How Queensland is different to other Australian states

Here's a challenge. Today, I'm going to attempt to explain Queensland.

I'm going to try to defend a place that sometimes feels like Australia's Texas, a state of straight-shooters and roo-shooters, of big hats and big plans, of people with a lifestyle that's as leisurely as their accents.

It's a "red" state that votes blue (or whatever colour the Nationals are given). It's a state that refuses daylight savings because the curtains will fade. It's a state where coal mines are plonked right next to national treasures, and where the further north you travel, the more "troppo" everyone seems to have gone.

You just know, instinctively, that people like Bob Katter and Pauline Hanson are going to be from Queensland. And you know, just as instinctively, that they will have been voted into power by other Queenslanders.

Things are different up there. People are different. There's that old saying that when you cross the border, you wind your watch back 20 years. And sometimes that actually feels like it's true.

Try going to somewhere like Mount Morgan, a town that seems like it has been curated to give tourists a feel of what things would have been like back in the old days. But the thing is, no one is pretending in Mount Morgan – it really is like the old days. This stuff is for real.

But still, I'm trying to tell you that Queensland is good. And I'm trying to tell you that you should see it for yourself.

I spent the first 25 years of my life in Queensland, so I know its quirks and its foibles pretty well. I did most of my schooling in Gladstone, a city with plenty of heavy industry, a busy port, and, now, a 5000-strong "Stop the Mosque Gladstone" Facebook group despite there being no actual plans to build one.

I can understand the reason people from the rest of Australia have been joking about a possible "Quexit", about Queensland being voted off this lovely little island of ours. Almost 20 per cent of voters in my old electorate selected One Nation in the recent election. One in five agree with Pauline Hanson. And the party is popular across the state.

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What's going on up there that makes people so different? It's hard to put your finger on a single reason, although isolation, a lack of exposure to the things they're all so scared of – anti-gay sentiment is unfortunately high in country areas, despite, according to Bob Katter, there being no homosexual people in his electorate; only 0.16 per cent of Gladstone's population is actually Muslim – probably has a fair bit to do with it.

But still, you shouldn't tar everyone in Queensland with the same brush. There's a lot more nuance to the "Sunshine State" and its residents than you might expect; it deserves better than being slapped with stereotypes and a desire for it to float away.

There is culture in Queensland. There's a great live music and arts scene in Brisbane (home of Powderfinger, Regurgitator, the Go-Betweens, the Grates, Violent Soho, Custard, Resin Dogs etc). There's a lot of love for an outdoorsy, healthy lifestyle around the Gold Coast and the surrounding hinterland. There's good food in Noosa; good wine in Mt Cotton. There's also a string of B&S balls and ute musters and country music festivals further afield, if that's more your thing.

There are also some amazing, generous, friendly people in those country towns I grew up in. There might be one in five who voted for One Nation, but there are four in five who didn't. There are plenty of good people who don't actually think their curtains will fade and the cows will get up at the wrong time if you introduce daylight saving.

Queensland is different, but you have to embrace that difference – you can't understand Australia until you understand Queensland. You can't say you've "done" this country until you've been to a State of Origin game at Suncorp Stadium (and referred to it as Lang Park), or been to Birdsville for the races, or had a beer at the pub in Winton, or seen the bull's balls that everyone keeps trying to steal in Rockhampton, or taken a 4WD up to Weipa.

And I haven't even got started on all of the natural attractions, the coral islands, the beaches, the rainforests, the grasslands and arid plains and everything in between. Or the fact that right now in the Gold Coast it's probably 22 degrees and sunny and everyone is sitting outside at the surf club having a beer.

Southern states might sneer and say Queenslanders are a bunch of bogans, and sometimes we are, but there's more to the state than that. And it's definitely worth checking out. Just don't mention you barrack for the Blues, or voted for the Greens, and you'll be fine.

What do you think of Queensland? Is it Australia's Texas? Or just misunderstood?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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