The federal Minister for Northern Australia has described statehood for north Queensland as an inevitability, even if it could take some time. Speaking at a Queensland Media Club lunch on Wednesday, Matthew Canavan said, in time, a new northern state capital would have to be established.
But Senator Canavan, who in March backed a referendum to decide the issue, conceded a new northern state was not likely any time soon.
“It’s not the government’s policy and it’s also not the LNP’s policy, so it’s not something I’m advocating for, but on a personal level I think it would make some sense,” he said.
“Do I think it will ever happen? Well yes I, on balance, do because I think it was almost preordained in our inception as a federation.
“There are three different parts of the constitution which deal with creating a new state and I know some people would roll their eyes today about its merits, but they wouldn’t have rolled their eyes 115 years ago.
“It was a common feature of debates at the constitutional convention and particularly in reference to Queensland, because Queensland was such a big state that surely at some point they’d need to have different administrative regions.”
Mt Isa MP Rob Katter attempted to push the issue in the Queensland Parliament last month, but both the Labor government and LNP opposition opposed the proposal.
“We think it is important that we revisit lines that have been drawn on a map hundreds of years ago, and look at the way we manage the state and efficiently overcome social and economic problems,” Mr Katter said last month.
“Given some of the indicators of unemployment, perhaps it is a good time to rethink things.”
When it came to national issues, such as the national electricity market that would be discussed at a COAG meeting of energy ministers on Friday, Senator Canavan said north Queensland would not have a voice.
The Queensland government, Senator Canavan said, would present views unpopular in the north, particularly when it came to renewable energy.
“We’re not going to have a voice at the COAG table,” he said.
“We’re not going to really, apart from myself maybe, but I’ve got to represent a federal view, not a parochial north Queensland view and the Queensland government won’t be making the case.”
It was not the first rumbling of a new Australian state.
Provisions exist in the constitution for New Zealand to become a state, but the likelihood of that happening would be even less than the Wallabies winning the Bledisloe Cup.
In 1967, a referendum on statehood for the New England region of New South Wales was defeated with a “no” vote of 54 per cent.
Last year, then-Northern Territory chief minister Adam Giles raised the prospect of statehood for the Top End. In a 1998 referendum, 51.3 per cent of territorians voted against statehood.