copper String.

Why would any government right now be scuttling a project that creates and preserves jobs and reduces power prices?

Only in Queensland.