Even before the new Queensland Cabinet has been sworn in – or even announced – the Government has placed economic rebuilding at the top of its agenda.
Quite rightly, as COVID-19 has left the State with a record debt and Australia’s highest rate of unemployment.
On the plus side of the ledger, the Government has a full four years and an increased majority in which to achieve our recovery.
The Premier elect has indicated that the recovery will rely on heavy lifting by regional Queensland and industries like agriculture, resources, and tourism which underpin those communities.
And regional Queensland – which supported the ALP in the election based on assurances about investment in local jobs and economic growth – will expect those commitments to be honoured.
Agriculture is uniquely positioned to support the rebuild and we are looking for an early and strong engagement with the newly elected Government.
Critical underpinnings that we would expect to see include a comprehensive plan for agriculture and for the regions that includes an integrated long-term water strategy, investment in transport and other critical infrastructure, improved services for the bush, and a re-think of the restrictive and ineffectual environmental legislation that continues to hobble our industry.
Perhaps new State Development Minister Steven Miles’ biggest challenge will be rebuilding mutual trust, respect, and a spirit of collaboration with the industries he will rely on to lead the growth charge.
As Environment Minister, he had oversight of legislation that has hit these industries, in particular primary producers, very hard.
In particular, the vegetation management laws, Reef regulations and standards, the Wild (now Pristine) Rivers legislation, protected plants trigger mapping, and the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study, or SLATS.
These measures – based on theory and ideology, not good science – were largely introduced to appease radical, city-centric special interest groups without genuine consultation with those they will impact.
These laws have done – and continue to do – enormous damage to many rural and regional industries, and the families and communities who stake their livelihoods on them.
Perhaps Minister Miles’ view on this legislation may change now his focus is on rebuilding these industries and encouraging future growth.
As with anything, only time will tell. But the regional communities who placed their trust in Labour to deliver the recovery will be watching with interest. And so will AgForce.