ELECTION 2015: Young women snap at sitting MPs' heels

ONCE upon a time the stereotype politician was a middle-aged man in a grey-suit. How times have changed - the political spectrum is now awash with young, ambitious women. While the sitting members for both Rockhampton and Keppel may fit the stereotype, biting at their heels are two young women with more in common than their different political stance suggests....

Click here to read about Brittany Lauga

Click here to read about Bridie Luva

Labor Candidate for Keppel Brittany Lauga
Labor Candidate for Keppel Brittany Lauga Contributed

Brittany Lauga

Labor Candidate for Keppel

BRITTANY Lauga was two years into a law degree when she realised it wasn't for her.

"I loved the human rights and ethics subjects, but when I got to contracts it was all too bland," she said.

"That's when I went into town planning and loved it.

"After university I worked for a consultant and learned so much about planning processes, the act and community involvement in planning."

During the Bligh government Brittany delivered community infrastructure projects under Kevin Rudd's stimulus package before returning to Rockhampton to work as a town planner.

On January 31 she goes head to head with Bruce Young for the seat of Keppel and says one day she'd love to be planning minister.

"There are heaps of ways the planning system needs to be better and fairer," she said.

"Developers are being impeded by the act and the system with unfair charges and lengthy delays and the act doesn't require public consultation for certain things.

"Other planners had similar frustrations; those working for council felt the community and developers were always blaming them and the consultant planners were frustrated their clients weren't getting projects approved fast enough.

"I wanted to do something about it and after the last state election, a colleague said I should consider running."

Politics isn't in Brittany's DNA.

She was involved in student unionism at QUT as a student advocate and was voted general secretary after campaigning against work choices and cuts to universities.

"That's when I became involved in the Labor party," she said.

Ironically both sides of her family are conservative voters and like Bridie Luva, the family avoids political discussions around the dinner table.

She says women bring energy to the political arena and look at policy from a different angle to men.

"Bruce (Young) will talk about bringing experience and knowledge, whereas I talk about energy, passion and wanting to get in there, stand up and give the region a voice," she said.

Like the bookmakers, she's confident in her chances of winning Keppel and says she's had really good feedback from the "possibly thousands" of doors she's knocked on.

"People concerned about their young people and unemployment is by far the biggest issue," she said.

"Elderly people are very concerned about cuts to hospital and health.

"Labor policy is to give employers tax breaks when they employ apprentices.

"There's plenty of things governments can do to create jobs.  I'd rather see my tax dollars go to job creation than the $650 million going on number one William St in Brisbane."

She says it's important to remember that Campbell Newman, as mayor of Brisbane, was begging Anna Bligh to forego the AAA rating so the state could rebuild Brisbane after the floods.

"He was the one pushing the government to forgo the credit rating and make the repairs."

She doesn't hesitate to say she disagrees with leasing the states assets and losing $2 billion a year in government revenue for a 'quick fix' doesn't make economic sense.

"The life of this infrastructure is around 40-50 years and we're talking 99 year leases," she said.

"As far as I'm concerned a 99-year lease is a sale and it's putting jobs and maintenance at risk."

At only 29-years old, Brittany has energy to burn and passion to spare.

History shows she's not afraid to make decisions on the run or trust her gut instincts.

Only two months after meeting Wayne Lauga at work, she agreed to marry him.  The couple have been happily married for three years and share their home with Brittany's other love, her Labrador dog Apollo who often shares the campaign trail with her.

"Being fit and happy is important to show voters I'm serious about a fit and happy community," she said.

"Our biggest challenges over the next decade will in health.

"Medicare Local health needs assessment shows one in two of us obese, one in three is morbidly obese; smoking is at higher rates than the state average and there's a big drug problem.

"I think the problems lie in depression, lack of self-esteem and I think about what governments can do.

"Someone told me once that state funding is allocated based on how annoying the local member is, and I plan to be very annoying."

LNP candidate for Rockhampton Bridie Luva
LNP candidate for Rockhampton Bridie Luva Chris Ison

Bridie Luva

LNP Candidate for Rockhampton

BRIDIE Luva had just arrived at Cania Gorge on a camping holiday with her family when she got a message saying the election had been called.

She left her family and made the 3.5 hour trip back to Rockhampton, fielding calls the whole way home.

"We honestly had no idea the election was being called on Monday; I just had to jump straight into it," she said.

As she finally sat down to lunch at 2.30 on Thursday afternoon, Bridie Luva was clear about where she stands and not fazed by a safe Labor seat.

She's motivated by the big questions but understands that sometimes it's the smaller issues that make a big difference to people's lives.

"I want my campaign to stand on what I would do, not what someone else hasn't done," she said.

"I can absolutely tell you, if I'm elected I'll deliver on a skate park for Gracemere and flashing safety lights for Parkhurst Primary School.

"At every opportunity I'll be talking about the hospital carpark to keep the pressure on."

At 35-years-old, Bridie is mum to three young children.  Her baby daughter is three months old.

She clearly backs herself and says it's possible because she knows her husband has her back.

"He's amazing.  We call ourselves Team Luva…If i say something ridiculous that ends up on YouTube, I know he'll still love me.
"We've always been a give and take couple, but Tui does far more than most men would and does it without argument. "

Bridie joined the LNP a 'few years ago' not only because she supports the party, but because she wants to be part of the movement.

"I genuinely believe the LNP is the best government for Queensland," she said.

"My first state convention was very exciting.  The delegates all came together to vote on policy.

"It was the democratic process in action and very exciting to be a part of it…I loved it."

Bridie's first taste of election madness came when she worked with Michelle Landry on her federal campaign.

"It was a lot of hard work but I saw how much influence and opportunity there was for her to participate in policy development.

"People sometimes ay you're just one person, so why do you bother, but everyone is just one person.

"We try to trying to foster that in our children, about connectedness to the community and being part of making changes…not just standing back and looking in."

The Luva family are committed to community involvement through the Lions Club, PCYC, volunteer fire fighters, coaching children's sport and collecting for the Salvation Army every year with their children.

Bridie has a journalism degree, taught English in Japan and Korea and spent three months volunteering in a Kenyan primary school.

She says her father is a Joh supporter from way back but her mother and sister vote Labor.

"We don't have very many political discussions," she said.

"It always ends in an argument.

"The LNP is making tough decisions and it's been an unpopular decision to lease assets.

"But knowing it's unpopular and they're pushing the message uphill, do you really think they'd do it if they didn't think it was the right thing to do?

"The conservative way is the run state the way you'd run your household - to set money aside for a rainy day, to spend within your means, not max out the credit card too much and invest in future development."

She says, as a mother, she is most impressed with the government's health and law and order record.

"I was so proud of a party that stood up to organised crime and made mandatory sentencing for sex offenders against children.

"They did that at great personal risk. We've seen a reduction in crime and we've seen it in this town.
Bridie takes on Bill Byrne for the seat of Rockhampton and although it's considered a safe Labor seat, the margin is only 3.8%.

"I think people realise now that Labor isn't for the working man anymore.  Once upon a time it was blue collar and they had your back and I think people can see that," she said.

"For the most part, I think people can see that this town hasn't really gone anywhere and I think it will reflect in the polls.

"Some people have a perception that LNP politicians are big business people out to line our pockets, but we're just not; we're ordinary people who believe the choices we're making are the right thing to do."

She says the answer to the unemployment problem starts with getting big infrastructure projects going quickly and making sure government contracts go to local business.

"We need to have someone shouting loud and jumping up and down about it and I want to be in a positon to have those conversations," she said.

"Bill Byrne is supposed to be that advocate.  I've been campaigning since April and been to all sorts of community events; I see Brittany everywhere, but I've yet to meet Bill Byrne.

"I want to do what I think is right, just as I'm sure Brittany is doing what she thinks is right too.

"For most things we'd be on the same page, because we both want the same things.  We just get there in different ways."

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