DEBATE WRAP: How Rocky’s candidates fared in our debate
THE 2020 Queensland Election campaign clicked up a gear on Thursday night when the majority of Rockhampton's candidates went cyber-face-to-face in a unique online debate hosted by The Morning Bulletin.
Necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the online debate was an excellent opportunity for the candidates to put their best foot forward and address some of the Rockhampton region's most pressing issues.
In attendance was the LNP's Tony Hopkins, One Nation's Torin O'Brien, KAP's Christian Shepherd and LCQ's Laura Barnard with incumbent Labor candidate Barry O'Rourke controversially declining to participate and Greens candidate Mick Jones unable to attend.
The 30 minute debate was lively and fast paced with each candidate given the opportunity to present their 60 second pitches for why people should vote for them.
This was followed by a Q&A section in which candidates were given no prior warning on what they would be asked regarding the big issues and our reader's questions.
Candidates were challenged on how they would stimulate employment, address youth crime, whether they supported building a high school at Gracemere, reduce school bullying, and state their position on legislating voluntary assisted dying.
The debate concluded with candidates providing their final remarks.
Well-known local businessman Tony Hopkins turned in a steady performance on behalf of the LNP.
He explained how his family ties to the Rockhampton region extended back to the 1800s and discussed the ways his party would rebuild the economy by building roads, dams and infrastructure, get back to the basics with schools, job training for our youth, while getting tough on crime to provide a safe community to live in.
"We protect jobs as well as our resources and agricultural industries," Mr Hopkins promised.
Regarded by many as the standout performer of the debate, businessman and champion Muay Thai fighter Torin O'Brien threw away the script, opting for a straight-shooting approach.
He promised leadership, honesty and transparency with a focus upon jobs, water security, reducing crime, addressing school bullying and supporting local sporting clubs.
He questioned the absence of Labor's candidate in the debate, adopting a Trumpian approach by dubbing his political opponent "Bypass-Barry", who "bypassed the debate and bypassed every issue that's come at him".
As someone who grew up in Rockhampton, you could tell KAP's Christian Shepherd was excited to be participating in a debate for the seat, turning in a solid performance.
He honed in on his party's goal of winning the balance of power to deliver superior outcomes for regional Queenslanders including those in Rockhampton and Gracemere, were "no longer left behind by city-centric major parties that are based in Brisbane".
"I have social standing required to engage with our diverse community and the industrial experience to effectively engage with stakeholders," Mr Shepherd said.
Although her parents were originally from Rockhampton and she grew up travelling around CQ, Legalise Cannabis Queensland's candidate, full-time mother Laura Barnard only moved to live in Rockhampton with her family in May.
While she was caught off guard with one question, the self-styled election "underdog" injected some colour and contrary views into the debate.
Ms Barnard was very much focused on the key message that there was much to be gained from society and the economy embracing the benefits of marijuana's legalisation and commercialisation.
"The legalisation of cannabis is the green tourism, industrial, health and overall economic and community morale boost we desperately need," she said.
Over the coming days, stay tuned as The Morning Bulletin looks in detail at how the candidates chose to address Rockhampton's important issues and our readers' questions.
We have also put these questions to Rockhampton MP Mr O'Rourke and newly announced Greens candidate Mr Jones for their responses.
Stay tuned for the Keppel debate
Keppel was one of 10 key seats (Barron River, Thuringowa, Mundingburra, Whitsunday, Keppel, Pumicestone, Aspley, South Brisbane, Redlands, Gaven) selected for in person debates with Peter Gleeson moderating, and will be livestreamed to our sites.
The debate is planned for midday on October 16.