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The environment and the conservatives

By Lyndon Schneiders - posted Wednesday, 23 January 2008

For the Bligh Government to lose power in the foreseeable future one of two things needs to happen.

One is the unlikely scenario that the Government will internally implode in a fashion reminiscent of the great ALP split of the 1950’s. Then, the Queensland Labor’s hegemony of nearly 42 years of uninterrupted power was brought to a dramatic end. However, it is very difficult to anticipate a similar seismic event in these days of highly professionalised ALP machine politics.

The second possibility is the success of the proposed merger of the two conservative parties.


However, if an amalgamation is successful, it must be accompanied by a major reform of policy particularly in respect to issues of sustainability and protection of the environment.

The politics of the environment have been an Achilles heel for conservatives in Queensland since the 1980s. At the most recent State election in 2006, 175,000 Queenslanders gave their first vote to the Greens and Green preferences overwhelmingly flowed to ALP candidates. In a tight election, green preferences are critical in Queensland.

The vast demographic changes that have gripped Queensland over the past 20 years have been accompanied by a growing support for the protection of the environment and concern about issues such as climate change and the protection of Queensland’s iconic places.

Concern for the protection of the environment and wonderful assets such as the Great Barrier Reef, the rainforests and Fraser Island have now become intertwined with a sense of what it means to be a Queenslander.

This is a dramatic reversal from the pro development and anti environment ethos that characterised Queensland politics for much of the 20th century.

The ALP in Queensland has recognised this change for many years and has been able to position itself as a moderate party that ranks the protection of the environment highly.


However, it is not that this message has been lost on everyone on the conservative side of Queensland politics. Conservatives also care about the environment and innovators such as former Liberal leader Bob Quinn heroically tried to modernise the policies of the conservatives in respect to important environmental issues such as land clearing.

Unfortunately for Bob Quinn, the unwillingness of the National Party to understand both the policy good sense and the political advantages of embracing the environment and sustainability has led to successive patched-together Coalition agreements where the people of Queensland have been consistently presented with a range of reactive and backward looking environment policies come election time.

Within the National Party there are signs of life, particularly through the tireless efforts of Gympie MP, David Gibson, in opposing the ill-considered Traveston Dam on the Mary River.

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About the Author

Lyndon Schneiders is the Queensland State Campaign Manager of The Wilderness Society.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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