Member for Rockhampton Bill Byrne at Kershaw Gardens
Member for Rockhampton Bill Byrne at Kershaw Gardens Chris Ison ROK061017ckershaw1

Labor branch members debate Byrne's replacement

THE urgency around ALP pre-selection for a new Rockhampton candidate suggests a State Election could still be held this year.

Following Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne's shock retirement announcement, Labor sources have told The Morning Bulletin the party is moving quickly to find a suitable candidate, with nominations open yesterday morning.

Over the weekend, Biloela teacher and Central Queensland union organiser Dan Coxen confirmed he would nominate.

While Rockhampton Region mayor Margaret Strelow said she would nominate for pre-selection if the premier indicated her support.

The election must be held before May, but premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has told media that Mr Byrne's announcement would not hasten any decision around an election date.

It's the last time speculation of this kind will occupy a state government, with fixed four-year terms commencing after this election.

A minimum of 26 days is required before an election, which means a November date is still not off the table.

The Morning Bulletin understands Rockhampton Labor branches will be writing to the state branch requesting they have input into the final Rockhampton candidate, in a bid to rule out any 'Captain's picks' by the premier.

Labor sources have said pre-selection nominations will be open for roughly a week.

Mr Coxen said he had always planned to move to Rockhampton and nominate for the seat, but the shock announcement of Mr Byrne had fast-tracked those plans.

However, The Morning Bulletin understands there is concern within the local branches about the impact a perceived outsider could have on the campaign.

There are fears it could force undecided voters into the One Nation camp, even though a candidate has not yet been officially nominated for the party in Rockhampton.

Labor insiders also speculated about the nomination of Kirby Anderson, whose family has run City Printing Works in Rockhampton for over a century.

Mr Anderson works in the office of the premier as the deputy chief of staff and is well connected within the party.

However, he yesterday confirmed he would not be running.

"Rockhampton is my home and it has given me so many opportunities,” he said.

"However, I will not be seeking pre-selection. I will strongly support Labor's candidate at the next election.”



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