Premier Palaszczuk
Premier Palaszczuk

Leader Queensland needs now more than ever before

MORE than two decades on from when former premier Peter Beattie created the "Smart State" mantra, Queensland has great cause to celebrate.

European scientists have confirmed a virus inoculation developed right here in the Sunshine State by the world-class team at the University of Queensland is now the most likely vaccine for the deadly COVID-19 virus.

That is an incredible achievement, one all Queenslanders should be immensely proud of.

However, as Professor Ian Frazer - the man whose Queensland-created vaccine is curing the world of cervical cancer - correctly observed, it is "no accident" our state punches above its weight in this field.

"Smart State" had critics who were convinced it was wasteful extravagance for a relatively unpopulated territory in an isolated part of the world to spend vast sums of public money trying to compete with the global behemoths of science and innovation.

 

Former premier Peter Beattie with Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Former premier Peter Beattie with Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: Nigel Hallett

And Mr Beattie himself was frequently guilty of diluting the core meaning of his own mantra by doing what most politicians are susceptible of, and that is trying to claim credit for successes that would have happened anyway.

However, Smart State was always much more than a slogan that could be slapped on vehicle number plates.

It was, forgive the cliche, a state of mind.

From the time Mr Beattie led the first ever delegation of 40 Queensland companies to the world's largest biotechnology conference in Seattle in 1999 - where we were the only Australian state represented - it was about adroitly investing in emerging fields and being willing to take some risks along the way.

It was applying that great Australian axiom of "having a crack" at new endeavours.

There have been setbacks and some rather high-profile failures along the way.

But the Government remained committed to investing in world-class research facilities and today Queensland boasts an arsenal of these, such as the Queensland Bioscience Precinct, which houses experts from the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, the Queensland Brain Institute at UQ and the Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology.

But the focus was not just medicine.

Queensland has become the epicentre of other advancements which have created new industries and helped the traditional ones.

Perhaps the greatest accolade that the Smart State approach has ever received came from former United States president Barack Obama during the G20 Summit in Brisbane in 2014.

"Your innovations have transformed how we treat disease and how we unlock new discoveries," Mr Obama said.

The Beattie government certainly had its foibles but hindsight demonstrates the enormous value of having a vision while maintaining the fortitude to pursue lofty goals.

That's what real leadership is, the foresight to imagine and pursue a new reality that would improve people's lives and the determination to recover from setbacks and take others with you on the ride.

Sadly, Queensland has not had anything of this ilk for some time.

Sure, there's been the odd guiding manifesto.

Each was unveiled with great gusto, but boiled down they were unimaginative mission statements that repeat the bleeding obvious.

Annastacia Palaszczuk, for example, dipped her toe in the water for a while with "Advance Queensland". Where Ms Palaszczuk was advancing us to was always blithely ill-defined and the Premier quickly retreated from spearheading her own take on Smart State out of fear innovation had become a dirty word for elitism.

With UQ on the verge of a coronavirus vaccine, the legacy of Mr Beattie has only grown while it has diminished all those who have come after him.

But this crisis presents Ms Palaszczuk with a unique opportunity, a chance to recast where Queensland is headed and present a new vision.

At no other time in our recent history has a Queensland premier had a populace so amiable to new ideas and the risk they inherently hold. We're not just talking about further investment in science here but bold policies that will take staples of the Queensland economy, like tourism, mining and agriculture, in a new direction.

Just six months from the state election, the same applies to the LNP Opposition and what it plans to put to the Queensland people.

The next four years in this state must be about a recovery that is propelled at all times by a commitment to a brave new doctrine. It won't be easy.

But as Mr Beattie would attest, nothing worthwhile ever is.

 

Responsibility for election comment is taken by the Editor Chris Jones, corner of Mayne Rd & Campbell St, Bowen Hills, Qld 4006. Printed and published by NEWSQUEENSLAND (ACN 009 661 778). Contact details are available at www.couriermail.com.au/help/contact-us

 

Originally published as Leader Queensland needs now more than ever before



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