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We need genuinely affordable housing

Why Are Homes So Expensive?

Our housing system is broken. Homelessness is rising, and Australia’s property market looks increasingly unsustainable.

Here in Brissie, more and more residents are stuck renting in the private sector long-term. That would be less of a problem if Queensland had stronger renters rights, but the current policy landscape leaves tenants ripe for exploitation. Every time our lease is up for renewal, we stress about whether we’ll have to move out or cop a sharp rent increase. But precarious employment conditions and sky-high property prices mean actually buying a place is completely out of reach for most residents.

Many of those who have bought a home are burdened by massive mortgages, and live in fear of interest rate rises or losing our jobs, which in turn makes us less likely to speak up and advocate against injustice in our workplaces.


It’s not as simple as ‘increasing private supply’

Some argue that we should rezone land and relax planning regulations to allow more development. They claim this improves affordability by increasing the supply of private housing, but this isn’t necessarily true in practice…

Whenever property values stop rising as fast, most developers tend to slow down construction, withhold new apartments from sale, and artificially restrict supply, so they can keep values high and maximise profits.

Many investors who are primarily interested in capital gains choose to leave homes empty rather than renting them out cheaply. Increasingly, we’re also seeing more residential houses and apartments converted into short-term accommodation and rented out to visitors rather than local residents.

On top of this, rezoning land for more private development raises its value, which in turn makes it costlier for governments to deliver genuinely affordable public housing where it’s most needed.

Positive change is possible

Sadly, I’m hearing more and more stories of young renters drowning in rejection emails from real estate agents, and long-term residents being forced out of their communities due to rapidly rising rents and house prices. The unbalanced property market means landlords are under less pressure to maintain properties. Tenants worry that if they request repairs or make complaints, their landlord will punish them by not renewing the lease.

The cost of housing has risen rapidly across Australia - not just in major cities, and not just in areas experiencing rapid population growth. Slight short-term dips in the property market won't be enough to correct this.

Rising prices result from an unbalanced policy landscape at all levels of government which rewards speculative property investment, and encourages the treatment of housing as a commodity, rather than a basic human right.

Federal incentives for property investors, such as capital gains tax discounts and negative gearing, are a big part of the problem, as are weak renters’ rights.

When housing is treated as a commodity, supply will never meet demand, because the demand for profit is insatiable.


Policy solutions

The following government policy approaches have already been successfully implemented in other jurisdictions around the world, and could help cool our overheated property market and reduce homelessness, without triggering a destabilising collapse in the value of existing owner-occupied homes...

  • Strengthen renters’ rights
  • Introduce a vacancy tax or levy on long-term vacant homes, shops and empty land (this short write-up explains that identifying vacant homes is not as difficult as some people might assume)
  • Scrap federal tax incentives for property investment
  • Restrict the proliferation of short-term AirBnB-style accommodation in areas that are supposed to house long-term residents
  • Build more public housing (and make it mandatory to include some in all new private developments)


A Fair Go for Renters

Strengthening renters rights is one of the cheapest, quickest, most effective policy responses to rising homelessness and housing insecurity, but our State Government has failed to meet its own deadlines for reforming out-of-date laws. Other states have recently introduced stronger protections for renters, but Queensland is lagging behind.

We need to strengthen renters’ rights with a range of changes, including:

  • rules against ending a tenancy for no reason (this helps protect tenants from retribution evictions) - a valid reason for ending a tenancy would include if the landlord wants to move in themselves
  • Limits against excessive rent increases - if a landlord wants to put the rent up, they should have to prove that they’ve made home improvements which justify the increase
  • Basic minimum standards - in Victoria, recently-introduced legislation included rules requiring that all external doors should be lockable, that electrical wiring is safe, and that all rentals have access to working toilets and bathrooms (it’s wild that such rules don’t already exist in Queensland; sadly it’s not uncommon to find rental properties that don’t meet these standards)

While I’ve met several good-hearted landlords who try to treat their tenants fairly, there are also plenty of jerks out there who are motivated only by profit. Improving renters rights will protect renters against price-gouging and unjustified evictions. This in turn will help stop people becoming homeless, particularly if stronger protections for renters are accompanied by a vacancy levy that discourages investors from leaving homes empty.

Take action

If you agree we need stronger government action to address rising homelessness, please email Queensland’s Housing Minister at [email protected]...

Mention your support for reforming tenancy laws and introducing vacancy levies, but also for building more public housing on existing government-owned sites like the new Cross River Rail station at Woolloongabba.

Please also make sure you’re signed up via to receive info about this important issue.


Increasing Private Housing Supply vs Public Housing and More Efficient Use of Existing Stock

Property developers often argue that approving the construction of more private housing will improve affordability, but this isn't necessarily true in the Brisbane context. This short article explains why leaving housing provision exclusively up to the private sector won't work, while this article unpacks some of the growth projections for Brisbane, and questions the 'tall vs sprawl' false dichotomy that has unfortunately become accepted dogma within the property industry and many parts of government.


Rental Law Reforms

This page on the Brisbane Renters Alliance website outlines some of the main policy demands in terms of reforming tenancy legislation here in Queensland.

Note that the Brisbane Renters Alliance calls for a 'soft limit' on rental increases, suggesting that rents should only be allowed to increase by 1% per annum unless major improvements are made to a property. Other groups, such as the Queensland Greens, have called for rent limits to be capped at CPI (the Consumer Price Index) which is a measure of inflation that's currently sitting at around 1.1% per year. There are good arguments for and against connecting rent increases to CPI, but some would argue that a more consistent limit of 1% per annum offers better protection to tenants in the event that a major market shock leads to an unexpected period of rapid inflation.

Email newsletter Thursday, 10 February 2023


Please note that some of the info in these newsletters (especially event listings) can go out of date quite quickly.


Dear residents,

I hope you’ve been coping ok with recent heatwaves. Such events remind us that we live in a divided city. Some of us have well-designed homes with good ventilation and solar-powered air-conditioning. Others (mostly lower-income renters) live in musty ovens that are expensive to keep cool and downright unsafe to inhabit during power cuts. It’s increasingly clear that strengthening renters’ rights and adapting our city for a warming climate are closely linked priorities.

Given that we now have active state and federal representatives who are sending out their own regular email newsletters, I’m aiming to only send out updates every three weeks and will see how that goes. Feedback on the kinds of issues and questions you’d like addressed in these newsletters is always welcome.


New free bus route comes to Kurilpa!

One piece of good news from the start of this year is the introduction of a new free bus loop running every 12 minutes between West End and South Brisbane. The route 86 began operations in late January and is the first free public bus service in West End/South Brisbane that I can remember. It runs in an anti-clockwise loop along Vulture Street, Grey Street and Montague Road.

While most Brisbane bus routes are funded by the State Government (who also collects all the ticket revenue), this service is funded directly by Brisbane City Council on a one-year trial basis (it will be cancelled if ridership is not high enough). It’s very rare for new bus services to be introduced anywhere in the city, and we almost never get new free services, so this is a big win for our community.

Interestingly, this service is not at all about connecting 9-to-5 commuters who are travelling to and from the city (it doesn’t run into the CBD). Its focus is on connecting different precincts within the 4101 postcode and improving accessibility for people with impaired mobility (such as parents with small kids, or elderly residents) who might find it difficult to get from central West End down to South Bank (or vice versa).

I really like that the service runs late into the evenings and on weekends/public holidays, but currently it only starts at 10am, which is a missed opportunity to cater to morning demand. If you’d like to see the service start earlier each day, please email the mayor at [email protected] to congratulate the council on introducing this new service, and ask that it start operating at 7am or 8am instead of 10am.

You can find more info about the new bus loop - including an explanation of why the route doesn’t also run in a clockwise direction - at this link. One of the main barriers to getting more high-frequency services connecting different parts of the Gabba Ward is that buses get held up in general traffic congestion. If we want to improve public transport, we also need to take lanes away from cars to create dedicated bus lanes - a difficult but important conversation to be starting in our community.

To help celebrate the new bus route (and bump up the patronage numbers) I’m organising a “Words on Wheels” spoken word concert up the back of the bus for the evening of Monday, 13 February. 

Passengers can get on the 7:20pm service of the route 86 bus at the GOMA bus stop (Stanley Place, South Brisbane) and ride the loop while listening to 20 minutes of acoustic performance poetry (if there’s lots of demand and too many people to fit on the bus, we’ll do a second loop of performances on the 7:40pm service). Free entry of course. More details via the Facebook event.


Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding - Renovate or Relocate?

By the end of this century, rising sea levels mean that many of Brisbane’s coastal and riverside suburbs are likely to experience flooding, not just periodic creek and river flooding after heavy rain, but every high tide due to seawater inundation.

This raises some difficult but important questions:

  • Which streets and neighbourhoods should be relocated to higher ground due to flood risk?
  • Should the council continue offering services like road resurfacing and garbage collection along streets that go underwater twice a day?
  • If people knowingly move into waterfront homes that will be at risk from sea level rise, is it the wider public’s responsibility to bear the cost of either relocating those homes or building flood walls to protect them?

To start discussing and thinking through these questions, I’m organising a Regenerate Brisbane forum in Sandgate this Saturday from 2:15pm to 4:45pm. Although some suburbs (like Sandgate and Brighton) are much more at risk of coastal flooding than others, the long-term costs will likely be carried by the city as a whole, so it’s important that residents from across Brisbane start thinking through these issues together.

Where: Sandbag Community Centre, 153 Rainbow St, Sandgate

When: Saturday, 13 February, 2:15pm to 4:45pm (afternoon tea from 2:15, presentation from 2:30)

The venue is fully accessible. Please register for the event via this link to assist us with catering estimations.


South Bank Master Plan

As mentioned in previous emails, South Bank Corporation has been seeking feedback on its draft master plan to guide future development and land use within the precinct. At this link, you can download a joint submission on the master plan that I made with Amy MacMahon (State MP for South Brisbane) and Max Chandler-Mather (Federal MP for Griffith).

Among other things, in our submission we recommend redesigning the intersection of Vulture St and Grey St to prioritise pedestrians ahead of cars, and highlight concerns about South Bank’s proposal to add more food and drink businesses on low-lying parts of the riverfront that are highly vulnerable to flooding.


Shafston House, Kangaroo Point

The Labor State Government recently signed off on a development application for the State Heritage-listed Shafston House site. We're now waiting to hear whether the LNP-led Brisbane City Council will also approve the DA.

The application doesn’t seek to demolish the main Shafston House residence but it does propose to demolish some of the ancillary structures that still have significant heritage value. It also proposes to locate a large highrise tower (of luxury apartments, not affordable public housing) looming right over the historic buildings, and perhaps most concerningly, will build out luxury townhouse residences on part of the open lawn, which is one of the last riverside green spaces on the eastern side of Kangaroo Point.

Shafston House is one of the oldest and most historically significant buildings in the city. I would like to see it brought back into public ownership for use as a community centre, arts venue and meeting space, with the riverside lawns opened up as a public park. The council has the money to do this, but would prefer to spend public funds widening roads rather than protecting green spaces and historic buildings.

Shafston is a key site for Kangaroo Point’s future public river walk. Residents who live in other nearby buildings that don’t have direct access to the river will need to be able to walk and ride through the site to access the riverside pathway that BCC and the State Government want to complete between Dockside and Mowbray Park.

If this development goes ahead as proposed, it would lock the public out of Shafston altogether, meaning that all the residents who live on the southern/western sides of Thorn St, Castlebar St and Lambert Street won’t actually be able to get through to the riverwalk (which means more of them will continue to drive as their main mode of transport).

This is another classic example of how undemocratic and short-sighted our city's current approach to urban planning and development assessment has become. We should be building more high-quality public housing in the inner-city that preserves and enhances public green space and encourages public and active transport. Instead, we're seeing more approvals of the same cookie-cutter private luxury developments that function primarily to drive up land values and make developers rich while ordinary people have to take out bigger and bigger mortgages just to get a roof over their head.

It's not too late to email the mayor at lord[email protected] to give feedback on this development.


New South Brisbane dog off-leash area

Recently, the mayor sent out a printed newsletter that included a surprise announcement of a new dog off-leash area at 53 Grey St, South Brisbane in Jolly Place Park. I’ve been advocating consistently for new dog off-leash areas in the Kurilpa Peninsula for some time now, but I was not consulted prior to the announcement of this particular location.

I still think we need another, larger dog off-leash area for the 4101 postcode that’s closer to the centre of West End and I encourage residents to email the mayor at [email protected] to advise that a bigger, more centrally accessible dog off-leash area will still be needed. We haven’t had much info about this project yet, but I'll keep you posted as I learn more.


Extending Dutton Park bike lanes into Annerley

Local residents group Active Travel for Annerley are inviting residents to sign a petition for protected bike lanes, safer speed limits and safer crossings along Annerley Rd from Biscuit to Ipswich Rd (Biscuit is the nickname for the new high school at Dutton Park. Residents are advocating for upgrades that would extend the Woollongabba Bikeway south along Annerley Road and make it easier and safer for locals to access schools, workplaces, parks, train stations and local businesses by bike or walking. More people cycling would also take more cars off Annerley Road in peak hours.  

Local school P&Cs, elected representatives and other community leaders have signed an open letter supporting these changes.  

The petition and further background information can be found at this link.

You can also follow Active Travel for Annerley on Facebook, and residents who are interested in getting actively involved with volunteering on the campaign for separated bike lanes are welcome to apply to join the Active Travel for Annerley internal Facebook group at this link. 

I'm also still lobbying the council to install safer physical separators along the existing stretches of Annerley Rd bike lane in Woolloongabba and Dutton Park, and to redesign the Annerley Rd intersection approaches of Stephens Rd and Park Rd to reduce the risk of cyclists being cut off by merging cars.


Lower speed limit on Gladstone Rd, Highgate Hill

Finally, I’m pleased to report that the council has agreed to lower the speed limit of Gladstone Rd from 60km/h to 50km/h between Audenshaw St and Vulture St. This is the section around the Blakeney St shops, and given the high volumes of pedestrian and cyclist activity in the area, plus all the dangerous right-turn movements, it makes sense to slow down cars.

I would ultimately like to see most of Gladstone Rd lowered to 40km/h, with most of the smaller side-streets coming off Gladstone Rd in Highgate Hill lowered to 30km/h, but the LNP are still resistant to that.

The 50km/h speed limit will take effect from 15 March, 2023.


Alright, that’s enough local news for one email. Remember, if there's a local issue that needs addressing, the best approach is to call the council on 3403 8888, and get in touch with my office if you're unhappy with the response. Don’t forget to check out the other upcoming community events listed below.

Warm regards,


Joint submission into the South Bank Master Plan

South Bank Corporation has produced a draft master plan to guide the future evolution of the South Bank precinct, and sought feedback from the general public and other stakeholders. At the time of posting, the Master Plan document can be found via this page.

Your federal, state and local government elected representatives for the South Brisbane area have made a joint submission into this draft master plan which you can download via this link.

If you have further feedback on the Master Plan after the 'official' public consultation period closes, we recommend you email the Planning Minister Steven Miles at [email protected] and South Bank Corporation at [email protected] (you can also CC in Amy MacMahon MP at [email protected] and [email protected] to keep us in the loop).

Email newsletter Thursday, 8 December 2022

Dear residents,

We missed our last fortnightly email, as I had to take a couple days of leave. A few weeks ago on a Friday evening, I tried to calm down a man who was heavily intoxicated, stumbling around on the road and acting aggressively towards members of the public. He punched me in the face, breaking my nose and chipping several teeth, and I was taken to hospital overnight. My nose has been reset (it will always look slightly wonky from now on) and is healing slowly. I’m totally fine now, but I must say that I’m looking forward to a proper break over Christmas. 

Depending on how busy we are over the coming fortnight and how many urgent issues I need to notify you about, this might be my last email newsletter before the Christmas break, in which case, merry Christmas and happy new year!


Housing policy forum

Even as house prices start to drop a little, we still have a problem of widespread and rising homelessness and housing insecurity in this city. As I’ve discussed previously, many of the necessary policy responses are under the control of state and federal governments.

However there’s also plenty that local governments like Brisbane City Council could do to help address the ongoing crisis, including a more nuanced approach to land zoning, and targeted rates categories to discourage empty properties and rent-gouging.

To unpack some of this, I’m running a policy forum on Monday evening in the CBD. This is a free, public event. We’ll also be providing a vego BBQ.

Where: Cathedral Square, 410 Ann St, Brisbane CBD (250 metres north of Central Station)

When: Monday, 12 December, 5:30pm to 7:30pm

Please invite anyone you know who might be interested in discussions about the citywide policy responses that could help address this chronic need. It would help us greatly if you can register via this page.


Ferry Services

Residents who rely on river-based public transport will be pleased that the Holman St, Sydney St and QUT Gardens Point ferry terminals have finally reopened for operations.

Generally speaking, the city’s newer ferry terminals copped the most damage in the February 2022 floods, and have taken the longest to get back online. This is mainly because these terminal locations are the most vulnerable to being hit by debris (which is also why they are newer - the previous terminals in these locations were destroyed in 2011 and had to be replaced). The remaining older terminals got back into operation faster because they were in less damage-prone locations to begin with.

BCC has outsourced so much maintenance and design expertise that it no longer has sufficient staff in-house to repair and maintain its assets, and had to first get experts to assess the damage, estimate repair costs, then go out to tender to get more contractors to actually undertake the work. There are also very few private contractors in Brisbane with the relevant skills and staffing capacity, which compounds the problem.

Work was also delayed slightly because the council didn’t want to proceed with repair works until its insurers confirmed the insurance would cover the kind of work that was proposed.

BCC has said the Maritime Museum, UQ St Lucia and Milton ferry terminals will reopen in the next couple of weeks, but hasn’t yet confirmed a date. We still have no idea when work will start on upgrading and replacing the Dockside terminal so that ferry services can return to the eastern side of Kangaroo Point. I remain very disappointed in the way the council administration has handled this project, and I’ve been regularly raising concerns through internal channels.


Bus network review - help us improve the 192!

As explained on this web page, BCC is proposing significant changes to the bus network which will take effect in late 2024 once the Metro vehicles are in operation along the South East Busway.

However there’s currently no proposal to improve the 192 operating hours, even though this is a key service connecting UQ Lakes, Dutton Park, Highgate Hill, Montague Rd and the CBD (and the only service running along Dornoch Tce in Highgate Hill). We are calling for the 192 to run on weekends and nights, not just weekdays.

It would help us if you fill out the council’s online survey to explain that you want the 192 operating hours extended, and also email the mayor (at [email protected]) and the transport minister (at [email protected]) to underscore this message.


Should we relocate a Blue Cityglider bus stop?

Separately to the Bus Network Review, the council is also considering whether to relocate a Blue Cityglider bus stop from Montague Rd near Cordeaux St (Stop 14) to Montague Rd near Raven St (Stop 12 - closer to the Montague Markets shopping centre). BCC has formally resolved to delegate this consultation to my office, and will take my advice on whether to move the stop or keep it where it is.

If the Blue Cityglider stop changes from Cordeaux St to Raven St, only the 192 service will continue to stop near Cordeaux St.

I believe decisions like this should be made by local residents, not politicians. So we’ve launched a direct online poll about it. If you haven’t already done so, you can cast your vote via this link. Residents who don’t have internet access can call my office on 3403 2165 to make sure their vote is counted.

At the time of writing, about 80 residents have voted in the poll, and it seems the vast majority support relocating the stop closer to Montague Markets. Please have your say.


South Bank Masterplan

As mentioned in my previous email, South Bank Corporation is seeking public feedback on its draft master plan. I’m pleased that they’ve extended the public feedback period until 31 January. I encourage you to view the plan at this link or find summary information via this link, then give feedback via their survey at this link.

Some of my main concerns with the draft master plan include:

  • It still proposes to maintain through-traffic access all the way along Grey Street (this is a poor outcome - Grey St should not be open as a route for cars and trucks traveling between Woolloongabba and the William Jolly Bridge at South Brisbane)
  • It seeks to retain some short-term street parking on Grey St and surrounding streets, which is definitely not necessary considering how much off-street underground parking there is at South Bank - street parking space is better utilised for pedestrian footpaths, bike lanes and street trees
  • The proposal for more low-set riverfront restaurants underneath the cultural forecourt in front of QPAC raises technical questions about how resilient these commercial uses will be to flooding, and how service and delivery vehicles will access these businesses
  • Depending on how it’s implemented, the plan could lead to a proliferation of higher-end businesses with more fine dining and boutique hospitality venues, but comparatively few affordable options for food and drink
  • The plan offers no detail about how shared spaces will actually be managed and controlled to ensure they remain accessible to the general public - I’m concerned that the escalating over-regulation of public spaces is tending to persecute and marginalise homeless and vulnerable people
  • It doesn’t offer any new ideas to activate the dead and desolate frontages of the Brisbane Convention Centre (the sides fronting onto Merivale St and Melbourne St in particular would benefit from greater ground-level activation)

As well as filling out the online survey, you can also email submissions to [email protected] (ask them to reply to confirm receipt).

There’s a lot of good stuff in the draft masterplan, but I definitely think it can be improved further with more public input.


Enhancing green space in Highgate Hill

The western end of Beaconsfield Street in Highgate Hill is closed to cars, and functions as public green space (although it’s not an official public park). Recently we got a few more trees planted around the edge of this space, and this Saturday morning, local residents are running a working bee to mulch more of the space, clear some invasive weeds, and help the block eventually evolve into a more complex multi-layered forest ecosystem.

If you’d like to help out with the working bee, or just meet your neighbours and reflect on how much more green space could be created in the inner-city if we closed more sections of road to cars, come along to the corner of Beaconsfield St and Derby St from 8am this Saturday. (Make sure you bring a hat and a water bottle!)

You can invite friends and keep updated via the Facebook event at this link.


If you live in or regularly visit West End, please remember to cast your vote regarding the proposed Cityglider relocation. Other community events are listed below.

If I don’t speak to you again beforehand, have a merry Christmas and a happy new year!


Warm regards,


Email newsletter Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Dear neighbours,

Lately I’ve been thinking a bit about the radical potential of local government, and how the fact that we’ve had the LNP running Brisbane City Council for such a long time means we often overlook the many ways that we could transform our society for the better if we had a more progressive local council. I’ve written a few thoughts about the topic that you can read at this link if you’re interested.

In yesterday’s council meeting, I had a go at moving a motion to slightly restrict construction noise in residential areas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn’t get much support from the LNP.

Important: South Bank Master Plan

After many delays, South Bank Corporation has released its draft master plan, which is intended to guide how the precinct will evolve over coming decades. They’re calling for public feedback on the draft masterplan until 14 December (I think this is too short a timeframe for such a major document). If you believe we should have a longer public consultation period for this draft masterplan, you could consider writing to the Deputy Premier, Steven Miles at [email protected].

You can view the plan at this link or find summary information via this link.

You can give feedback via their survey at this link.

Similar to most city council and state government planning exercises, South Bank’s consultation process is unclear about how much weight they will give to submissions and feedback from the general public, compared with feedback from major stakeholders such as the business sector, the Department of Transport, QPAC, the Maritime Museum etc.

There are lots of positive elements in the draft masterplan, including:

  • improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists along Grey St
  • connecting the publicly accessible riverfront esplanade along the Maritime Museum site frontage
  • creating more spaces along the riverfront where the public can get right up to the water’s edge
  • slight increases to greenery and tree canopy cover throughout the precinct
  • closing off parts of Little Stanley Street to cars

I’m still working my way through the document to understand it all. But so far, some of my main concerns with the draft master plan include:

  • it still proposes to maintain through-traffic access all the way along Grey Street (this is a poor outcome - Grey St should not be open as a route for cars and trucks travelling between Woolloongabba and the William Jolly Bridge, it should only be open to cars and delivery vehicles accessing local destinations)
  • It seeks to retain some short-term street parking on Grey St and surrounding streets, which is definitely not necessary considering how much off-street underground parking there is at South Bank - street parking bay space is better utilised for pedestrian footpaths, bike lanes and street trees
  • The proposal for more low-set riverfront restaurants underneath the cultural forecourt in front of QPAC raises technical questions about how resilient these commercial uses will be to flooding, and how service and delivery vehicles will access these businesses
  • Depending on how it’s implemented, the plan could lead to a proliferation of higher-end businesses with more fine dining and boutique hospitality venues, but comparatively few affordable options for food and drink
  • The plan offers no detail about how shared spaces will actually be managed and controlled to ensure they remain accessible to the general public - I’m concerned that the escalating over-regulation of public spaces is tending to persecute and marginalise homeless and vulnerable people
  • It doesn’t offer any new ideas to activate the dead and desolate frontages of the Brisbane Convention Centre (the sides fronting onto Merivale St and Melbourne St in particular would benefit from greater ground-level activation)

As well as filling out the online survey, South Bank is also inviting residents to attend one of their ‘community drop-in sessions’ so you can ask more questions and give feedback in person. Details of the session times, dates and locations are available at this link.


Active travel studies

As mentioned in my last email newsletter, BCC is running an online consultation about how it can improve active transport safety and convenience along Vulture St, Boundary St and Melbourne St in West End, and around the northern end of Kangaroo Point.

These consultations are due to close on 21 November, and will shape the allocation of State Government funding which has been publicly committed to South Brisbane bikeways and the Kangaroo Point riverwalk.

I encourage residents to participate in this consultation process and remind BCC of the importance of safely separating bikes and scooters from other modes of transport along busy roads, and completing the Kangaroo Point riverwalk as soon as possible.

South Brisbane study -

Kangaroo Point study - 

Amy MacMahon and I have organised a few info sessions to share our thoughts about what we think the priorities are, and to take questions from residents. Thanks to the residents who came along to our first session at AHEPA Hall on 30 October.

We will be hosting two more info sessions at the following times/locations:

Session 2: Kangaroo Point Riverwalk
Where: Mowbray Park, East Brisbane (near the playground and toilet block)
When: Sunday, 13 November, 10am to 11am

Session 3: West End/South Brisbane Bike Lanes
Where: Musgrave Park, South Brisbane as part of the Meanjin Reggae Festival (look for the ‘Radical Futures Lounge’)
When: Saturday 19 November, 2pm to 3pm


Composting green waste to reduce landfill

As some of you would be aware, Brisbane households can order a ‘green waste’ wheelie bin to collect organic garden waste (e.g. leaf litter, branches etc) to be composted by the council. Putting green waste in a dedicated bin is much better than putting it into the red-lidded standard wheelie bin, where it will end up in landfill rather than being composted.

A green waste bin collection service currently costs $23.42 on the quarterly rates bill (roughly $1.80 per week). If you’re a renter and you’ve asked your landlord for a green bin but they’ve refused, feel free to get in touch with my office, as we are happy to advocate to your landlord or agent on your behalf.

Of course, if you do have space in your own yard, it’s usually much more sustainable to just compost garden waste at home and keep all those nutrients on your own property.

BCC is gradually rolling out a new pilot program of also collecting food waste from kitchens in the green waste wheelie bin. In a few specific areas of the city, you can now also put vegetarian food waste in your green bin to be composted (but not meat or dairy). One of these areas is around Dutton Park and the southern side of Woolloongabba (the choice of area is based on garbage truck collection routes) - view the map at this link. The council is still expanding its capacity to safely and hygienically compost more food waste from more households.

Of course, as with yard waste, it is much more sustainable and cost-effective if you can minimise food waste in the first place, and compost it at home to add nutrient-rich soil to your own garden beds and pot plants, rather than getting it collected by garbage trucks. Composting your own food waste doesn’t have to take up a lot of space or time. I even do it on my houseboat using two small compost bins and a couple of sealed tubs that I rotate between.


Getting more renters and apartment residents onto solar power

Next Thursday evening, 17 November, I’ll be cohosting an online forum about the Haystacks Solar Garden, a cooperative project where people can buy a share in a collectively-owned solar panel array and use the renewable energy it generates to offset your power bill.

This is a decentralised, non-profit option for renters and apartment residents to access renewable energy that you own and control, even if you can’t get solar panels installed on the roof of your own home.

The info session starts at 6pm and should wrap up by 7pm. You can register for the session via this link.


Seeking feedback on how I seek feedback on Blue CityGlider bus stops

Before I initiate a new consultation process about a local issue, I like to think about how it will be structured so we can maximise informed participation using our very stretched and limited resources.

Following a large petition from residents, I’ll soon be launching a community poll on whether to ask council to relocate one of the Blue Cityglider bus stops. Currently, the Cityglider stops near Cordeaux St, West End towards the southern end of Montague Rd, but doesn’t stop at the Montague Markets/Woolworths.

The residents’ petition wanted an extra Cityglider stop near Montague Markets, but BCC doesn’t want to add more stops - the council is only willing to relocate an existing stop. This means that if we made the change, only the 192 would stop near Cordeaux St.

A local consultation process about this decision is never going to reach absolutely everyone who is potentially affected by it, and I want to be confident that the outreach methods we use don’t skew the responses too much.

Given our past experiences and feedback that online channels are more accessible for more people than in-person meetings, I’m proposing to run an online poll as the main feedback channel, with an option for residents who don’t have the internet to call or write to my office to have their vote counted.

The poll will be promoted:

  • in our next printed newsletter, delivered to letterboxes across the entire Gabba Ward electorate
  • via signs at all bus stops along Montague Rd south of Victoria St
  • via my email newsletters and my main social media channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter)

I’ll also hang out at the existing Cordeaux St Cityglider bus stops and the existing Montague Markets 192 bus stops on a few occasions to catch people for face-to-face conversations and make sure they know to vote in the poll.

I intend that the poll will remain open for about two months, so that we can lock in a decision early next year.

I’m hoping this approach will cast a wide enough net. I’m mindful that if I directly approach specific groups and stakeholders (such as body corporate committees etc) to encourage their feedback, that could distort the representativeness of the responses.

Relocating a bus stop is a relatively small decision in the grand scheme of things, but I want to be sure residents don’t have any concerns about the proposed decision-making process before I kick it off. It’s likely that the council will accept whatever outcome I recommend (either keeping the Cityglider stop at Cordeaux St or relocating it to Ferry Rd/Raven St).

If you do have any concerns about this approach to consultation, please let me know ASAP. I’d prefer to avoid a situation where people who are unhappy with the outcome instead try to contest the legitimacy of the process (as is often the case with community consultation).


Tree removals

A medium-sized tree will be removed soon outside 66 Ernest Street, beside the South Bank Tafe site. The tree is completely dead and will be replaced by a new tree (Melaleuca viridiflora species) in the same location, so I don’t have any concerns about this one.

I do remain concerned however that Energex is still a little overzealous about removing trees that are growing anywhere near overhead power lines. Recently their contractors were about to remove two jacaranda trees growing along Annerley Rd just south of Gloucester St, but we heard about it in time and were able to stop them. If ever you hear about Energex planning to remove a tree that you think should be retained, please get in touch with my office as soon as possible.


Alright, that’s probably enough of an information dump for this week. Don’t forget to check out the other community events listed below.

Warm regards,


High Density Development Proposal for St Vincent’s Private Hospital at Kangaroo Point

St Vincent’s Private Hospital at Kangaroo Point is applying for council approval to develop large residential high rise towers on their hospital site. 

Even if you don’t live around this part of Kangaroo Point, this might still be interesting to you, as it has traffic ramifications for Main St and the Story Bridge. 

Generally speaking, there can be some good arguments for co-locating housing and hospital land uses, but it’s still important to look closely at the detail of what’s proposed with this particular site and think through how that does or does not meet the planning goals and needs of the surrounding precinct.

The hospital is claiming that their proposal is “in keeping with Council’s planning regulations” which isn’t strictly correct. This site has long been identified and zoned as being for ‘community facilities.’ In fact, I understand that’s the basis on which this valuable inner-city riverfront land was originally donated to St Vincent’s (for free) in the 1940s. High-density private housing is not ordinarily permitted on ‘Community Facilities’ land.

Most other sites to the north and east of St Vincent’s are already zoned for high-density residential, and if expert urban planners though it was desirable to include more residential housing on the hospital site itself, either the council or the state government could have zoned for that accordingly.

Personally, I would like to see part of this site returned to public ownership as public parkland. If St Vincent’s doesn’t need the whole site for actual hospital buildings, that’s probably the best outcome in terms of the broader public interest. Kangaroo Point is undergoing a lot of high-density development, and St Vincent’s is one of the last remaining larger sites where it would be possible to deliver a new public park. If some housing IS to be developed on this site, it should be public housing that’s affordable for people on low incomes, not luxury riverfront apartments targeted at wealthier residents.

The current development application is ‘Preliminary Approval’ which locks in building heights and footprints without any detail of how the buildings will be used or designed. This means the developers could get approval to build up to 19 storeys without providing concrete information on how the buildings will actually look or how they’ll integrate with the surrounding neighbourhood. My big concern about high-end apartments (as opposed to aged care hospital patient accommodation, or affordable housing for low-income pensioners) is that the developers will almost certainly want to build a lot of extra carparking to sell with the new apartments. But this is not a good site to be introducing hundreds of additional cars on.

Ideally, inner-city residential development projects should be largely car-free. We want inner-city residents to walk, ride and catch public transport (and we want developers to contribute their fair share towards the cost of public transport infrastructure and services, which are sadly lacking in Kangaroo Point). We certainly don’t want hundreds of extra cars driving in and out of this particular site, because it would choke up the Main Street northbound approach to the Story Bridge. I think what we actually need along this stretch of Main Street is some separated bike lanes so that fast-moving e-scooters aren't sharing the path with pedestrians, and a dedicated bus lane so buses don't get caught in general traffic.

You can view the plans and documents for the development and make a submission to oppose via this link.

I hope people will take the opportunity to make their voices heard, and ask for public parkland rather than more cars.

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Yes, big developers do get special treatment – particularly in terms of safety and environmental regulations

Residents often complain to me that they feel like Brisbane City Council has one set of rules for big developers, and another set of rules for everyone else. If a local resident wants to renovate their back deck or build a granny flat, they have to jump through all sorts of hoops. Meanwhile just down the road, a big developer can embark on a massive highrise construction project that blankets the neighbourhood in dust and wakes everyone up with early morning jackhammering, and it seems like the council doesn’t bat an eyelid.

This double-standard isn’t just speculation. It’s actually baked into the system. From the initial stages of rezoning neighbourhoods for different kinds of development, to the measly and tokenistic contributions that developers make towards local infrastructure… to the application and assessment processes for new developments, to defect checks and building certification… the entire planning and development framework is designed to facilitate and support the private property industry to make as much money as it can, with a minimum of regulation and oversight.

This is particularly the case when it comes to enforcement of safety and environmental health regulations regarding construction work impacts, such as out-of-hours construction noise, dust pollution, blocked footpaths, unsafe traffic control etc.


A split system for handling complaints

Most of Brisbane City Council’s enforcement work is undertaken by the Compliance and Regulatory Services (CARS) branch. This large part of council covers a broad range of responsibilities from parking infringements to barking dog complaints. If you’re renovating your house, and the tradies are starting work too early, or the temporary site boundary fencing is sticking out over the footpath, the CARS inspectors from the Built Environment Development Team will be called out.

But a few years ago, the property industry was getting frustrated that council inspectors were enforcing the rules rather than looking the other way. It can save developers a lot of money to illegally close off a footpath for temporarily storing building materials, or to start construction at 6am rather than 6:30am, or to direct heavy vehicles through a residential side-street rather than going the long way around via main roads. So constant attention from CARS officers was a threat to profits. In response, a new parallel system was set up during Graham Quirk’s time as mayor, currently called the ‘Building and Construction Management Team’ (and previously called the ‘Suburban Construction Management Team’). The BCMT doesn’t fall under the CARS branch of council. It’s actually part of the Development Services branch.


‘Educating’ developers rather than fining them

The LNP-dominated Brisbane City Council wanted to streamline its systems and make construction as simple and profitable for private developers. So the BCMT is not intended to function as a compliance and enforcement unit like the CARS inspectors. Officers are supposed to work collaboratively with developers to offer ‘education’ and ‘guidance’ about the rules and resolve complaints from residents without issuing fines or taking other forms of enforcement action.

This means that if a particular developer cheekily starts work early one day and wakes up the whole neighbourhood, BCMT won’t issue fines. They’ll just politely remind the developer that construction noise isn’t allowed in Brisbane before 6:30am (which is already way too early anyway) and let them off the hook.

If a developer takes over a parking lane, or cuts down a street tree, or closes off a street without getting the proper permits, BCMT will give them a friendly phone call, and instead of initiating enforcement action, will most likely support the developer through a fast-track process to get a permit for the thing they were already doing illegally. It’s almost like BCMT officers are working for developers to help them skirt around regulations, rather than working for council to enforce regulations on behalf of the wider community. Imagine if parking inspectors operated that way!

"Is BCMT an enforcement/compliance team? In short, NO." This image shows powerpoint slides from a council presentation explaining that BCMT focuses on 'support' and 'guidance' to the building industry rather than compliance.


Big developers get a friendlier framework

The real kicker is that if a complaint about something like dust pollution relates to a construction project for a single dwelling house (e.g. an owner-occupier rebuild) or to a site where there is no relevant development application (such as a small business that’s doing some minor renovations), it will still be dealt with by CARS inspectors.

In contrast, the Building and Construction Management Team – ‘the nice guys’ – are exclusively responsible for commercial developments and larger residential developments with more than one dwelling.

So owner-occupier renovators get inspected by CARS officers who are more likely to issue formal Show Cause notices and escalate to fines, whereas big developers get contacted by BCMT officers who are under explicit instructions to avoid using formal enforcement processes.

One important exception is that CARS still seems to have responsibility for erosion and sediment control i.e. inspecting complaints about muddy run-off from construction sites into creeks and stormwater drains. So if you report dust pollution from a big development site, it'll be handled by BCMT, but if you report that it's mud or erosion that's at risk of washing away, it'll be handled by CARS, and thus hopefully taken more seriously.

I should also note that BCMT is only responsible for inspecting council-approved developments. So if there's a large development that has been assessed and approved under some kind of State Government framework, CARS may still have the power to get involved. But the vast majority of big developments in Brisbane are approved by council, which means BCMT effectively acts to protect the developers from regulatory enforcement.


BCMT is not even resourced to properly investigate complaints

Although the Development Services branch of council is very well-resourced, the BCMT itself is quite limited in terms of staffing capacity. Unlike the Compliance and Regulatory Services Built Environment team, the Building and Construction Management Team generally doesn’t have many – if any – staff who work outside business hours. So if a resident is complaining that a developer is leaving noisy equipment running overnight, there’s no way for the BCMT to actually go out to site to verify the complaint – they are more likely to just take the developer’s word that the resident was mistaken. Unlike CARS, BCMT officers also don’t have the necessary equipment or training to measure air pollution levels, noise pollution etc. So they can’t collect evidence to support enforcement action even if they wanted to.


All this contributes to an environment where developers and construction companies rightly feel that they can get away with pretty much anything. It fosters a culture of entitlement and impunity where developers feel they deserve special treatment because they’re god’s gift to the economy, and major party politicians tend to acquiesce to increasingly bold demands from the property industry because it’s easier than pushing for a bigger change in strategy. This is a problem for Queensland and in fact the nation as a whole, because the property industry will then pressure other councils and state jurisdictions to also relax the rules, saying “well Brisbane City Council is giving us favourable treatment, so why aren’t you?”

We now live in a bizarre world of split realities, where the on-paper regulations that are technically binding rules are rarely enforced in practice. Individual council officers exercise broad discretion as to whether to respond to complaints by simply ‘educating’ a developer, or by issuing Show Cause notices and fines. This creates fertile ground for nepotism and corruption. If the BCMT officers build close personal relationships with particular construction companies or developers, there’s a very real risk that they’ll look the other way when residents complain about breaches of safety or environmental health regulations.

Brisbane City Council has evolved into a large, complex and cost-intensive bureaucracy that gives the illusion of regulating and monitoring issues that are important to residents, when in truth, teams like the BCMT are more like public relations exercises that shield politicians, developers and construction companies from accountability.

Density is not intrinsically 'good' - it depends how you do it

I’ve gotten sick of responding to the same simplistic comments on social media over and over again, so I thought I’d just write a quick blog post about it.

In conversations about urban planning and development, it’s increasingly common for people to talk about density and densification like it’s an inherently good thing. I hear it from politicians, from property developers and even from some environmentalists who haven't spent enough time thinking and reading about the issue (perhaps unsurprisingly, experts with a detailed background in urban planning are usually much more resistant to these over-simplifications). Actually, whether density is ‘good’ depends a lot on how we densify, and what kinds of density we’re talking about.

If you’re looking for more commentary by expert researchers in this space, I encourage you to check out this podcast.

We’re all familiar with the valid and legitimate critiques of conventional suburban sprawl development. Building over farmland and bushland for car-centric dormitory suburbs is unsustainable and environmentally destructive. It’s an inefficient use of land and resources, and providing services like public transport, sewerage etc. to these low-density neighbourhoods can be extremely costly.

But just because the most common forms of low-density suburban sprawl are extremely problematic, doesn’t mean that all forms of higher-density development are automatically efficient, sustainable, or intrinsically ‘good.’

Rather than mindlessly parroting the property developers’ narrative that ‘any densification is a good thing’ we need to ask more nuanced questions about what kinds of density, how land is being used in practice, and how people in these neighbourhoods are meeting their basic needs. There are many contemporary styles of building and neighbourhood – e.g. the high-density residential precinct at the northern end of Kangaroo Point – that are not at all 'sustainable' or 'efficient.'


Kangaroo Point as a local example of unsustainable density

The peninsula of Kangaroo Point (as distinct from the southern half of the suburb) is one of the most densely-populated neighbourhoods in the entire state of Queensland, and is only a couple hundred metres from the CBD. Yet census data suggests that almost half its residents drive daily as their main mode of transport (even before covid scared everyone off public transport). This is due to a combination of factors including:
- poor public transport
- the over-abundance of free underground parking
- streets that are designed to prioritise cars over pedestrians, and
- the lack of mixed land uses and a scarcity of local shops and community facilities, which means many residents have to travel out of the suburb to access essential goods and services.

The shortage of public green space in certain areas (e.g. the Lambert St precinct) means that in some cases residents are even driving long distances simply to walk the dog or kick a ball around in the park. High-density residential development that's not accompanied by good public transport or local services and public facilities can in fact contribute to apartment residents leading similarly problematic car-centric lifestyles as the residents in sprawling outer-suburban low-density dormitory suburbs.

On top of this, the tall residential towers of Kangaroo Point are energy-intensive to operate and maintain, as they are heavily reliant on air-conditioning, artificial lighting and water pumps. They’re also resource-intensive in their construction, requiring huge volumes of concrete and steel (don’t even start me on how costly, disruptive and resource-intensive it can be to repair one of these buildings if something major goes wrong).

Kangaroo Point's Dockside Precinct has been a high-density neighbourhood for a couple decades, but most residents still drive and have relatively high per capita energy consumption


Even beyond direct energy demand and embodied energy, this style of living has a huge invisible footprint on the hinterland, well beyond the city’s boundaries. The food residents eat, the water they drink, the material possessions they buy, and the waste they produce – it all has an impact on land and natural resources well beyond the boundaries of Kangaroo Point. Inner-city density offers some potential efficiencies by bringing people closer together, but arguably also means residents are further away from where their food is actually produced. At least in suburbia it’s possible to grow a reasonable volume of salads and herbs in your backyard, a few metres from the kitchen where they’re consumed. But that’s much more difficult in a high-density, concrete-dominated inner-city environment. As a result, these denser neighbourhoods are less resilient and more vulnerable to shocks and disruptions - from power cuts to extreme weather events that disrupt agricultural production.

Higher-density neighbourhoods can also present added challenges in terms of public infrastructure provision. I’ve written elsewhere on my blog about how much more expensive it can be to install even something as simple as traffic lights when there are so many existing services and utilities competing for space in a constrained environment. Nowadays, even relatively simple intersection redesigns around Kangaroo Point typically cost upwards of $5 million because of the need to relocate so much existing underground infrastructure.

The other commonly-cited promise of dense urban neighbourhoods – a vibrant, cosmopolitan cross-cultural milieu with a higher intensity of innovation and creativity – has also failed to materialise in Kangaroo Point. The suburb doesn’t exactly have a thriving nightlife or an abundance of art galleries, music venues, and communal festivities (I should note that the Brisbane Jazz Club is definitely worth a visit, but even it is required to shut off all live music before 10pm as a result of persistent noise complaints from nearby apartment residents).

Just because a neighbourhood is high-density, doesn’t automatically mean it’s environmentally sustainable or culturally successful.


It's complex

I could go on with many more extreme examples of bad density. Refugee camps and informal urban settlements (i.e. ‘slums’) often have very dense populations. But cramming heaps of people into a compact area doesn’t automatically mean they have access to secure housing, safe sewerage systems or reliable public transport.

Dharavi slum in Mumbai has an estimated population density of over 270 000 residents/km2


Similarly, there are many examples around the world of comparatively low-density settlement patterns where people are living sustainably, in balance with their ecosystem, producing food locally without excessive tree-clearing or land degradation.

Evaluating the difference between ‘good density’ and ‘bad density’ doesn’t just require an analysis of the building materials used or the provision of supporting public infrastructure and services. It also requires an understanding of property economics and the land value impacts of densification.

Upzoning privately owned sites for higher-density development puts upward pressure on land values across an area, and makes it significantly harder and more expensive for governments and NGOs to acquire land to deliver new public housing. This can be devastating for regions where public housing is in short supply.

Densification without any concern for equity or social justice tends, in practice, to result in low-income inner-city residents being displaced to outer-suburban areas where transport costs are higher, further away from support services and job opportunities. Unfortunately most decision-makers who have any power over urban planning decisions in cities like Brisbane seem to care little for the negative impacts of gentrification.

I don’t want this to turn into a longer essay on densification and the best forms of urban development (maybe it’s too late and this is already becoming an essay? Perhaps I'll have to write something more detailed about this topic sometime soon...), but I simply want to prompt the “all density is good!” disciples to pause for a moment, and accept that this is a nuanced issue. Sometimes densification can be good. And sometimes it’s not as desirable. The devil’s in the detail.


Further local case studies relevant to discussions of density vs height -

5 Dudley Street, Highgate Hill: A new battle-line in the gentrification of South Brisbane?

With the property industry redeveloping and gentrifying so much of the Kurilpa peninsula, and rents and property values climbing through the roof (even if the roof is in poor condition and leaks during heavy storms), one of the most affordable remaining styles of housing in the inner-south side are the 2-storey and 3-storey apartment blocks scattered throughout the older neighbourhoods of West End, Highgate Hill, Woolloongabba and southern Kangaroo Point.

Google Streetview image of 5 Dudley Street, Highgate Hill

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Labor is still supporting new coal mines

If there are any Labor supporters out there who are still genuinely concerned about climate justice, please understand that Queensland Labor is part of the problem, and will not shift unless it loses votes and seats to more progressive alternatives like the Greens.

Right now, Labor MPs in some parts of Queensland are actively campaigning for and promising new coal mines. In contrast, so-called ‘progressive’ Labor MPs who claim to be concerned about global warming are not promising or campaigning on a platform of shutting down coal mines.

Both the party’s actions in government, and its election commitments, show there is no genuine commitment to do what’s necessary to bring down global carbon emissions.

In response to criticisms about its support for new coal mines and failure to take global warming seriously enough, QLD Labor has offered five inter-connected arguments to convince people to keep voting Labor ahead of the Greens:

1. Labor is already doing enough to address climate change.

2. We need to keep the LNP out, and voting Greens jeopardises that.

3. We need to keep the LNP out, and supporting new coal mines is the only way to do that.

4. We need to support new coal mines for now, because a just transition still requires us to keep creating new jobs in regional towns.

5. We need to keep progressive Labor MPs in the party room to ‘drag the party back to the left’

None of these arguments stacks up to close scrutiny. Let’s start with the first one...


No. Definitely not. Not even close.

Although there have undeniably been some positive steps towards establishing new renewable energy projects, Labor’s target of supplying 50% of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 is woefully inadequate (particularly when you consider that the state is also doing a piss-poor job of addressing Queensland’s other major sources of carbon emissions, such as industrial-scale animal agriculture and oil-powered transport systems).

For comparison, South Australia has a target of 100% renewable energy by 2030, and the major parties’ fear of losing votes to the Greens in SA has undeniably been a key factor behind that.

But if you take nothing else away from this post, this next point is perhaps one of the most important:

By digging up and exporting coal to be burnt overseas, Queensland is contributing to extremely high carbon emissions that far exceed our own energy system’s domestic emissions.

Queensland exported around 226 million tonnes of coal last year. In contrast, Queensland’s domestic consumption of coal is only around 25 million tonnes per year.

So it’s the stuff that we sell other countries to burn which is a far bigger contributor to carbon emissions.

From the perspective of mitigating global warming, focussing too heavily on how many new solar and wind projects Queensland sets up to replace thermal coal power plants is actually a bit of a distraction.

Queensland Labor has deliberately tried to shift discussion to the new domestic renewables projects it is establishing, to distract from the fact that we are still exporting way too much coal.

For Labor to claim that it is ‘taking positive steps’ towards a renewable energy future, while continuing to support new coal mines and exporting more and more coal, is deeply misleading.

At a bare minimum, Queensland immediately needs to stop supporting new coal mines, massively increase mining royalties, and scale back production of existing coal mines.


This is just straight out nonsense.

There are 93 seats in the Queensland Parliament, so you need at least 47 seats to hold power.

Currently, there 48 Labor seats and 1 Green seat.

If the Greens win a few seats off Labor, the combined total of Labor and Greens seats in the parliament would still remain the same. Even if we end up with 45 Labor seats and 4 Green seats, the total still adds up to 49 seats.

Obviously if Labor loses seats to the LNP, that’s bad for Labor, but voting 1 Greens doesn’t impact that as long as you still put Labor above the LNP when you’re filling out all the numbers on your ballot paper.

Which brings us to the next argument…


This is the argument that personally makes me really sad, because it shows how lacking in vision both the major parties have become.

I’m the first to point out that Bob Brown’s ‘Stop Adani Convoy’ before the federal election was an idiotic and unhelpful political strategy.

Sending large numbers of people up to actually blockade a mining corporation might have been a different matter. Sending southerners up on a ‘tourism jobs’ convoy to show regional towns that there’s money to be made from hospitality and tourism might also have helped.

But Bob Brown driving to Clermont to lecture coal mining communities about how ‘coal is evil’ was never going to work.

You have to explain and show that alternative futures are possible.

In recent elections, the Queensland Greens vote has grown consistently (no thanks to Bob Brown), not just in South-East Queensland but throughout the state. It has grown because we’ve articulated a broad policy platform that offers everyone a higher quality of life without relying on new coal mines as a key source of job creation.

We’ve been articulating a more diversified economic future for regional Queensland, that creates jobs through renewable energy generation, sustainable regenerative agriculture, public housing construction and maintenance, cultural and environmental tourism etc. And it is working for us as an electoral strategy.

Voters in regional Queensland aren’t stupid. They know that global demand for thermal coal will continue to decline long-term. So when Labor says its economic plan is to create more jobs in coal mining, that doesn’t actually win over many voters who would otherwise support the LNP. In fact, it frames the election debate into a question of which party will be MORE supportive of coal mining, which is weak ground for Labor.

It’s possible for Labor to win votes without supporting new coal mines. Labor parties in other states and other countries have done that. For Labor strategists to argue that Labor won’t be able to remain in power unless it supports new coal mines is perhaps the strongest evidence we need that Labor is not going to be an effective vehicle for action on climate change.

Electorally speaking, they would be better off copying more of the Greens platform, and talking about a broad public sector-led transition to other industries, which supports people to retrain in other fields and protects vulnerable communities from the negative impacts of economic recession.

As a side note: Own-goal ads like the one at the top of the page from Labor’s Mackay candidate show how sitting on the fence and trying to say completely different things to different parts of the electorate is not a viable long-term strategy.

In the 2017 election, Labor told central Queensland voters they would support Adani and told SEQ voters that they would oppose it. In the end, they didn’t pick up any new seats in the inner-city OR in regional Queensland.


This is where the influence of mining industry lobbyists on the Labor party becomes most obvious.

Opening up new mines and creating more jobs in coal mining DOES NOT assist regional towns to transition away from dependence on coal mining. It leads them further down a dead-end road and sets them up for failure as global demand for thermal coal decreases.

Greens politicians are not arguing that we have to shut down every single coal mine and power plant overnight. We are calling for greater public investment to create jobs in other sectors and industries, for a proper social support net in terms of guaranteed housing, free healthcare and free education, and we are arguing that the billionaires, mining corporations and big banks that have made so much money out of the resources boom should help pay for it all.

Maintaining the charade that there will be plenty of jobs in coal long-term hurts everyone, especially regional mining communities. Queensland already has enough money to fund a just transition that doesn’t leave anyone behind. We don’t need an expansion of coal mining in order to support a transition away from coal mining.


This is perhaps the weakest of all the arguments Labor offers against voting Greens, because all available evidence contradicts it.

Labor has been in government for two terms in a row now. And prior to 3 years of Campbell Newman from 2012 to 2015, Labor had held government in Queensland for the better part of two decades.

Labor politicians like Grace Grace and Jackie Trad spin the line that having them in the party room helps balance the more conservative views of regional Labor MPs, and that without them, Labor would drift even further to ‘the right.’

But here’s the thing: even with those people holding ministerial positions and a great deal of influence within the party, Queensland Labor is still doing dodgy deals with multinational corporations, and supporting big new coal mining projects like the Adani and New Acland projects.

These supposedly ‘progressive’ Labor MPs have not been able to prevent new coal mines being established, and in fact have voted to support them and give them royalty deferrals. These ‘progressive’ Labor MPs haven’t even been able to introduce basic cost-neutral reforms in other key areas like strengthening renters’ rights or preventing deaths in custody.

In fact, even with these ‘progressive’ MPs in the party room, Labor has become more authoritarian and conservative, announcing massive increases in prison and police funding and tighter laws to suppress public protest, without meaningfully increasing funding for public housing, domestic violence support services etc.

If anything, the continued presence of these MPs is a net loss to ‘progressive’ advocacy in Queensland. They speak the jargon and uphold the façade of Labor as a ‘progressive’ party while voting in favour of a policy platform that embodies and entrenches neoliberalism. They use their platforms to promote Labor as a party of social justice and equity while selling off public land to private developers and granting cash-for-access meetings to big business lobbyists.

I’m not questioning their motivations. They probably think they’re doing the right thing and are helping keep out the LNP.

But to suggest that we will have a better chance of stopping new coal mines like Adani with Labor MPs like Grace Grace, than with Greens MPs who hold the balance of power and can demand real change, is utterly nonsensical.

If you still think that supporting Labor helps address global warming (it doesn’t), please at least take a moment to understand how preferential voting works, and recognise that wherever you live in Queensland, voting 1 Greens (and numbering every box) is a much more effective way to send a strong message to the major parties.