Here's why 'Mackay is not a redneck town'
ON SUNDAY afternoon several hundred people gathered at a water park off River St in Mackay to show respect and solidarity with victims of the Christchurch anti-Muslim massacre.
They represented a cross section of the Mackay community, including Muslims who call the central Queensland city home, a small proportion of the 20,000 people of Islamic faith across the state.
Mayor Greg Williamson, a passionate fifth-generation local, issued a call from the heart to defend secular democracy, and members of the local Kiwi community sang a hymn as the light slowly faded.
Mackay has had a mixed history when it comes to how Muslims are seen and treated.
An ill-informed minority since the rise of global Islamist terrorism has spread fear and hate.
Two years ago, false stories were put about suggesting a "super mosque" would be build for the "not good Aussie Muslims" but others promoting sharia law.
To show up contradictions we often see, at the same time people and business owners in Mackay wished for a share of 20,000 Syrian refugees to settle locally.
These observations are good to keep in mind when we read and hear about the Mackay community and its supposed firm views on matters such as Muslim people and mining, particularly plans for coal in the nearby Bowen and Galilee basins.
Mackay is not a redneck town, despite what's sometimes said, although that stereotype is reinforced by the language and values of local federal MP George Christensen.
Christensen is a vocal proponent of new coal mines, particularly the Adani development, and a coal-fired power station in north Queensland. A member of the Nationals, Christensen is worried about holding his seat of Dawson after his margin was more than halved at the July 2016 election.
The 3.3 per cent margin Christensen enjoys is squarely within the 6 per cent anti-LNP swing recorded by The Courier-Mail's Galaxy/YouGov Queensland federal poll published in February.
Adjacent LNP-held seats, Flynn and Capricornia, have margins of 1 per cent and 0.6 per cent, meaning they'd fall quickly if that February poll was replicated at the May 11 election.
Ken O'Dowd in Flynn and Michelle Landry in Capricornia joined Christensen in signing a letter to their federal leader Michael McCormack asking for a new coal-fired power station in north Queensland, something that's been rejected by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and a host of federal Nationals and Liberals, including Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton, previously seen as pro-coal.
The problem for these pro-coal holdout MPs in central and northern Queensland is they've been either reading research that's not the same as their other federal colleagues are seeing, or they are hooked by a cargo cult attachment to the next big thing for the north - either a coal-fired power station or a manna from heaven coal mine.
An insight into thinking in the Nationals federally came from an old, trusted sourced, former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer, who spoke out last week about what he called the "terror in the eyes" of farmers about weather.
Fischer didn't call it climate change, but he said any MP sitting for election in non-metropolitan districts who wanted to "get traction" needed to understand what was happening with the weather.
Liberals nationally have been briefed on research that says climate and weather are now in the three top-of-mind issues for voters.
You can hear the rhetorical shift that's followed with Morrison - who once carried a lump of coal into parliament to taunt Labor - now unable to utter the name of this black sedimentary rock.
You can bet concerns about the weather and shifting patterns of our climate are registering as seriously in Mackay as they are in Brisbane. This is not a black and white issue.
Dennis Atkins is The Courier-Mail's national affairs editor, email@example.com