Labour preselection candidate for the seat of Rockhampton, Barry O'Rourke.
Labour preselection candidate for the seat of Rockhampton, Barry O'Rourke. Chris Ison ROK171017cpreselectio

Votes counted: Premier congratulates Rocky's ALP candidate

LABOR has selected political rookie Barry O'Rourke as its candidate to contest the coming Queensland election that could be called as early as this weekend.

Mr O'Rourke, a CQ public housing boss, was cast into a public preselection battle with Rockhampton region mayor Margaret Strelow by former Labor Minister and Rockhampton MP Robert Schwarten after the old guard faction's initial pick, Dan Coxen, was ruled ineligible.

 

Mayor Margaret Strelow will stay at City Hall after being beaten in her bid to move into state politics.
Mayor Margaret Strelow will stay at City Hall after being beaten in her bid to move into state politics. Chris Ison ROK251017cwaterslide2

The party, which has held the seat of Rockhampton for decades, was forced to move quickly after the shock announce- ment earlier this month by current member Bill Byrne, who resigned from the Palaszczuk Government's ministry and decided to stand aside at the next election due to health reasons. Mr O'Rourke secured 43 votes to Cr Strelow's 32.

After publicly airing her support for Cr Strelow, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday congratulated Mr O'Rourke who secured the majority of the local branch's vote.

"I insisted that Labor stood a strong candidate for Rockhampton from Rockhampton to replace Bill Byrne," Ms Palaszczuk said in a short statement.

"Whether it's Bill Byrne, Robert Schwarten or Frank Forde a century ago, the city has benefited from strong Labor voices in the State Parliament and in government. I congratulate Barry O'Rourke on his preselection. Labor will never take the people of the great city of Rockhampton for granted and I know Barry will work hard for the people of Rockhampton."

The vote marks a blow for Cr Strelow, who had been riding a wave of recent successes.

Fresh from securing the massive Adani coup for the city, Cr Strelow took the bold step of promising to respect the decision of the local branch members, despite the party having a system which also factors in the views of an administrative committee in Brisbane. "There was an historical and substantial voting block aligned with the other candidate before the ballot even opened, so for me to be successful I had to secure the vote of almost every non-aligned branch member," Cr Strelow said.

"And, of course, Barry is a genuinely good bloke.

"Some of the people who had to decide this plebiscite are his mates.

"I know of a few who would normally have supported me in something like this, but mates are mates and I understand that.

"My focus, for now and well into the future, remains at City Hall, looking after our day-to-day programmes and making sure we wring every ounce of opportunity from our Adani win."

The decision means Rockhampton residents won't now head to the polls twice in the space of a short time, which could have happened if Cr Strelow won the seat and a new regional mayor had to be found.

Mr O'Rourke did not comment last night but is expected to speak today.



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