DEBATE RECAP: Rocky candidates go head-to-head on big issues

7.50pm: The debate ends with Mr Rothery having the last say on the support for sport question but Rockhampton voters get to have the final say on Saturday when they go to the polling booths.

 See tomorrow's edition of The Morning Bulletin in print and online for more coverage on the debate and the campaign. 

LATEST: Encouraging sport a priority for all candidates

Mr O'Rourke's brother asked the candidates what they would do to encourage sport in the region. 

Mr Rodgers, chair of the local rugby board, said he wanted to see clubs and local associations were well-governed. 

He said they were too often set up to fail and wanted to make sure they would prosper. 

Mr O'Rourke said he was committed to making Rockhampton a junior sports capital and said it was important to encourage kids to get out and make connections. 

Ms Strelow once again said there were only breadcrumbs for the regions, saying millions were needed to lift sporting facilities out of flood zones. 

Mr Rothery said government's needed to start from the basics again, helping families to pay for sporting memberships by keeping cost of living down. 

Wade Rothery (One Nation) at the candidates forum at CQ University.
Wade Rothery (One Nation) at the candidates forum at CQ University. Chris Ison

EARLIER: Does Barry O'Rourke support Rookwood?

Another question from the floor, from an LNP member, asking Mr O'Rourke if he supported Rookwood. 

Mr O'Rourke said he would, if it stacks up financially. 

EARLIER: Who did you preference when you voted, Ms Strelow?

Ms Strelow was asked by an audience member who she preferenced when voting. 

She said that was personal information and asked if the man was in fact Mr O'Rourke's campaign manager. 

He was. 

Ms Strelow said she had not handed out How To Vote cards with preferences because she was truly independent. 

She said many people were taking her card and a variety of other parties, saying "that's exactly how I want it". 

EARLIER: Where do you stand on the dam debate?

Well-known Rockhampton businessman Dominic Doblo asked where the candidates stood on accountability for achieving the dam programs and asked whether they could fund the feasibility study for The Gap dam. 

Mr O'Rourke, whom the question was directed to, said Labor was committed to a sustainable water grid, but would not commit to funding while the government was in caretaker mode. 

Mr Rodgers spoke about water allocations and said Rookwood was not a small weir and would be adequate. 

Mr Rothery asked to add a comment and said after meeting with Mr Doblo he believed The Gap should be further investigated. 

He said he wanted to save money, but visionary projects were also needed. 

Ms Strelow also asked to make a comment, saying she was on record as wanting a "quick check" of The Gap.

EARLIER: Candidates give clarity on their Adani stance

Mr O'Rourke was asked why Labor was "dithering" on Adani's Carmichael Coal Mine. 

He responded by saying all approvals were in place and the party was 100% behind the project. 

He said Adani has said they doesn't need the backing of State or Federal Governments. 

Mr Rodger's took to the stand to ask why the Labor Party had vetoed the rail line, saying Labor was divided on coal mining. 

He said no mines could go ahead without some government support. 

Ms Strelow said NAIF funding was to provide loans to private companies and they should have said they had a problem initially. 

She said it must be a multi-user rail corridor. 

Ms Strelow said the "straw that broke the camel's back" of her disappointment with the Labor Party came with Ms Palaszczuk's backflip, which was a moment when she was "very grateful" not to be the endorsed candidate. 

Mr Rothery said One Nation was 100% behind mining, but questioned why the government was loaning money to a self-proclaimed billionaire. 

He said he believed the government should own the rail line. 

EARLIER: How independent candidate plans to deliver

Ms Strelow was asked how she could secure outcomes for Rockhampton without the backing of a major party.

She said a hung parliament was an opportunity to negotiate some great things for Rockhampton and the wider region, with independent members finding they have greater access to ministers than backbenchers. 

She cited Gladstone's Liz Cunningham who achieved many outcomes for the city as a long term independent for that region, saying they enjoyed a "golden age". 

Margaret Strelow (Independent) at the candidates forum at CQ University.
Margaret Strelow (Independent) at the candidates forum at CQ University. Chris Ison

EARLIER: Candidates on the working relationship between Byrne and Landry

The poor working relationship between former Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry has been raised, with candidates asked how they would work with other representatives. 

Mr Rodgers, who has previously worked with Ms Landry, said it would be a pleasure to work with her as state member. 

Mr O'Rourke said as a senior public servant he was well versed in getting along with all politicians and would focus on achieving outcomes for the region, pledging to find common ground and get results. 

He said people were "sick of bickering". 

Ms Strelow said she had worked well with Ms Landry, although their relationship had "had its moments" 

However, she joked that now she was no longer a member of the Labor Party they may get along better. 

She said Ms Landry had already been in contact with her several times in tough moments of the campaign. 

She cited several projects in the region which had only been achieved through three levels of government working together including Kershaw Gardens and the riverbank redevelopment. 

Mr Rothery said there was no question of working together, with One Nation putting "people before politics". 

EARLIER: How candidates would prioritise major road projects

Candidates have been asked whether they believe the Rockhampton Ring Road is a priority for the region. 

Mr Rodgers said the ring road was important, as well as duplication of Rockhampton-Yeppoon Rd all the way to the coast.

He said the LNP also supported duplication to Gracemere. 

He said getting heavy traffic out of the middle of town would create more jobs and another path across the river. 

Mr O'Rourke said Labor also supports the duplication of the Capricorn Hwy to Gravemere, as well as a number of others. 

Working with the Federal Government would be vital to this. 

Mr O'Rourke said the Brice Hwy trust would give forward planning certainty. 

Ms Strelow is on record as being a big supporter of the ring road, bringing jobs and access to the airport which would allow a freight industry to be developed further. 

She said duplication to Gracemere was also "desperately needed", but that Gladstone Rd wouldn't have to be raised if the levee was in place. 

Although it is a priority in the 15 year plans for the city, she would like to see it brought forward. 

Mr Rothery said he would not like to have to pick a priority as everything was important, and that the ring road would cost more jobs than it would create. 

He said he was disappointed the Gracemere duplication had not already been done. 

EARLIER: Power prices and the renewable energy targets were next on the agenda. 

Douglas Rodgers (LNP) at the candidates forum at CQ University.
Douglas Rodgers (LNP) at the candidates forum at CQ University. Chris Ison

Mr Rodgers said the LNP had a clear plan, but was interrupted as the lights went out in the theatre. It gave him a chance to joke about energy issues. 

He spoke about the impact of a 50% renewables target, saying that in order to meet that 15 power stations would have to be shut down. 

He cited two sizable stations in Central Queensland employing hundreds and supplying low-cost base power. 

Mr O'Rourke was also continually interrupted by the lights dimming, but the main message from him was that bills were higher under Tim Nicholls as treasurer. 

Ms Strelow said the government needed to embrace technology and set a target that doesn't increase power costs, but also takes the state forward to future technology. 

Mr Rothery said One Nation would scrap a renewables target and questioned by Central Queensland did not have more than one energy supplier/ 

EARLIER: 'Many hands make light work'

Motion sensor lights at the CQUniversity lecture theatre are causing havoc with the debate, as the room keeps being plunged into darkness. 

It's providing a chance for candidates to joke in what is a tense debate. 

EARLIER: Candidates were asked to state their positions on the South Rockhampton Flood Levee

Mr Rodgers said he started out against the project, but had been convinced it was a good idea and would greatly benefit the community. 

However, he said council should take the lead and once money was budgeted, the LNP would not take it back. 

He said it would strengthen the economy and increase land values, but that Rookwood was even more important. 

Mr O'Rourke said he had coordinated flood responses in the past and understood their devastation. 

He said Labor had committed to funding the levee and was waiting on federal funding. 

However, when it came to the airport, he said more studies needed to be done and called for a united response. 

Ms Strelow joked this question was a "bit of a Dorothy Dixer" as the public was already aware of her strong belief in the levee. 

She said the airport levee was important as well, with the value of any levee not in the homes which were saved, although they were close to the community's heart, but in keeping the economy working and Gladstone Rd dry. 

She said more sophisticated modelling was needed for the levee. 

Mr Rothery spoke about his personal experience with floods, but that a levee could give false security and impact other areas. 

He said any levee needed to have full engineering understanding. 

EARLIER: High school for Gracemere a hot topic

A high school for Gracemere has been a hot topic in the community for many years, so it's hardly surprising that it's also been a feature of this campaign. 

Addressing a question on support for the school, Mr Rodgers said he was fully supportive and believed there was an "incredibly compelling case"

He said there were over 3000 children who could attend and benefit from a high school and cited Gracemere's young population as reason to plan ahead for the future. 

He said it was better that the land be used as "a high school than a horse paddock". 

Mr O'Rourke started his response by saying politicians don't decide where schools go, independent committees do. 

He said building a high school now could be a "disaster" for Rockhampton High School, which is only at 70% capacity. 

In taking his own jab at Mr Rodgers, Mr O'Rourke said the LNP candidate supported the high school, but couldn't get his party to agree. 

Instead, he said Labor would invest $2.5 million in upgrades to North Rockhampton High School. 

Ms Strelow rebutted Mr O'Rourke, saying recent decisions show politicians can indeed have their say in where new schools are built, listing Labor decisions to open and support schools in other parts of Queensland. 

She suggested a satellite campus for Mount Morgan State High School, saying it would save parents travelling. 

"If Gracemere is to develop as it should, it needs its long promised high school," she said. 

Mr Rothery said there were seven buses to Rockhampton full of school children every day and full buses could place children at risk while travelling along a highway at 100km/h. 

He said Gracemere was "beyond ready" for a high school. 

EARLIER: Answers on job security, without saying 'no forced redundancies'

Job security was the focus of the second question, which asked candidates to state their position without the use of the words "no forced redundancies". 

Mr Rodgers said the LNP had a "very clear" policy when it comes to the public service, with more public servants than ever. 

He said standards weren't as high as they should be and 4000 jobs were lost from the region under the current government. 

Again he spoke about the need for Rookwood and power price reduction. 

Barry O'Rourke (ALP) at the candidates forum at CQ University.
Barry O'Rourke (ALP) at the candidates forum at CQ University. Chris Ison

As Mr O'Rourke got up to answer the question, Mr Rodgers said "can you do it without notes, Barry?". 

Mr O'Rourke said he could clearly remember Tim Nicholls' announcing widespread job cuts, saying he could not be trusted as unemployment spiked under his watch. 

Ms Strelow said the community had suffered enough, with career paths ending as well as individual jobs disappearing. 

She said there was no progression and technology has not saved the region. 

Ms Strelow said the role of government was to build, and there was so much we could do including growing small crops locally. 

She also said the region's tourism industry needed to be invigorated and thanked the Labor Party for agreeing to help fund the study in the viability of Supercars events. 

Mr Rothery said One Nation would not support any job cuts.

He said the government should look at decentralisation and questioned why the agriculture department was in Brisbane, not a regional area like Rockhampton. 

He said bringing jobs here was one way of starting. 

EARLIER: Rookwood question kicks off the night at Rocky candidate debate

The first question of the night is on Rookwood, asking why there is a hold up and whether the candidates believe the 2100 jobs can really be generated. 

Mr Rodgers committed to building the weir, again slamming Labor's lack of action after 500 days working on the business case. 

He said local representatives were "sitting on their hands". 

When it comes to the 2100 jobs, Mr Rodgers said they would be created. 

Mr O'Rourke was next to take the stand, saying that he did not want to see tax dollars wasted. 

He said no one had seen the independent business case, accusing the LNP of pushing for Rookwood even though it doesn't "stack up" and there isn't evidence for the jobs. 

Mr O'Rourke said the Labor government would support it, if it stacks up but said it was an "outrageous" commitment if it did not. 

Ms Strelow said the government called an election before acting on the report, which was leaked yesterday. 

In terms of jobs, Ms Strelow said she would "have a bob each way" on the question of whether the weir could achieve 2100 jobs. 

She said water was essential for the community, "but not magical" and that the numbers were "possible but not inevitable"

Mr Rothery reaffirmed his commitment to the project, citing Queensland's drought-stricken areas. 

He said he was not sure if 2100 jobs would come from the project, but the workers would come from Rockhampton and the project should be funded by the money which was meant for cross-river rail. 

EARLIER: One Nation candidate Wade Rothery was the last to address the audience. 

He spoke about his personal history, as a father of four and underground coal miner. 

Mr Rothery said Rockhampton was not the same place he once knew and continued to decline with empty store fronts and people moving away. 

He said this prompted him to take a "huge punt" in running for the seat. 

Power prices were one of the priorities for Mr Rothery who said he wanted to see prices fall by 20%.

He said red tape needed to be stripped back from businesses too, with people wanting to start a business having to go through so much before they could open the doors. 

Mr Rothery also raised his concerns about water, saying that he was fully behind the weir and wanted to see State Government money spent across the whole of Queensland, not just the South-East corner. 

He finished by claiming Labnor was effectively running two candidates in Rockhampton, pitching himself as the real alternative to two "tired old parties".

EARLIER: Independent candidate Margaret Strelow's address focused on the experience she could bring to the position if elected. 

"I know I have the experience and understanding of community to represent you well in parliament," she said. 

"We need a strong voice which can cut through what will be a bit of a dog's breakfast.

"I see so many opportunities for our community if I'm on the other side of the fence."

Ms Strelow said it was vital for the State and Local Government to work together to take Rockhampton forward and allow it to flourish. 

Ms Strelow listed her priorities:

  • Adani's Carmichael Coal Mine 
  • Browne Park expansion
  • Gracemere High School
  • Rookwood Weir
  • Levee banks for north and south Rockhampton, as well as the airport
  • Upgrade to the "festering sore" of Lawrie St in Gracemere

"I can fight for all these things as an independent and understand your issues," she said. 

Ms Strelow said action was needed, not "exhaustive business cases that never seem to end".  

EARLIER: Barry O'Rourke took the stage next to talk about his back story growing up as one of 13 children which taught him to share, stand up for what you believe in and cooperation.

After arriving to Rockhampton in 1991 as part of the housing response, he was proud to get the community back on its feet and fell in love with the city, returning here to raise two sons.

He's worked in Department of Housing for 34 years and has had an active role in helping those who have fallen into homelessness.

"Good government must work with those most in need," he said.

'We can never forget the human toll of the Newman Government, our recovery slower than others."

Mr O'Rourke said the priority for the region was creating jobs, not cutting them. 

He said this needed to be done by supporting employers, job creation innovation. 

To achieve this, Mr O'Rouke said a Labor majority was needed. 

He told the audience there was a choice to go forward or backward, to choose jobs and a brighter future or cuts to jobs.

L-R Rockhampton candidates Wade Rothery (One Nation), Margaret Strelow (Independent), Barry O'Rourke (ALP), and Douglas Rodgers (LNP) at the candidates forum at CQ University.
L-R Rockhampton candidates Wade Rothery (One Nation), Margaret Strelow (Independent), Barry O'Rourke (ALP), and Douglas Rodgers (LNP) at the candidates forum at CQ University. Chris Ison

EARLIER: LNP candidate Douglas Rodgers has opened addresses and unsurprisingly, water security and the report on Rookwood Weir was top priority. 

The findings of the report were leaked to media and showed Rockhampton could run out of water after a failed wet season without the weir. 

Mr Rodgers attacked Labor's refusal to release the report, saying the party was hiding behind business cases instead of making decisions. 

"They simply refuse to deliver," he told the audience. 

"In the mean time, they place us at very real risk of running out of water."

Mr Rodgers said it was only the drenching from Tropical Cyclone Debbie which saved the region from this situation in early 2017. 

"Rather than hiding behind hidden reports, the LNP will build Rookwood Weir and deliver the jobs and growth this region needs," he said. 

Mr Rodgers said many people were also extremely worried about increasing power prices, saying it was having a very real impact on businesses and the local economy. 

5.50pm: ROCKHAMPTON candidates will tonight have the chance to speak directly to voters at the election debate.

The action kicks off at CQUniversity at 6pm with reader-submitted questions and questions from the floor.

We'll be streaming the event and updating this story as the debate unfolds.

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