Once again, conservative Queensland voices stand alone and well apart from the madding crowd. While almost every other political body in Australia is acting as if the only cure to the coronavirus is the accumulation of debt, Queensland’s right walk a different path.
Thanks to the current Labor government, the Sunshine State lurched into the global pandemic (panic-demic?) under the weight of nearly $90 billion of state debt. For comparison, New South Wales entered it with a whopping $26 billion debt off the back of some heavy infrastructure spending.
While $26 billion makes big spenders of a conservative government, $90 billion is but a trifle to a Labor government.
As more pandemic debt now accumulates, Queenslanders are very quickly reaching a point where a return to surplus is unachievable. The state government may soon be unable to make its debt repayments and continue to provide the services Queensland needs.
The Queensland economy was not built to carry such debt. What economy is?
The only hope Queensland has of a return to serviceable debt levels is to build a new economic engine. This may well prick the ears of millennials hoping for something that vaguely exposes the virtues of ‘tech’ or ‘start-ups’ but the more reliable answer is something far more mundane; productivity.
While Australia is blessed with very competitive productivity levels across many sectors, we also are blessed with a sizeable gap between us and the world leaders. Gains are there to be made simply by following the examples of others and from there who knows what Australian ingenuity can achieve.
Queensland’s agriculture industry is the perfect place to start. With enormous supplies of agricultural land and deep veins of on-the-ground experience, Brisbane can confidently turn to the Bush to deliver.
There is fertile ground to be covered by an agricultural productivity push. Water security, energy costs, education and training, red-tape reduction and improved trade relations can all combine to turn Queensland’s vast farming industries into the state’s saviour.
We are already internationally recognised as a high-quality producer and our proximity to expanding Asian and Sub-Continental markets is the envy of the West.
New train lines in Brisbane, like Cross River Rail, will make no difference to the state’s productivity levels. Neither will reducing the capacity of water storage, as Labor intends at Paradise Dam.
The LNP’s push for a new Bradfield Scheme has yet to excite the electorate or explain to Brisbane voters why putting new infrastructure in the bush matters to them. But it is a step in the right direction.
The cure to Queensland’s coronavirus debt is increased productivity in our agricultural sector. Queensland’s conservatives must see this through.
Editor’s note, October 27: Garth Hamilton was preselected as the LNP candidate for the forthcoming Groom federal by-election last night.
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