Lobbyists with deep pockets are coming after Annastacia Palaszczuk. How she responds may define her premiership

<span>Photograph: Darren England/AAP</span>
Photograph: Darren England/AAP

The Queensland government’s changes to land tax rules – scrapping a loophole used by interstate investors – has been met with a bordering-on-hysterical response.

Having been railed against by the real estate industry, the measures are now being called a “renters’ tax” by politicians and some media. This is despite the fact some of the country’s leading housing market experts and economists have disputed the central claim of the campaign being waged: that it would exacerbate the housing crisis.

To those with a real stake in dealing with chronic homelessness and housing affordability, the idea that landlords with multiple properties and interstate portfolios are pitching themselves as the benevolent providers of a public service is galling.

But you ain’t seen nothing yet. Queensland’s coalminers are not far behind.

Some of the state’s biggest mining companies, backed by the mining lobby, are a couple of weeks away from launching an advertising campaign calling on the state to wind back its new coal royalties regime, which kicks in when the companies begin making windfall profits.

To put it in context, the coal company Whitehaven estimated that the royalty changes would reduce the net present value of its planned South Winchester coalmine – which is a few years from being operational – by about 3%.

Related: Queensland urged to hold its nerve in face of ‘baseless’ campaign linking land tax hike to housing crisis

Last financial year, Whitehaven’s profits on coal exports increased by about 1,400%.

Queensland taxpayers own the coal. We allow coal companies to mine and export the resource, and get paid at the back end via the royalties. Which good capitalist among us wouldn’t demand more for a product we own if the middle men are suddenly making massive profits?

The mining lobby has framed its opposition to the royalty change as about whether it would discourage future investment in Queensland.

Tim Buckley, the managing director of Climate Energy Finance, says the impact of the increased royalties is equivalent to “a rounding error” – and that the idea coal companies would withhold investment on that basis is “a hollow threat”.

What’s fundamental to both of these cases – the landlords and the miners – is that they are ultimately pushing for what is in their financial interest. But their campaigns both cloak self-interest in ways designed to convince people it is somehow to all our benefit for property owners to pay less tax, and for multinational corporations to pocket their super profits.

The Queensland government appears to be standing firm against the pushback, but Labor has previously chucked progressive policy out the door in an attempt to stop vested interests and media outlets from screeching.

In its early years, the Palaszczuk government garnered a reputation for “reviewing, not doing”. Its political success has been built on snail-pace reform and charting a centre course. But the cost of that approach is that, after more than seven years, many people still don’t know what Labor in Queensland really stands for.

The Greens’ federal election wins in inner-Brisbane show charting a centre course in Queensland might be increasingly difficult for Palaszczuk and Labor. These victories were underpinned by the mobilisation of a renter class and aspirational young people who want to upend a housing market that already heavily favours investors.

How Labor responds to the housing crisis – and whether it caves to pressure from powerful vested interests – will be a test of whether this is a government of principle, or politics.

The same can be said of whether Queensland holds firm against the miners.

The history of such campaigns – think Adani’s federal election intervention in 2019, or the advertisements opposing the federal mineral resources rent tax in 2010 – is daunting.

But this is the world post the 2022 election, where Greens and teals were elected in record numbers, and voters have made clear there is another side to the ledger. Back away now from modest proposals – ones that arguably go nowhere near far enough to fix structural problems – and Labor might find itself in no man’s land, occupying a shrinking centre ground.

Related: ‘Very different place’: new campaign over mining taxes ‘unlikely’ to succeed in Queensland

The final looming test is the Queensland government’s energy plan, due for release next week. Palaszczuk has foreshadowed a big climate announcement, and the energy minister, Mick de Brenni, has also hinted at plans for a massive renewables construction program.

WWF Australia’s analysis of Queensland’s emissions targets makes clear that the state must drastically lift its ambition to meet Paris climate targets.

That would mean dealing with the elephant in the room and making plans to curtail coal-fired power ahead of the current schedule.

Of course, in Queensland, such a move would unleash the same old scare campaigns from the usual suspects.

It all depends on whether the government is, finally, up for a fight.