Silence of politicians is deafening in outback Qld
It may not be a routine campaign issue but a sky awash with airborne mammals is uppermost in the minds of Charter Towers residents as the starting gun fires in the Queensland election campaign.
And the ongoing flying fox saga in the old gold mining town west of Townsville provides the perfect illustration on just how stark the differences can be in the political preoccupations of the Queensland regions and the southeast.
Health, housing stocks, mining, juvenile crime and the LNP Opposition's $33 billion pledge to create a four lane Bruce Highway from Cairns to Gympie are all part of front bar discussions among the people occupying the 17 electorates above the Tropic of Capricorn this week as the state prepares to elect its 57th parliament.
But in Charters Towers, inside the seat of Traeger which covers more than 100,000 square kilometres, Mayor Frank Beveridge is eyeing off the four week campaign as a rare opportunity to get some media attention and strong arm the State Government into allowing the removal of those screeching flying foxes, once and for all.
It was in 2017 when more than 200,000 flying foxes invaded the town that national attention was last focused on the long running "bat plague.''
Beveridge says he is well aware the Labor Government's Green flank is holding up plans by his council to move the noisy visitors on to a State Government built "bat sanctuary'' outside town.
"We can use sonar and noise and all sorts of things to move them on, and there are groups which do that very effectively,'' he said.
The Department of Environment and Science says the dispersal was all set to go ahead until the arrival of little red flying foxes with pups in tow sparked fears the pups, which might be too heavy for mothers to carry, would be left behind in the forced removal.
Beveridge says the people of Charters Towers are beyond exasperation at a problem which they know perfectly well would have been remedied immediately had it arisen in a Brisbane suburb.
"You can watch how opposition to any action to clean up the flying fox problem here flares up on social media, sometimes in North America or some place overseas,'' he says.
"And then any plans we have to fix the problem are suddenly stopped.''
Beveridge can remember the days when the local gun club was tasked with discouraging the flying foxes which defecate in the water tanks and often wipe out the Christmas backyard mango tree crop.
"But no one wants to shoot them these days, no one wants to harm them, we just want them out of our town.''
Ever the realist, Beveridge also has a hard headed assessment of his chance of success in forcing the State Government to change its mind and allow the removal to go ahead immediately.
The seat is owned by Katter's Australian Party boss Robbie Katter who is a near certainty to win with a healthy margin.
Beveridge does not anticipate a rowdy cavalcade of Labor or LNP politicians crowding through Charters Towers Streets in an attempt to woo the voters of Traeger with pledges of a flying fox remedy..
"I reckon the sound we will be hearing is the sound of the crickets chirping.''
Originally published as Silence of politicians is deafening in outback Qld