Immigration policy and the economic value of the Great Artesian Basin are two key areas for one of Queensland’s newer Senate candidates.
He’s not as high profile as Mark Latham but former Blackall grazier and now southern Queensland small business owner, Lloyd Russell has become number two on the Liberal Democrats ticket for Queensland.
Mr Russell, who has already flexed his political muscle as the LDP candidate in the Longman by-election in July, polling 1.9 per cent of the first preference vote from first position on the ballot paper in a field of 11, is one of an ever-expanding range of candidates and parties in advance of the next federal election.
His high profile political leader, Senator David Leyonhjelm, received an advantage from voters who mistook him for a Liberal Party candidate when he first entered politics, and his party leader and running mate, Gabriel Buckley, narrowly missed out on a Senate seat in the 2016 election.
Two areas Mr Russell will be campaigning on are access to a skilled workforce and development surrounding the Great Artesian Basin, saying they were key issues regional Queensland was getting a raw deal from their political representatives on, despite being critical components that would drive economic growth.
He believed that of the two “great” water-based assets Australia has – the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Artesian Basin – the former was receiving a disproportionate amount of federal money when economic multipliers were taken into account.
“While the focus is on surface infrastructure – dams and weirs – I consider the Great Artesian Basin the critical asset that will underpin growth and development in the state,” Mr Russell said, pointing to the August 2016 Frontier Economics report that stated the GAB was worth $12.8b annually in production alone.
“This report did not include the economic value of all the towns and communities that are fully reliant upon the GAB, so this figure could well be in excess of $20b annually without any multiplier effect.
“In the same year Deloitte Access Economics published a report stating the Great Barrier Reef was worth $6.4b annually to the Australian economy, excluding any multiplier effect.”
Putting the two assets into perspective, Mr Russell said the Great Artesian Basin was worth three to four times in direct economic value in comparison with the Great Barrier Reef.
“Yet the amount of R&D funding is completely disproportionate, with the Barrier Reef attracting some $250m annually while the Artesian Basin attracts a paltry $10m annually.
“As a Senate candidate I want to put both major parties on notice that this imbalance cannot continue.”
On the topic of regional skills shortages, he said labour and availability were often raised as he travelled in regional areas, because it impacted on people’s operational and longer term business decisions.
“I want to highlight the party’s immigration policy as it is demand-driven and skills based,” he said. “We in the LDP consider private enterprise, especially in regional Queensland, is completely ignored by the two major party coalitions – Liberal/National and ALP/Greens.”