The Labor Party’s Queensland leader Annastacia Palaszczuk told a stunned nation on Saturday night that there would be no asset sales for Queensland and that she wanted to reunite the state and bring Queenslanders “back together”.

By close of business it was still too early to call a decisive victory in the state election, but Palaszczuk said she expected to form government. By Sunday morning the headlines were clear – it was a catastrophic loss for Campbell Newman’s Liberal National Party and an historic win for the ALP, with a swing that trounced Newman’s landslide victory only three years ago. Not even the bookies saw it coming. Sportingbet had the LNP to win at the short odds of $1.12 and $6 for Labor.

The latest count from polling booths had ALP at 44 seats and LNP at 33, with the ALP forecast to pick up 45 or 46 seats. But from the earliest exit polls it looked like destruction for the LNP. One seat during the night had a swing reaching into the low 20s.

A seismic shift

Former federal treasurer Wayne Swan told ABC television’s coverage the election was a seismic shift in Australian politics.

Certainly this is the electorate speaking loudly about a government they don’t like. Call it people power or something to do with the 24-hour news cycle and “electronic graffiti”. Either way this result looks like awakening giant that’s starting to get the hang of its immense power.

Right now the giant on a rampage. It dumped the Victoria Coalition after just one term in office. It’s forcing the federal government to dump policy after policy, and that’s just through a few bad headlines and focus groups. And it might yet claim the scalp of the prime minister Tony Abbott after one too many gaffes, namely the knighthood he awarded to Queen Elizabeth’s husband, which has turned anger into ridicule.


It’s hard to tell how much of the anger in Queensland general electorate came from the Newman Government’s attacks on the environment and climate agenda – certainly some – but there was clear fury about policies seen as socially and economically harsh, unfair or biased. What’s interesting is how each of these strands of poor behavior seem to run together. As we like to say, sustainability  is not something you can switch on and off. You can’t have a sustainable economy without a sustainable social and environmental framework, sooner or later the part of the three legged stool that’s faulty will bring the whole thing tumbling down.

In Queensland one issue among many that Newman was heavily criticised for was the massive spending cuts and the slashing of 14,000 public service jobs as soon as he took office, when the state was already suffering. The economic thinking that has evolved in the wake of the GFC is that slashing an economy too far when it’s on its knees will only make things worse. Like killing the goose that lays the golden egg.


Greece learned this in its recent election, with a landslide win to the left, which is opposing vicious cuts that have done nothing to turn the economy around, contrary to some expectations. But in the wake of the GFC is an awakening that everyone needs to act together to share the burden of recovery. What one recent visitor to his ancestral homeland told us, is that progressive thinking in Greece now advocates the need to pay taxes and behave more ethically.

“It’s not cool to not pay your taxes; you need to do your part,” he said.

In other words, if it’s true that we need to tighten our belts – economically or in how we treat the planet – voters are perfectly capable of understanding and agreeing to act. What they need, however, is to see that it’s fair, and equitable.

We don’t know if the new government in Greece – or anywhere in Australia – will succeed in uniting the populace in shared responsibility, but that’s the thinking and where we need to aim for.

Queensland – don’t mention the “green” words

In Queensland’s sustainability sector at least, there is sophisticated understanding that there has to be balance and holistic thinking. So there was much seething anger that Newman had deliberately targeted for axing any programs and policies that supported a green agenda, and that the very words “sustainability”, “climate change” and “green” were banned – actually; not even metaphorically.

The Green Building Council

Certainly the Green Building Council seemed totally frustrated with the policies of the government in Queensland.

On Friday night it finally received answers from the two main parties on what their attitudes to a green agenda would be if they won office.

According to the GBCA the Labor Party said:

  • We will commit to working towards achieving Green Star ratings for Government-owned buildings
  • We will audit the Queensland Government office accommodation to determine where improvements can be made
  • We will work with industry to encourage the uptake of practices that will enhance sustainability

“In summary – a strong commitment to a more sustainable built environment,” the GBCA noted.

By contrast the Liberal National Party said:

  • We will continue to deliver our long-term economic plan
  • Our goal is to have a world best practice construction industry in Queensland
  • We’ll keep growing a four pillar economy focusing on agriculture, construction, resources and tourism

“In summary – maintaining their current stance, without setting sustainability objectives for the businesses and people of Queensland,” the GBCA said.

According to Tim Buckley, director of energy finance studies, Australasia, for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said a Labor win would have implications for coal and the Great Barrier Reef campaign.

The ALP has committed to remove state subsidies for the Galilee coal and associated rail projects, banning Reef dumping and to ensure no dredging is undertaken at Abbot Point prior to financial close on any project, he said.

“This election result will return the focus of Adani’s A$15 billion Carmichael coal mine plus associated rail and port infrastructure proposal to the key questions of financial viability and strategic logic in the face of the structural decline of seaborne thermal coal markets.”

He said the Queensland Labor Party has committed to:

  • Ban the sea dumping of capital dredge spoil within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area
  • Not supporting the plan to dump dredge spoil from Abbot Point onto the Caley Valley Wetlands
  • Ensure that dredging does not go ahead until Adani has demonstrated its project has financial close
  • A comprehensive climate change policy to manage stewardship of the Great Barrier Reef
  • Repeal the Newman Government’s water laws
  • Not spending taxpayer money to build a private rail line for a private commercial project… “Labor will not do any secret deals.”

Time for denial is over

What is clear from an environmental and climate point of view  is that the time of scorching denial is coming to an end. You can suppress reason, logic and evidence, but only for so long.

Ordinary people in the street are starting to “get” climate change. It’s showing up in surveys. And they certainly get the other type of unsustainability, the free ride they can see handed out to some sectoral interest groups, while they themselves are belittled and hear they are “leaners” and undeserving.

The people of Queensland clearly didn’t agree with the LNP line of thinking.

Just like Peter Finch in the film Network, they sent a powerful message that will ricochet around the nation: “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.”

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  1. Ah, yes. Another Government of simplistic policy formulations has got the boot. But the real change we need is one of attitude and behaviour – from us all. The problem is, this is far more difficult and challenging than just throwing governments in and out on election days.

    The austerity forced on Greece came ultimately from their own doing – not paying taxes, bloating the public service, embedding corruption.

    Will Australia have to go through a similar regime of forced austerity before we too face up to the fact that we have been “living high on the hog” for probably longer than we can afford – environmentally, socially and economically – regardless of what government we choose next time around?

  2. A Queensland Labor victory is music to our ears for the simple, but wonderful, fact that they are going to manage an action plan that would see an increase in the number of buildings becoming greener. We have been knocking on the Queensland Government’s door for the last year to tell them all about our initiative, SEE Sustainable Experience, which will help Queenslanders be more sustainable in their building practices and we got as far as the reception desk.