Article Written by: Jan Bowman
It is always worth attending the local candidates’ forums to get a real sense of the local issues. Sometimes they are not what you think they might be. You can also get a good sense of the candidates.
On Monday 7 September, the Kangaroo Point Business Networking Group hosted the first of the South Brisbane Candidates forums for the coming election.
Each of the three candidates was asked to provide a ten-minute presentation and to answer the question, “if you were elected what would you do for local Kangaroo Point businesses?”, and each had surprisingly different responses to their brief.
Jackie Trad was the first speaker and as the incumbent local member presented as someone who can demonstrate that she, and the Government she is part of, get things done.
Ms Trad focussed her presentation on the Palaszczuk Government’s response to the COVID pandemic, and on its support for employment and business as the economy recovers. She said the response has been, “clear, swift and precise”.
Ms Trad outlined the Government’s commitments to restructuring the post-pandemic economy with an infrastructure spending program that includes housing construction, school upgrades and additional funding for health services. Ms Trad also outlined specific small business ‘adaptation’ grants and financial assistance for small and medium enterprises, including payroll tax relief, to keep businesses operating.
In terms of jobs creation, Ms Trad also spoke about the Government’s investments in renewable industries through the publicly owned CleanCo, and for a renewable energy workers traineeship facility to skill workers for the sector.
Cross River Rail and boosting public transport services is one of her proudest achievements at the local level, Ms Trad said. She also spoke about additional classrooms in the area in response to population growth.
Ms Trad said that the focus of Government over the coming four years will be on the health response to the pandemic, and financial recovery for shared economic security across the State.
Amy MacMahon for The Greens was broader and more aspirational in her presentation. The Greens have a sweeping and ambitious policy agenda among which are 200 additional GP clinics, 9500 new doctors and nurses, free education, and free public transport for all.
Ms MacMahon also focussed on how the Greens will raise funds to pay for their promises. The Greens want to see corporations and mining companies pay more tax. The party is also proposing what Ms MacMahon referred to as ‘a modest’ levy on banks, a developer tax, and an increase to the royalties paid by mining companies. This could raise $60 billion over four years to be returned to the community, she said.
Ms McMahon spoke about The Greens policy on donations, distinguishing the Greens from the two major parties. She said that big business can purchase access to the Government and to the Opposition that is not available to small businesses and everyday people and raises questions about trust, and about who is really setting the agenda.
Ms MacMahon said Kangaroo Point has seen the wide-reaching effects of overdevelopment and underinvestment in public infrastructure and The Greens propose to overhaul of the Planning Act.
Ms MacMahon also talked about further investment in local schools, and about job creation through investment in a local manufacturing authority to support renewable energy infrastructure.
At a local level, Ms MacMahon said that The Greens are aware that Kangaroo Point is somewhat isolated and is advocating for investment in greenspace, public transport, and in local projects such as the completion of the Riverwalk.
We are not always used to Liberal National Party (LNP) candidates turning up for candidates’ forums in South Brisbane, so it was not only a surprise to see Clem Grehan at the event, but it was also interesting to see that he had clearly given some serious thought to the brief. Mr Grehan is a surveyor and engineer, and he presented himself as, not just pro-business but also pro-active transport: a pragmatic man who gets things done.
Mr Grehan did not venture into setting out the LNP’s policy agenda for the State. Instead, he proposed a range of practical initiatives for attracting more visitors to local businesses in Kangaroo Point. He heralded the Brisbane City Council’s commitment to a pedestrian and cycle bridge between Kangaroo Point and the CBD, and he proposed additional active transport solutions to the isolation of the peninsula. Referring us to maps of the area, he set out options for additional pedestrian bridges. He also proposed the creation of a local sports hub, particularly for water sports such as Dragon Boat racing and rowing; a ‘Head of the Reach’ rowing competition based on the UK’s Henley rowing regatta. Mr Grehan also talked about attracting new businesses to the area, for example, wedding venues. But his focus was primarily on connectivity – getting people to Kangaroo Point and patronising its businesses.
As for jobs for young people, Mr Grehan said that in a densely populated area such as Kangaroo Point, where land for new industries is scarce, sometimes young people need to go to where the jobs are. His son, for example, is doing his apprenticeship in Cobar in NSW.
Mr Grehan proved to be somewhat agile on his feet too. When the chair of the LNP South Brisbane Branch asked the panel what they would do about the heritage-listed Kangaroo Point villa, Lamb House, Mr Grehan gave the impression that he would be happy for the property to be demolished: “It’s got a hole in the roof folks,” he said. With cries of “No, no, no”, from the person who asked the question, he swiftly changed tack and said, of course, he would not want to see Lamb House demolished. A lesson there for candidates to get their Dorothy Dixers sorted in advance of the event.
Questions from the floor were few (there were only about 20 attendees) and were focussed on issues that at times appeared to be more within the scope of Local Government, than of State Government. There was talk of the need for a local library and a community centre, for example.
Questions also related to rent relief for small businesses, and on the need for business and creative hubs in the area, all of which received the support of the candidates.
West End based Kurilpa Futures is planning an online forum with the three South Brisbane candidates at 3.00pm on Saturday 17 October.