As the dawn of 2020 rests just days away, it is time to contemplate what a new year will bring. I'm hoping for a momentous rainfall event across our parched land.
It also marks the next state election in Queensland. The mind ponders as to what the plethora of parties will put on the agenda as constituents again march the path towards the election booth, democracy sausage in one hand, hopes and aspirations for their state in the other.
I am a firm believer in the benefits of competitive federalism for a number of reasons. Our great federated Commonwealth allows for competition and efficiency to be driven by different state jurisdictions. It allows people and businesses to vote with their feet, moving freely to the state of greater opportunity. Finally federalism has been proven to deliver stable government and encourages legislative determination across dominions.
Since Governor Bowen sailed down the Brisbane River declaring separation from New South Wales in 1859, Queensland has had a strong sense that its prosperity has been built on its competitive uniqueness. Its people and leaders have dared to be different, from it being the only colony to commence with its own parliament to becoming the only state jurisdiction to remove its second house. Queenslanders have long known that effective, strong, small government is the solution to delivering for this large and developing home of opportunity.
The Sunshine State initially encouraged development and freedom. It remains pertinent to the fact that more Queenslanders live beyond its capital limits than any other state. The wide brown lands of promise led people north from the southern states beleaguered by bureaucracy in the early days in search of better gold prospecting conditions or to open pastoral lands. In the latter years it was for the booming economy or to escape the oppression of death duties.
In fact, the Bjelke-Petersen government's removal of death duties in 1977 is one of the nation's greatest illustrations of competitive federalism. It not only inspired a population and business boom to the state but competitively led to all other states removing such taxes by 1984.
There are some that actively promote the idea of abolishing the states, proclaiming they are just irreverent boundaries drawn across the continent by meandering British explorers. The argument is typically driven by the belief that our small nation of some 25 million is over-governed and we need to remove a layer.
Evidence points to the opposite being true; good government is local at its heart yet large enough to affect change. Of the many nations around the globe, only a handful have survived the evolutions of the 20th century unscathed. Australia, Canada, the United States and Switzerland are candidates, all of which happen to be federations. The reality is that great states build greater nations, a notion the modern major population powers of China and India have recently embraced.
Anyone proclaiming the abolition of states should look at the impossible pathway to success. The very fact that our nation is a Commonwealth of states makes it almost constitutionally impossible for the concept to succeed. The referendum rules dictate a triple majority is required where the nation and every single state would have to vote in favour of the change. With the current referendum strike rate of 8 to 44, you do the math.
There is more likely success of a state leaving the Commonwealth as WA attempted in 1933 or more states being created such as the New England or North Queensland, which have held ambitions since 1901.
Unfortunately as the next decade dawns, Queensland is not in the competitive ranking it deserves. The 2019 State of the States reports places the home of sunshine in a lowly fifth position. A ranking below Tasmania and the ACT should have any true Maroon calling for a revolution. The unemployment rate is the second highest in the nation and the economic indicators of retail spending, investment and construction rest in the bottom half.
So while the various contenders to lead our state will throw options aplenty at the voters on the path to election day, from hosting the Olympics, building a dam network or allowing everyone to own a lever action shot gun, I ask you to evaluate the actions that will truly make our state competitive and drive change across the land. These should be bold competitive strikes against the other states. Eliminate payroll tax, suspend stamp duty or drastically drop electricity prices. Buy back into the build it and they will come mantra that our forefathers knew.
We all know how well the word Queenslander belts across a sea of maroon at Lang Park - its high time this state used a few such tactics in the business and political sphere to again dominate the southern pack.
- Bryce Camm, Camm Agricultural Group, Wonga Plains Feedlot