Gladstone gets a decidedly Green tinge as new Senator sets up unlikely HQ

You won’t hear people from the mainstream parties use the term corporate overlord very often but it slips out twice in a matter of minutes from Greens senator Penny Allman-Payne. 

Nov 08, 2023, updated Nov 09, 2023
Greens senator Penny Allman-Payne (photo AAP)

Greens senator Penny Allman-Payne (photo AAP)

It’s a sign that things are about to get very different in the industrial city of Gladstone where the first term senator has just set up her office.  

A few years ago, if a Green senator had set up an office outside Brisbane it would have been seen as extremely ambitious. But the green wave that hit at the last Federal election changed everything.

Both major parties are looking over their shoulders at the Greens in the run-up to the state election next year.

Gladstone is not the natural habitat of a Greens politician. At the last federal election, the local House of Representatives vote for the Greens candidate was just over 4000 and was won by the LNP’s Colin Boyce with about 37 per cent of the primary vote.  

But Allman-Payne said she can change that, even in a city dominated by the likes of Rio Tinto, a company that could fit the aforementioned corporate overlord tag. 

She is setting about her politics in the same way that the Greens won its Brisbane inner-city seats at the last election: relentless doorknocking and grassroots campaigning. 

The doorknocking started a few weeks ago and she said the more common response from people was not annoyance or antagonism, but surprise. 

“I think that people read and see things in the media that are not a true reflection of our policies or the way we operate and the more common response is surprise,” she said. 

There have also been community functions, done a little differently to the bigger parties. 

“We set up a mutual aid program, we have a community pantry that has been getting a really good response and we have had free community dinners and the people who come to those have made the comment that no one else has done that. 

“We have also had a health forum where we had about 40 people attend and talk about how we can reinvigorate the issue that has been going for decades which is Gladstone not having an intensive care unit. 

“We have been talking to Gladstone people about how they can build community power and representation that they deserve. 

“We are not going to get to the point quickly where the regional vote increases to the extent of where it is in the southeast because that is where we have capacity but that is part of the reason I have chosen to stay in Gladstone as a senator. Part of that work is to build the capacity and spread the Greens message further,’’ she said. 

“It’s not going to happen quickly but it will happen. We will see the vote start to edge up.’’ 

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She chose Gladstone not because that’s where the challenge may be greatest but because it has been her home for 12 years. Before entering Parliament she was a teacher working in central Queensland, Cape York and the southeast. 

Despite Gladstone’s heavy industry base and giant coal-fired power station, the city is changing. It was selected by Andrew Forrest for his hydrogen electrolyser factory and the local council this year adopted a wide-ranging strategy to prepare the city for the transition to renewables. 

It also has a renewable industrial hub. 

Allman-Payne said the city had also changed its attitude to renewables. 

“I noticed a real shift between the 2019 and 2022 federal election. Back in 2019 people were still very reticent to have the conversation (about renewables), but by 2022 it’s virtually accepted in the community that the change is going to happen and what they want to know is what will it look like, who will replace the big players and how will we benefit,’’ she said. 

“I live in a community that relies on having a good transition so I have a vested interest in the communities being looked after and benefit from that transition. 

“Communities have said they don’t want one lot of corporate overlords replaced with another. So it’s making sure the transition happens in a way that not only addresses the urgency of the climate crisis but also looks after the communities.”



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