ANALYSIS: Voters want economic security

 

ANALYSIS: Certainty around coal and the mining industry will dictate how Mackay residents number the boxes at the polling booth next month.

While there is a vocal section of the community with grave concerns over the future of the Great Barrier Reef and the tourism industry, talk on the street is about security for the region's economic future.

The voters in Dawson and Capricornia spent four or five years going through a mining downturn that impacted not just miners but anyone in small business, property and even unrelated industries.

People will vote with their hip pockets for what they perceive to be job security, opportunities for their children and prosperity for the region.

There is also a lot of anger at the State Government for its lack of support for Adani and opening up the Galilee Basin, vegetation management, reef regulations and seafood quotas. This could filter through at a federal level.

As two of the most marginal seats in the country at 3.4 per cent and 0.6 per cent respectively, incumbent Nationals MPs George Christensen and Michelle Landry certainly have their work cut out for them.

 

Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, was in Mackay yesterday to announce funding for the Palmyra Dragway.
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry announcing funding for the Palmyra Dragway. Callum Dick

As three extra candidates sneaked in before the ballot paper order was drawn last week to make nine candidates in each electorate straddling Mackay, the biggest danger for both is the dilution of their core voters to the minor parties.

Candidates for Pauline Hanson's One Nation, Clive Palmer's United Australia Party, Katter's Australian Party, Fraser Anning's Conservative National Party and the pro-life Democratic Labor Party likely will all claw away crucial votes from the incumbents.

 

Ann-Maree Ware, Dawson candidate for the Democratic Labour Party.
Ann-Maree Ware, Dawson candidate for the Democratic Labour Party. Contributed

Rather than secure a lower house seat for one of these parties - though these regions may help them secure Senate seats - they might just push the vote in Labor's favour. But preferences or protest votes against the major parties could throw the seat wide open.

While the Member for Manila stories about incumbent George Christensen's travel to the Philippines will no doubt do some damage, the national stories do not seem to be cutting through in Mackay. They have not generated an obvious anti-George mood, with sign wavers getting more toots and thumbs up than boos and insults thrown at them.

 

Marty Bella speaking at the pro-coal event: Marty Bella speaking at the Resource Industry Network counter-rally in support of coal mining.
Marty Bella speaking at the pro-coal event: Marty Bella speaking at the Resource Industry Network counter-rally in support of coal mining.

In staunch support of coal mining, the three-term MP stood proudly in his #Start Adani shirt at a For the Future of Our Region rally in Mackay on Saturday morning before heading out to Clermont to do the same, as Bob Brown's anti-Adani convoy made its way through the region.

 

Mick Crowe speaking at the For the Future of Our Regions rally: Mick Crowe from G&S Engineering speaking at the For the Future of Our Regions rally
Mick Crowe speaking at the For the Future of Our Regions rally: Mick Crowe from G&S Engineering speaking at the For the Future of Our Regions rally

The Resource Industry Network - a Mackay-based advocacy group that organised a counter rally in the same block in the city's heart as the convoy - has asked candidates across Dawson and Capricornia to pledge their support for companies developing new thermal and metallurgical coal mines in Australia.

Colin Thompson (UAP), George Christensen (LNP) and Brendan Bunyan (KAP) have all done so.

 

Colin's greatest pride comes from Family with wife of 31 years, and two children. Colin started his working career as a Fitter & Turner and progressed through into senior management roles, and particularly within the last 14 years has been heavily involved with manufacturing, sugar, power & mining industries. Colin considers he is a person of broad vocational experience and firmly believes success comes through the collaboration of many, rather than the qualifications of one.
United Australia Party candidate for Dawson Colin Thompson.

Not a single candidate from Capricornia has responded to the Mackay push, which fits with a feeling of neglect for many Mackay constituents.

A large portion of the Mackay population falls into Capricornia, but many voters feel candidates focus too much on Rockhampton.

It's easy to see why.

Just one example is the Daily Mercury's daily Q&A page with candidates, where some respond with answers about Rockhampton to a Mackay audience.

It either shows ignorance or ambivalence to their northern constituents who do not give a toss what happens in Rockhampton.

Some parties, mostly Clive Palmer's candidates and sometimes Labor, respond with the same words for both electorates on the same page.

 

Clive Palmer, flanked by Dawson candidate Colin Thompson, arrives at the pro-coal event in Mackay on Saturday April 27.
Clive Palmer, flanked by Dawson candidate Colin Thompson, at a rally in Mackay on Saturday to counter Bob Brown's anti-Adani convoy. Emma Murray

While most candidates spell out to Mercury readers how they would tackle an issue, Labor regularly wastes words attacking the incumbents for perceived wrongs instead of convincing voters they can effect change.

But Queensland Labor has pulled some timely rabbits out of the hat since the campaign began and kindly allowed Belinda Hassan to play a role.

A new mine with 950 jobs in the Bowen Basin and 350 jobs at an aquaculture farm near Bowen, the latter an excellent example of ways we can diversify the economy and job market in the region.

 

Mark Cielens, Belinda Hassan and Bill Shorten view plans for Harrup Park's Great Barrier Reef Arena.
Mark Cielens, Belinda Hassan and Bill Shorten view plans for Harrup Park's Great Barrier Reef Arena. ANGELA SENG

Plus Bill Shorten swooped in last week with a $5 million promise at Harrup Park, one of Mackay's premier sporting destinations.

But similar to the battle faced in Capricornia, on a recent Belinda Hassan Facebook post one constituent asked: "What about Townsville jobs? You do realise a small portion of Townsville is in your electorate? It is ludicrous. I am forced to vote in Dawson and not Herbert when I live in Townsville ... not Mackay."

 

One Nation candidate for Dawson Deb Lawson with Senator Pauline Hanson.
One Nation candidate for Dawson Deb Lawson with Senator Pauline Hanson in Mackay on Friday. Janessa Ekert

One Nation MP Stephen Andrew winning the state seat of Mirani shows this region is happy to send a message they are disgruntled through a protest vote.

These two seats could be anyone's game, but the pro-mining candidates are likely to get the lion's share of the votes.