Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by North West Star editor Derek Barry.
When the Coalition won May's federal election against most predictions, there was much soul-searching not only in the Labor party but in many metropolitan media that failed to see it coming. The tea-leaf reading was particularly strong here in Queensland, which elected as many Senators hailing from Cloncurry as it did for the entire ALP.
In the ongoing quest to find out what made Canetoaders different, Channel Ten's The Project sent comedian Steph Tisdell on assignment to Mount Isa "to help shed light on the disparity between the city and country". A Mount Isa local told Tisdell, "We've got a voice and when we put it together that's quite loud."
True, however The Project failed to point out something that might have illuminated the point further. The "Mount Isa local" in question was actually an electoral worker for state member Robbie Katter, whose quirky dad Bob Katter was comfortably reelected as the local federal member. This part of Queensland may not have voted for Labor but they didn't vote for the LNP either.
It was possibly the knowledge this was heartland lost as much as heartland flooded that caused Scott Morrison to make North West Qld his first port of call after his election win. There was a hero's welcome and the obligatory "how good is Cloncurry?" but there was also the knowledge serious money was required to keep this agricultural and mining engine of the economy running.
Mining in particular is suffering under the soaring costs of energy, leading to Swiss giant Glencore in 2017 threatening to shut down its massive Mount Isa Mines operation. Two years down the track little has changed to provide certainty and "how good is large-scale solar and wind" is a phrase yet to pass Mr Morrison's lips.
This uncertainty has led to CopperString, a $1 billion project that wants to build a high-voltage transmission line to link the North West with the east coast electricity grid. The state government is backing the proposal through to feasibility study though Natural Resources Minister Dr Antony Lynham says North West Queensland has a big decision when it comes to sourcing energy.
Dr Lynham said the region already had two gas-fired power stations and a steady supply via the NT gas pipeline and the only thing missing was solar. "With gas and renewables you've got the magic," he said.
Then all roads lead back to Isa in August for the largest cowpoke shindig in the southern Hemisphere, the 60th year anniversary of the Mount Isa Mines Rodeo starring John Farnham the Voice of Real Australia.
That's North West Queensland for you. Beautiful the one day, perfectly loony the next.
Editor, North West Star