Glenn Lazarus, as good as his political slogan, is doing the hard yards. The former rugby league prop, known as the Brick with Eyes, is locked in a grassroots battle to hold on to his federal Senate seat for Queensland ahead of Pauline Hanson.
Having cut ties with the party of Clive Palmer – which was bankrolled to the tune of $21.5m by the ill-fated nickel business that accounted for 27% of all Australian political donations in the past two years – there is no TV advertising, private jet or morning television interviews for Lazarus now.
He has already clocked up more than 5,000 km in his vehicle, the Brick with Wheels, across regional Queensland in what he says is a “very ugly itinerary” for the rest of June. “I won’t be at home for a while. I’ll have to get the machete out to cut through the overgrown trees and God knows what else,” he says.
Lazarus has ventured into central Queensland’s mining job heartlands – Emerald, Gladstone, Maryborough, Mackay – to emerge with a message: the boom is bust. Jobs are the dominant concern – especially to halt an exodus of young people to capital cities. Housing markets and small business trade are smashed. But hopes don’t hang on a mining revival, Lazarus says.
He is pitching himself as the honest advocate against major party governments that rode the boom and neglected the industries left over when it petered out. Many regional councils and chambers of commerce have “shovel ready” alternative projects and infrastructure that could be kicked off with $5m to $10m in government investment, he says.
In Gladstone, there are plans and feasibility studies for a healthcare hub. In Emerald, which lost 20,000 jobs through the mining slump, there is a proposal for a meat works to create 250 jobs. It needs about $7m. In Mackay, which has lost 30,000 people, there is talk of rebuilding old economic pillars.
For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/jun/04/glenn-lazarus-takes-his-message-into-mining-heartlands-the-boom-is-bust