News National Election like no other: Abortion, coal, coronavirus and climate dominate Queensland poll

Election like no other: Abortion, coal, coronavirus and climate dominate Queensland poll

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington is up against Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in the state election. Photo: ABC News
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The Queensland state election has officially been declared, marking the start of a fierce battle for the top job.

Already, the election is unlike any other.

For the first time in the state’s political history, two women are fighting to be premier as incumbent leader Labor’s Annastacia Palaszczuk faces off against Liberal National Party challenger Deb Frecklington.

Coronavirus will likely dominate the coverage, but it isn’t the only issue.

Coal mines and climate change are expected to be hot topics during the campaign as has already been demonstrated by federal Queensland senator Matt Canavan’s ‘Black Coal Matters’ stunt on Monday.

The Nationals senator came under fire for posting a photo of a ute stamped with the altered phrase in what appeared to be an attempt to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement slogan.

Queenslanders have three-and-a-half weeks to make up their minds before heading to the polls on October 31.

Bob's back! And this time he is on a mission to create 500 jobs at the New Acland Mine. If you want to join Bob's…

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Labor: Annastacia Palaszczuk

Annastacia Palaszczuk is the incumbent Queensland Premier and has held the role since 2015.

If Ms Palaszczuk wins, it’ll be her third term but it won’t come easily.

Her response to the coronavirus pandemic – in particular, shutting Queensland’s border and knocking back heartbreaking requests to attend funerals from interstate travellers – has been equally praised and heavily criticised.

queensland border rules
Annastacia Palaszczuk has come under intense pressure to lift border restrictions. Photo: AAP

Despite the pile-on by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and families who have been separated, she’s sticking to her guns.

Last month, she declared she’d be prepared to “lose the election” before reopening the state’s borders too early and risking an outbreak.

“If it means I have to lose the election, I will risk all that if it means keeping Queenslanders safe,” she told reporters.

“I will always stand up for what I believe to be right in this state.”

After months of keeping coronavirus cases close to zero, the question is whether Queenslanders will reward Ms Palaszczuk for her hard-line approach, or whether they’d be willing to switch leaders.

Liberal National Party: Deb Frecklington

Deb Frecklington is the first female leader of the LNP and has held the regional seat of Nanango since 2012.

Nanango has a long Country Party and National Party history and was the electoral base for the state’s longest-serving premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

Ms Frecklington was elected Opposition Leader weeks after the LNP lost the November 2017 election.

She prides herself on her country roots and is hoping her close ties to regional communities will help snap up crucial votes in marginal seats.

Deb Frecklington is prioritising regional issues in her election campaign. Photo: AAP

Part of this strategy includes approving a controversial coal mining project.

On Monday, Ms Frecklington announced an LNP government would approve the New Acland Stage 3 coal mining project on the Darling Downs.

“This project will generate $7 billion to the economy and support thousands of local jobs,” Ms Frecklington said.

Although support for coal worked a charm for the LNP in last year’s federal election, it remains to be seen if this strategy will work again.

Many farmers and environmentalists want to stop the coal mine from expanding, arguing it will destroy the region’s agricultural values.

How are their chances looking?

Labor has dominated Queensland for decades, holding power for 25 of the past 30 years.

There are 93 seats up for grabs in Queensland’s Legislative Assembly.

Labor currently has 48 seats, and the LNP has 38.

The remaining seven seats belong to the minor parties and one independent: Katter’s Australian Party (three), Queensland Greens (one), One Nation (one), North Queensland’s First (one) and one independent.

Each party needs to win 47 seats.

A minority government

Although the Premier and Opposition Leader have strongly denied they will strike a deal with minor parties to form government, the outcome seems like a real possibility.

If Labor loses more than two seats, and the LNP fails to win at least nine then their only option will be to form a minority government.

So which parties will come together, and how might this affect voting?

Labor will likely join forces with the Greens, a combination which some voters fear may steer the government away from coal projects that promise jobs.

The LNP, meanwhile, will likely turn to Katter’s Australian Party (KAP), a staunch pro-life party that aims to make it a crime again for women to get abortions.

Speaking to anti-abortion lobby group, Cherish Life, in July, KAP leader Robbie Katter said he would “leave Parliament” before standing beside a political party that promoted abortion.

Abortion finally became legal in Queensland in 2018 after decades of campaigning by women’s groups.

“KAP will seek every opportunity to turn these abhorrent abortion laws around,” Mr Katter said.

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