Candidates take the stand

Friday 16 March 2012

Candidates take the stand

By Roy Weavers

About forty local business owners and operators attended a lunch yesterday (Thursday) arranged by the Port Douglas Chamber of Commerce and hosted by the Sheraton Mirage Hotel in their Il Pescatore Restaurant to hear what four out of the five prospective candidates standing for election to the State Parliament electorate of Cook had to say.

Sitting MP for Labor, Jason O'Brien, Jim Evans from The One Nation Party, Lachlan Bensted from Katters Australian Party and David Kempton from the LNP with Greens Party George Riley unable to attend and sent his apologies. drew a number from the hat (not Bob Katters!) to avoid any criticism of impartiality.


Mareeba based Lachlan Bensted was the first to speak and it became immediately apparent that this candidate, by his own admission, was fed up with southern dictatorship. 

He had the room nodding with his determination to amend the Licensing laws governing 'Live' entertainment.  De-amalgamation was considered to be a reality with the promise, in the form of a signed letter from his leader, Bob Katter, for a referendum to be held within 90 days of being elected.


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The Waterfront Development, Queensland Sugar, manufacture and use of Ethanol and tourism all featured on his hit list to support and envigorate. 

He had several ideas on how a Katter government would make life easier and more affordable for the small business owners with payroll changes and waste levies being scrapped. And he considered chemical free water to be something that should be back in community hands.

All in all this charismatic 26 year old presented a positive manifesto and did little damage to our fragile environment by generating a lot less hot air and gas emissions than is usual with pre-election promises.

Next into the arena came the LNPs David Kempton.  He has been a lawyer for the past 30 years and is determined to use his time in community service now that his children have been educated and all grown up!  He lives in Cairns.



He began his talk by saying that with the state currently $85 billion in debt under this Labor Government he was concerned that making any rash promises would be a mistake. 

However in his opinion small business is the key.  Small business actually employs more people than the corporate giants and therefore should be supported and encouraged rather than the current situation with running costs so restricting that it is difficult to move forward.  And with the Carbon Tax just around the corner, the situation is only going to get worse.

He acknowledged that there was a conflict of interest between Cairns and Port Douglas so he was pleased to confirm that de-amalgamation was very much on the agenda but it would have to be investigated correctly to ensure the costs and implementation were affordable.

Again the waterfront development would be supported.  Constant power supply would be a priority and infrastructure such as the Sheraton plan for a state assisted Conference Centre would be looked into.

With this kind of agenda to pursue he made it quite clear that he needed a strong commitment from the voters.  A narrow win was unlikely to impress Brisbane enough to give him the power to extract the required funds to achieve this agenda. 

Jason O'Brien MP took the stage and launched into a tirade of positivity and optimism!   He has been the Cook MP for the past 8 years and has experienced the amalgamation with Cairns and has steadfastly stood strong in his belief that amalgamation was a good thing and will be proved so in the future.

He suggested the town should not indulge in Australia's favourite sport of 'Council bagging' but look forward to, in his opinion, the positive future that is being created.

He defended the current state debt, confirming that it was the correct strategy if progress is to be maintained.  He said "It's quite normal to take a punt and invest in the future.  That's how projects like the waterfront development masterplan would move forward".


Jason is a Port Douglas resident and affirms he is determined to do everything he can on the tourism front, if re-elected, to refresh the town. 

A $10m state funded marketing campaign to showcase the region in China is underway despite some reticence from the floor at the Sheraton.  Mr O'Brien reiterated that all opportunities must be explored, the community should not turn it's back on any new opportunity. 

He made it clear that he was a little concerned about his support for state funding for private development such as the Sheraton Conference Centre proposal.  He was more interested in ensuring that investment was made that supported all businesses in the region.

And last but by no means last, came Mr Jim Evans from the One Nation Party.  His was a simple message, he said he stood for government standing up for the people, not imposing their will on the people.  He was concerned that over-government had become almost the accepted 'norm'. 


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He made it clear that the old Douglas Shire had his support for de-amalgamation as would Mareeba who were in a similar position. 

His ideas on energy had the room murmuring a little, particularly when nuclear power was mentioned with world heritage locations in the same sentence. 

He wanted to curb the powers of the large multi-nationals like Woolworths and Coles who were exerting too much power in his opinion on the farming and small business communities.  He wanted more common sense in government.

So, a lot promises, a lot of 'take on boards', and a lot of 'definitely's , if the numbers stack up'.  But not too many ironclad guarantees and in most cases very difficult to locate the real agenda from any candidate but in a fifteen minute time slot, that is always going to be a difficult task. 

David Kempton probably has the major issue of de-amalgamation about right but all but Jason O'Brien would argue that they too are firmly behind this issue.

The current MP, Jason O'Brien arguably has the 'better the devil you know' tag in his favour and he is certainly not a man who hides his beliefs and opinions, so you know without doubt what you are getting. 

Lachlan Bensted has the enthusiasm of youth and certainly looks the part and he has a very constructive manifesto but with the Katter party receiving so much negative press he may struggle to get across the line this time.

Jim Evans has his heart on his sleeve and is determined to see a more common sense approach to government but it is doubtful if he has the ground swell of support to make a serious challenge for power.  The missing candidate George Riley from the Greens will have some support from this very environmentally concerned region.

But when push comes to shove, the race is still inevitably going to be between Labor and LNP.


Mr Kempton has the luxury of being able to refrain from making any heavy hitting promises because he knows the mountain of debt will countermand any rash promise that he dares to make....So who is going to win on March 24th?

The Newsport is publishing a special 'Connect' email out next Wednesday 21st March and we'll present you with as much information from and about each candidate upon which you can answer that question for yourself. 

So make sure all your friends are subscribed to The Newsport ... it's FREE and it's daily! 


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