Palaszczuk resigns as champion of Queensland’s mining sector

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has resigned, calling time on her tenure as Australia’s longest-serving female state leader.

At a press conference on Sunday morning, Palaszczuk — who assumed office in early 2015 — said her “mind was made up last week at national cabinet.”

“I was sitting there thinking this was the fourth prime minister — there were all these new faces around the cabinet table — and I thought to myself, renewal is a good thing.”

Though her Labor party is widely expected to face some kind of wipeout at next year’s election on the back of rising youth crime, hospital failures and the current housing crisis, Palaszczuk has had success elsewhere.

In May 2021, quarterly employment figures for Queensland’s minerals and exploration sector hit an all-time of just under 85,000, blowing past the previous record of 80,594 set in November 2013.

“The latest direct jobs figure for the mining sector of 84,909 is up 11%, or 8,101 jobs, on the previous quarter,” Queensland Resources Council CEO Ian Macfarlane said at the time.

“On top of this, there has been a 29% increase, or 19,083 extra jobs, over the 12-month period since the May 2020 quarter

“On top of this, there has been a 29% increase, or 19,083 extra jobs, over the 12-month period since the May 2020 quarter.”

While those figures had retreated substantially to around 67,000 in mid-2023, the case that Palaszczuk hasn’t been good for Queensland’s mining sector could be a tough one to make.

Her shock resignation is reminiscent of Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan’s in May this year, and calls into question how Australia’s two biggest mining states might fare in the years to come.

Under McGowan’s leadership, which began in March 2017, employment in WA’s mining sector had grown consistently to reach 126,481 in the 2022-23 financial year from roughly 85,000 in 2016-17, according to figures from the Department of Energy, Mines, Industrial Regulation and Safety.

Exploration expenditure had enjoyed a similar trajectory, jumping from around $1 billion in 2016-17 to $2.5 billion in 2022-23.

But, of course, it’s a tough time for mining regulation. Calls for more sources of green energy have clashed with the need to produce the metals required to make that happen. 

At the same time, Rio Tinto’s (ASX:RIO) destruction of Juukan Gorge in 2020 sparked major backlashes over the influence of mining companies on First Nations communities, and McGowan’s successor Roger Cook ultimately scrapped the controversial Indigenous cultural heritage protection laws in August.

Palaszczuk’s replacement is yet to be appointed. Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles was the first to throw his hat into the ring, while Health Minister Shannon Fentiman and Treasurer Cameron Dick have done the same.

Whichever way the coming leadership tussle shakes down, it will surely have an impact on not just Quensland’s mining sector, but Australia’s generally.

Write to Oliver Gray at Mining.com.au

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Written By Oliver Gray
Originally from Perth, Oliver has a keen interest long-form journalism. He has written for a number of publications and was most recently Contributing Editor of The Market Herald’s opinion section, Art of the Essay.