Breaking: Major twist in Rocky's Game of Thrones

LABOR'S Game of Thrones for the seat of Rockhampton has taken a dramatic turn with one of the lead characters bowing out in the battle for the for pre-selection.

It has been exclusively revealed to the Morning Bulletin that the challenger to Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow, Dan Coxen has withdrawn from the race for pre-selection, possibly due to his eligibility concerns.

Dan Coxer has stood down as a candidate for the ALP preselection battle for the seat of Rockhampton.
Dan Coxer has stood down as a candidate for the ALP preselection battle for the seat of Rockhampton. Chris Ison ROK171017cpreselectio

This bombshell development has opened the door for the "first-reserve” mentioned by former long-serving Rockhampton MP Robert Schwarten in the Morning Bulletin story yesterday and that person's identity has been revealed as CQ Public Housing boss Barry O'Rourke.

Mr O'Rourke has been member of the Rockhampton community since he moved here in 1991 to help with the aftermath of the flood disaster and loved the place so much he moved here.

He is currently the regional director of the Central Queensland and North Coast region at the Department of Housing and Public Works and in that role he's forged deep ties within the the local community and government organisations.

Now that it has been confirmed that Mr O'Rourke will be Cr Strelow's opponent for Labor pre-selection, both Rockhampton candidates will progress to the next stage which is an interview process on Thursday where the prospective candidates are vetted to ensure their suitability.

If they are both successful in negotiating that stage of the process, the administration committee will meet and determine the candidates and then the Labor party will conduct a plebiscite of its local rank and file members, possibly within the next week to see who has the support.

That local vote carries a 50% weighing with the Queensland Labor electoral college in Brisbane which is then due to vote with their vote also carrying a 50% weighting.

This electoral college vote will be decided in an internal factional battle.

From that vote, the candidate for the seat of Rockhampton will be decided.

Mr O'Rourke hosted a press conference this afternoon and has provided the following statement regarding his run for pre-selection for the set of Rockhampton:

Respected Regional Housing Director Barry O 'Rourke has put up his hand to fill the gap after Dan Coxen's withdrawal of nomination for the seat of Rockhampton after Bill Byrne resigned due to ill health.

Mr O'Rourke, who is the Regional Director for the Department of Housing and Public Works, Central Queensland and North Coast Region, organises, maintains, and tenants over 18000 units of public housing at approximately $3 billion in value.

Additionally he manages a budget of over $80 million.

In a statement issued today he spoke about his passion for the region.

He said his community commitment had driven his interest in seeking endorsement to run for the ALP in Rockhampton.

"As one of thirteen kids, I learnt at an early age that listening, sharing and working hard got results,” Mr O'Rourke said.

"My parents sacrificed a lot to give us the best opportunity through good education and installed a strong work ethic to do the best we could.

"I was also fortunate that my father financed me to grow small crops and I learnt that you can work extremely hard on the land and mother nature can take it all away.

"I also found out that non- Labor Governments were out of touch and not interested in working class families like ours.

"I came to Rockhampton in 1991 to support my housing colleagues who were assisting residents of Rockhampton who were forced from their homes due to flooding.

File image from Rockhampton Floods in 1991. Car submerged in Bolsover Street, Depot Hill.
File image from Rockhampton Floods in 1991. Car submerged in Bolsover Street, Depot Hill. ROK141112flood1

"During this time, I fell in love with Rockhampton, the people and surrounds and have basically been here ever since except for a couple of years in Mount Isa.

1991 Rockhampton Floods.
1991 Rockhampton Floods. The Morining Bulletin Archives

"I started my career in housing as a file boy, in our records department, and have worked my way to the top of the department here and enjoyed the challenge of helping people who are seeking housing assistance practically those who are vulnerable in our community.

"I have the advantage of understanding government and the inter departmental cooperation that is needed to address the socio-economic challenges that confront vulnerable people and families battling housing affordability issues.

"My work with support providers and community housing organisations like Anglicare, brings me into contact with some of the most influential service deliverers in our community.

"My work with the housing sector has help me understand the issues affecting our community.

"Over the years I have worked closely with housing providers to increase the number of properties available for emergency family accommodation, for our vulnerable youth, accommodation for women escaping domestic and family violence and increasing the number of long term affordable housing properties.

"This often contrasts with the complex issues of engaging with industry but it's all part of the demanding and rewarding job of providing housing in our community.”

Mr O'Rourke wants local branch members to have a say in who should be the candidate to represent the Labor Party at the next state election.

"When Dan Coxen announced he had nominated, I was happy to support him, but given the factional squabbling that meant Dan is ruled out on a technicality, with my strong natural justice principles, I decided to give branch members an alternative,” Mr O'Rourke said.

"My day job and my commitment to supporting my family has opened doors into every part of our community involving the three levels of government, church and community organisations, law enforcement, family support, mental health advocacy and every other group that supports our community.

"I am confident in saying I have the experience, people skills, the intelligence, the passion for the region and real understanding of cost of living issues to drive the positive agenda we need for Rockhampton.”

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