9/10 stars: How our candidates rated at crucial Rocky forum
HOW THEY WENT
- Douglas Rodgers, LNP: 9 out of 10. This may be his first campaign but Mr Rodgers is intelligent, across the issues and personable. He was comfortable on stage, injecting subtle humour and stood his ground when challenged. He went a long way to proving he is a genuine contender.
- Margaret Strelow, Indepdent: 9 out of 10: Ms Strelow is a seasoned political operator so it's no surprise she excelled at this forum. Her experience and knowledge as mayor show she has her finger on the pulse for the big issues. The big challenge for her is convincing enough voters disillusioned with the major parties that she can be effective from outside government.
- Wade Rothery, One Nation: 6 out of 10: Another newcomer to the political scene, Mr Rothery came across as honest and someone who clearly thinks deeply about the big issues. He spoke well and articulated clear positions on big issues. Though one response lacked riguor, he looks like he won't get caught out again on this issue.
- Barry O'Rourke, ALP: No show
- Kate Giamarelos, The Greens: No show
IT'S a shame a bigger crowd didn't see the stellar performances of two of the candidates for Rockhampton last night.
Independent candidate Margaret Strelow and the LNP's Douglas Rodgers both excelled, while One Nation's Wade Rothery talked tough but struggled under scrutiny, in front of about 20 people at Wednesday night's Gracemere forum.
Unfortunately any chance for a robust conversation on the big issues affecting this divisive election campaign was limited after the late withdrawal of Labor's Barry O'Rourke and to a lesser extent, the Greens' Kate Giamarelos.
Given the comprehensive performances of Ms Strelow and Mr Rodgers, who were both across the key issues and concise in answering questions from the floor, Mr O'Rourke will need to bring his A-game to next Tuesday's Rockhampton forum, hosted by The Morning Bulletin.
The community will need convincing responses on a number of issues - such as the seemingly stronger case Gracemere has than Calliope for a high school - if it is to accept the current government's focus is on Rockhampton.
It was no surprise a high school for Gracemere was one of the big items discussed on the night, as were Rookwood Weir and rising electricity costs.
It was also no surprise that Ms Strelow, a seasoned public speaker, looked in her element.
But she wasn't the only competent performer as Mr Rodgers presented as a viable option.
Opening first in the candidate's 10-minute pitches to the audience, Mr Rodgers, dressed smartly with a white shirt and striped tie, went straight on the attack, highlighting what he alleged was Labor "thuggery in the campaign" after his promotional material was targeted earlier in the day.
While he said this would have nothing to do with the candidate, it was something the party had to eliminate from within its ranks.
Mr Rodgers argued Rockhampton had been held ransom as a safe Labor seat for too long.
He said only the LNP could remove the Palaszczuk Government from power.
Mr Rodgers committed to Rookwood, supporting the push for a Gracemere High school and lowering electricity costs with a new coal-fired power station at Collinsville.
No longer "shackled by party ties", Ms Strelow spoke about her record in office at City Hall.
It was evident her position as the region's Mayor (which she has stood aside from for this election campaign) means she has her finger on the pulse on the relevant conversations.
She said the lack of support for the region in the education space went beyond failing to provide a new high school for Gracemere.
She also argued the lack of a Gracemere high school compromised the town's growth as parents were having to drive their children to school in Rockhampton, where they were often doing their shopping.
Ms Strelow talked up the long-term growth Adani's FIFO hub would bring to Rockhampton and the need to further drive the region's economic agenda.
One Nation's Wade Rothery was exactly what people would expect. He told the audience his parents and grandparents had always voted Labor, but he was disillusioned with the party and had found a voice with One Nation.
He was honest and tough talking.
At this stage of the campaign he clearly outlined positive positions on Rookwood Weir, a coal-fired power station and called for more specialist health care in the region.
But his response lacked rigour to a question about supporting Rookwood and undertaking a $20m feasibility study into The Gap Dam that he announced on the night.
One intriguing question from the floor raised the issue of people having to go to Brisbane or Townsville for health-related treatment.
Port Curtis resident John Whitehead said he couldn't understand why the government was spending so much flying people to other cities when it should provide a greater service in Rockhampton.
Ms Strelow said health bosses were "on the right page" in addressing this issue.
Last night's forum sets the stage for an intriguing event at the CQUniversity next Tuesday.