Federal MP George Christensen is standing by his push for a referendum on north Queensland becoming a separate state, despite the state’s treasurer rubbishing the idea.
The federal member for Dawson is lobbying politicians north of the Tropic of Capricorn to support a vote by north Queenslanders only on the breakaway plan.
Treasurer Curtis Pitt, whose Mulgrave electorate starts south of Cairns, says revenue from mining and tourism, the north’s key industries, would be nowhere near enough for the region to fund essential services.
But Mr Christensen told AAP the state would have numerous revenue options including pushing for a share of GST revenue and taking advantage of the Turnbull Government’s plans to have states raise their own income tax.
“We have 60 per cent of the state’s export industries above the Tropic of Capricorn,” he told AAP on Thursday.
“That says a lot.”
Mr Christensen has been speaking to economist Colin Dwyer, who he says is “adamant” the move can be made.
But, the Townsville-based economist and longtime proponent of secession said more rigorous modelling was needed before north Queenslanders went to the polls.
He based his argument on the idea that the new state, which would have about 20 per cent of the Queensland population, would need the same portion of the current budget in revenue, supplemented by mining royalties and borrowings.
Mr Dwyer said the northern state would have to pay the south for some services, especially in its early days.
But he didn’t know which services the new government would be unable to provide.
“You wouldn’t be having the plebiscite immediately,” he said.
“We could get something up and running (detailed research) within 12 months, possibly even six months.”
Mr Pitt said the state would have difficulty funding the creation of a new government, while Mr Christensen said the cost wouldn’t change dramatically because the region already has politicians and bureaucratic infrastructure, like department offices, in place.
The idea of a separate northern state has long been floated by other disgruntled politicians concerned the region hasn’t received the attention it deserves.
Mr Christensen said a government aligned with the interests of the north would have approved mining in the Galilee Basin already.
“The Galilee Basin is part and parcel of why this push is probably gaining momentum,” he said.
“We have seen absolute stagnation on issues like this for years.”
Mr Dwyer previously ran for the LNP in the seat of Mundingburra but says he’s no longer a member of a political party.
He said he’s given advice to numerous politicians, including Rob Katter.