Michael Berkman pushes government on tree clearing and coal
Queensland’s first elected Greens MP will push the Palaszczuk government to beef up its tree-clearing crackdown and veto a federal loan to Aurizon that could help Adani’s Galilee Basin coalmine.
Greens MP Michael Berkman — one of six crossbench MPs in the new Queensland parliament when it sits for the first time next month — has vowed to take advantage of the minor party’s rising popularity and his new-found platform to exert influence, despite Labor’s two-seat majority.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was re-elected at the November 25 election with 48 seats in the 93-seat parliament. The Liberal National Party opposition has 39, the Katter’s Australian Party has three, and there will be one independent, one Green and a One Nation MP.
KAP veteran politician Shane Knuth warned Ms Palaszczuk to take the crossbench seriously, reminding her she had a majority of only two.
“It’d only take a hiccup and a heart attack and majority government could be brought down,” he said.
“(Politics) is always very, very fickle. (Labor) lost two backbenchers (to the crossbench) last time, and had major issues with other MPs.’’
First-term MPs Billy Gordon and Rob Pyne were elected as Labor backbenchers in 2015 but Mr Gordon was ejected from Labor and Mr Pyne left the party, with both serving out their time as crossbenchers.
Mr Berkman said although his parliamentary vote would not be as powerful in a majority parliament, the Greens’ recent election result — 10 per cent of the statewide vote — showed Labor was at risk of losing further voters to the left-wing party.
“Labor’s shift on Adani (in which Ms Palaszczuk announced a veto of a federal loan to the Indian conglomerate during the election campaign) we believe was as a result of the pressure they were feeling from the Greens,” he said.
“It would be deeply cynical for the Premier ... to veto the NAIF (Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility) loan to Adani and then allow through effectively the same loan (to Aurizon).
“I hope the government has more sense than that, but if they were to allow Aurizon to take taxpayer money, they would face a serious backlash.”
Mr Berkman said he would also advocate for a strengthening of Labor’s crackdown on tree-clearing by farmers, when the government introduced the legislation in the first half of this year.
He said certain types of clearing should no longer be allowed under the self-assessable codes, where farmers did not need to get departmental approval before cutting down trees.