Editorial: Election issues in the North West (Part 1)

With less than two weeks to the Queensland election and just one week before our Traeger candidate forum in Mount Isa, it’s time to get serious and look at the issues that matter for voters.

Obviously employment is the biggest issue around, with Mount Isa still slowly recovering from the mining downturn and the Glencore cutbacks.

Higher mineral prices are cause for optimism as are new mining developments but what can politicians do? Labor released its North West Minerals Province Strategic Blueprint to much fanfare earlier this year though Robbie Katter called it “underwhelming”.

The LNP have come out with the proposed “super pit” feasibility, an idea dismissed by Glencore though 90% of our readers in a poll like the idea.

All parties need to commit to put more money into our north west health services, both for long-lasting jobs in a non-mining industry and also to improve our poor health statistics.

As for other issues, if there is one thing that unites locals in white hot anger it is the cost of flights to and from the region.

Two private companies, Qantas and Virgin Airlines, are culpable here, thinking it is okay to gouge yokels from the bush who have little power, to help subsidise their bargain offerings to larger markets.

Under pressure, Qantas have taken limited action to bring in residents’ rates on the high end of the market but most people don’t believe it will do much to alleviate their travel pain.

Meanwhile Virgin Airlines have their heads in the sand while hollering “problem? what problem?” Bret Currie’s cartoon expressed their uncaring greed far more eloquently than anything I could write.

An inquiry into the ridiculous pricing of regional flights is needed and the full weight of the ACCC should come down to investigate any collusion in fares.

Support is needed to look at other options, such as properly fixing the rail to make it high speed and competitive against air travel (and not just the dribs and drabs approach of all sides of politics) and encouraging smaller air operators on routes such as Wellcamp, Cairns and Darwin, maybe in an “Uber” like shake-up of the bloated air industry – Derek Barry